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Thatcherism, austerity, Brexit, Liz Truss… goodbye and good riddance to all that | Will Hutton

For 45 years, Britain has been blighted by Conservative ideologies that promised a path to prosperity, but achieved nothing of the sort

The Tory party in three weeks’ time promises to be in a more ruinous, even life-threatening position than Labour was in the aftermath of the 2019 general election. Labour at least had a route to recovery after an epic defeat – to blend mainstream and centre-left opinion around a pragmatic programme for government, to eliminate all traces of antisemitism and to marginalise its toxic extremists. The question was whether its leadership, membership and trade union backers would have the capacity and want power sufficiently to pull it off. They have.

Today’s Tories and their blindly ideological press – which has had such an important role in reducing the party to the political carrion on which Nigel Farage’s Reform now preys – has no such shared grasp of the task ahead. There is no longer a strong centre right existing as a coherent formation that could anchor such a recovery, or skilled politicians who might lead it. Instead, over this parliament the party has disintegrated into a babble of rightwing cults ranging from Trussite libertarians to “National Conservatives” stressing the traditional virtues of family, faith and national community. The response to the desperate condition in which millions now live and the wider crises of stagnant productivity and investment, intensified by Brexit, is to blame immigration, working-class fecklessness and high taxes – even if those are moderate by European standards.

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