This week we discuss the government's post-Budget economic strategy and the new dividing lines in British politics. Have the Tories stolen Labour's clothes? Is there a new consensus emerging on tax and pend? What can Keir Starmer do to carve out a distinctive economic position? Plus we consider whether a new Labour leader in Scotland can kickstart a revival of the party's fortunes there. With Helen Thompson and Chris Brooke.
Rishi Sunak’s plan in the short-term is to concentrate on economic recovery and to end pandemic support in a reasonably—but not entirely—gradualist fashion.
- In the medium-term, he’s saying there has to be an emphasis on paying for the pandemic and bringing the level of debt as proportion of GDP back down.
- Sunak wants the Conservatives to go into the next election as the party that claims to be serious about the economy, ie, cautious about debt.
- Both of the parties seem to be hoping that the past will come back—but it probably won’t.
Starmer put a heavy bet on the competence case against Johnson.
- That worked well for much of 2020. The bet was that Brexit would make things chaotic.
- But the pandemic has gone on longer than people expected, and the vaccine rollout is going well. The furlough scheme has also been continued.
In two-party politics, the two parties often tend to converge. Is this happening in the UK?
- Both parties have an interest in constructing the convergence as an illusion; but is it?
- Brexit has produced some convergence because Labour isn’t trying to rejoin Europe.
- Financial and monetary market conditions make it possible to sustain huge levels of debt.
- Most of the Western world have responded to China’s industrial strategy by calling for an industrial strategy.
- The Tories are now putting a big emphasis on green energy; this also brings them closer to Labour.
The politics for each party are different.
- Labour needs to persuade people it has a plausible growth strategy because that is what they need to flourish.
- The big risk for the conservatives is unemployment.
- Labour needs to expand its electoral coalition; this won’t be easy, but the return of mass unemployment might provide one way of doing this.
- More on Rishi Sunak’s budget
- Johnson’s green energy plans
- Why public debt is not like credit card debt
- On Starmer’s response to the budget
- Who is Anas Sarwar?
And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking
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