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UK politics

The week the Tories lost their soul

Michael Gove: just recycling failed ideas? Hollie Adams/Bloomberg/Getty

This is the week the government “finally lost its soul”, says Allister Heath in The Daily Telegraph. Michael Gove’s levelling up blueprint is a “grotesque disappointment”, filled with targets, subsidies and bureaucracies, which merely recycles the failed ideas of New Labour. A proper conservative approach would seek to improve schools, create dozens of pro-business areas “with almost no taxes”, and “liberate” an extra 1% of Britain’s landmass for house building. Energy policy is another case study in “extreme failure”: a sensible administration would accelerate its nuclear plans by creating a powerful agency modelled on the vaccine taskforce. Instead, a government “that no longer believes in markets” will simply pretend that prices are lower than they are, by lending billions to energy companies to allow them to moderate price rises.

It’s a “staggering” betrayal of the opportunities of Brexit. Yes, there have been changes on immigration and foreign policy, and success on vaccination. But when it comes to the economy, establishment technocrats have prevailed: government policy barely differs from Theresa May’s. The necessary evils of furlough and bailouts under lockdown “have perverted our politics, undermining self-reliance and normalising handouts. That wail you hear is the cry of Toryland: among the true believers, the long-marchers, the Eurosceptics and the free-marketeers, there is sorrow, anger and despair.”

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