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UK politics

We’re all social democrats now

Rishi Sunak: turning Thatcherism on its head. Christopher Furlong/Getty

“Rishi Sunak has discovered the power of social democracy,” says Will Hutton in The Observer. His ambitious package to address the cost-of-living crisis is a perfect example of social democracy’s best traditions: taxing windfall profits that resulted from “unearned and unexpected good luck”, and directing the proceeds to alleviate an equally undeserved fall in living standards among the poorest and most vulnerable. Sunak may protest that he remains a “tax-cutting chancellor committed to Thatcherite small-state principles”, but he’s no fool. All his government’s successes come from doing the opposite – the furlough scheme, state-boosted vaccine development, and now taking on the cost-of-living crisis. Conservative reactions to any of these would only have led to “political dead ends”.

In all the most pressing matters of the day – “security, climate change, dealing with an ageing society, addressing inequality, public health or innovation” – the right has no answers beyond the “barren and child-like” calls for tax cuts and deregulation. No “remotely sentient economist” believes that markets alone will spontaneously produce the best results. Boris Johnson, whatever his failings, understands this. But he leads a party stuck in “Thatcherite la-la land”. Tory strategists hope that attacking “the rise of ‘woke’” will reverse the tide, but the “minuscule audiences for Piers Morgan’s hysterical anti-woke rants” shows only a tiny minority really cares. “What matters is the big stuff that affects lives.”