The chancellor’s praise for the economic policies of previous Conservative governments augurs badly for struggling families
One of the lessons that leading Brexiters learned from the 2016 referendum was that brazen opportunism can pay off handsomely. A Eurosceptic movement born in the more arcane reaches of the Conservative right, committed to deregulated, laissez-faire economics, achieved its goal by channelling a desire in Labour’s heartlands for more, not less, protection from the global economy.
This week, as the Conservative party conference meets in Manchester, the same audacity is on display again. As the army moves in to deliver urgent fuel supplies, food and labour shortages grow and an unprecedented, wasteful cull of more than 100,000 pigs looms. Boris Johnson and his ministers have hailed the chaos as necessary disruption on the way to a “high skills, high wage” economy. The worse things get, the better they will become, it is claimed, as business is forced to adapt to a long-term absence of migrant labour and up its game on pay and conditions. The abject handling of a foreseeable crisis, exacerbated by Brexit, is thus rationalised post-hoc as the royal road to “levelling up”.