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British politics

The PM the Tories can learn from

Macmillan: a better model than Thatcher? Jeremy Grayson/Radio Times/Getty

The Tory leadership candidates have all “retreated to the safe space of Thatcherite dogma”, says Aris Roussinos in UnHerd. Liz Truss copies Maggie visually; Rishi Sunak promises a “grown-up conversation” about the economy. But how much of the British state “is even left to shrink”? Try to get a GP appointment, or a police officer to investigate a burglary. And as the “historic shift of wealth and power” from the West to Asia gets under way, we’ll be wracked by rising prices and plummeting living standards. Even Emmanuel Macron, supposedly the “last neoliberal”, has nationalised France’s energy giant EDF “to see his country securely through the near future”.

Rather than Thatcher, the Conservatives should look to Harold Macmillan, PM from 1957 to 1963. Whereas today’s Conservatives are liberals in disguise, Macmillan observed that “Toryism has always been a form of paternal socialism”. He understood that the state was “integral to the health of the family”, and therefore to the nation. As housing minister, he built “millions” of new homes – a party that did the same today would win by a landslide. The years ahead will be “as dramatic and treacherous” as those of the 1930s. For Britain to survive the coming storms, the Tories must “finally lay Thatcher’s spirit to rest” and reclaim their role as the party of the strong state.