All election talk was about a government that did big things. But are such ambitions economically credible?by Paul Wallace / June 21, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Dismembered: How the Attack of the State Harms Us All by Polly Toynbee and David Walker (Gaurdian/Faber, £9.99)
Amid the many known unknowns of the election result, there are two overwhelming certainties. The first is that Whitehall faces—as Gus O’Donnell describes overleaf—a daunting couple of years, with Brexit dominating its workload. The second is that both the referendum and now the general election have revealed a yearning for a more active, engaged and effective state to alleviate social grievances and tackle the challenge of an ageing population.
Certainly, that is the message that Theresa May took from the heavy “Leave” votes across Britain’s depressed regions a year ago. She swore to use the muscle of government to lighten the load on the “just about managing,” and her manifesto stressed industrial activism and disavowed the Thatcherite belief in “untrammelled free markets.” It was a platform that won her 42.4 per cent of the UK-wide vote, exactly matching Thatcher’s landslide-winning score in 1983. May, however, came back to a hung parliament because of a stunning surge in support for Labour on the back of a manifesto which the Institute for Fiscal Studies believes would have got the state more “deeply involved” in the private sector than it has been for a long time—“certainly since the 1970s, and perhaps since the 1940s.” Taken together, fully 82.4 per cent of voters backed May’s newly-interventionist Tories and Jeremy Corbyn’s more full-throat…