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Rishi’s speech changes nothing – the Tories are still doomed

King and Queen watch play about family betrayal at RADA
Published Time: 14.05.2024 - 15:40:34 Modified Time: 14.05.2024 - 15:40:34

The Conservative record after 14 years highest ever taxes, highest ever immigration and a floundering economy

The Conservative record after 14 years: highest ever taxes, highest ever immigration and a floundering economy. That is why they will lose

: Toby Melville/PA

In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher led her party to a hat-trick of triumphs over Labour, in which defence played a major part in her appeal.

With a successful defence of the Falklands behind her, the Cold War threatening to get hot, Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan, and the threat of nuclear war ever present in voters’ minds, portraying herself as Britannia against the party of Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock as out-of-touch peaceniks proved a winning formula.

Can Rishi Sunak pull the same trick today? He appears to be willing to give it a try. 

The prime minister might find his warnings about international threats don’t fall entirely on deaf ears, given tensions with Russia and China, and a worsening situation in the Middle East. He will struggle, however, to paint Keir Starmer as someone who presents a threat to the security of the nation, as he sought to do in his speech yesterday.

Then again, what other card does he have to play?

That Sunak has focused on national defence as his trump card this close to the general election suggests less of a confidence in his Government’s commitment to Nato than a complete lack of confidence in all the other areas of policy that Conservatives generally want to campaign on.

“The economy, stupid,” should be the central argument being deployed by ministers and MPs at this stage in a parliament. But even improved growth figures last week can’t disperse the profound gloom that the Government seems to harbour over their own performance. 

Just as Labour, during Gordon Brown’s government and immediately after the 2010 election, failed to counter the Conservatives’ (dishonest) claims that the financial crash was caused by government profligacy, so the current batch of ministers have failed dreadfully to explain that shutting down the economy for the best part of two years during the pandemic might just have some financial consequences for everyone.

The result has been a recession, sluggish economy and historically high taxes. Perhaps allowing a similarly historic level of immigration might off-set that economic catastrophe? Nope. But it did exacerbate the housing shortage and increase pressure on public services, so well done, boys and girls!

This is the Conservative record after 14 years in government, and five years after winning an 80-seat majority: highest ever taxes, highest ever immigration and a floundering economy.

Remind me: why do people vote Conservative?

Has any government, given a decade and a half in office, ever squandered its opportunity quite so drastically and deliberately? Is there one area of life in the UK where it can honestly and objectively be said that something – anything – has improved since 2010?

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