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British politics

“The point of the next Labour government is – what, exactly?”

Tony Blair inherited a rosy economic situation, enabling him to triple NHS spending – Keir Starmer won’t be so lucky. Jeff Overs/Getty

The “biggest casualty” of the Truss premiership isn’t the Tory party, or Kwasi Kwarteng, or even the PM herself, says William Hague in The Times. It’s an idea. Specifically, the notion that tax cuts can “spark a resurgence of growth while relaxed financial markets look on with contentment”. That theory is dead and buried, and won’t be exhumed by a Tory PM for “some years”. Yet Truss and Kwarteng were always “driving at a brick wall”. Their main aim was to reduce the size of the state. This is not the 1980s, when the Tories could privatise nationalised industries and flog off council houses, “while being cushioned by North Sea oil and eventually a peace dividend as the Cold War ended”. Today? With an overburdened NHS, swelling pension costs, soaring debt interest and rising defence spending? It’s basically impossible.

Labour is in no less of a bind, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. The “progressive dream” is just as dead as the libertarian one. With no money to spend, the next Labour PM won’t be able to do any of the things the party’s supporters expect. Improvements in healthcare and other public services would have to come from the kinds of “structural reform” that unions hate, “not raw cash”. Higher benefits for the poor would have to be paid for with unpopular cuts to state pensions or other kinds of social security. All of which raises an awkward question for Keir Starmer: “The point of the next Labour government is – what, exactly?” Power might be better than its absence, but “Labour will hate every minute of it”.