Wednesday 13 July 2016

Theresa May's One Nation Toryism

Finally the curtain has fallen on the era of Dave and Osborne. A day I've longed to see, but one that has only happened because they trashed the country and left a trail of devastation we'll be picking over for decades. But more of them another time, for we have a new tenant in Downing Street. Theresa May's speech this afternoon was very much the kind of speech you'd expect Ed Miliband to have made if history turned out somewhat differently. Whereas One Nationism was very much rhetorical cover for Dave and his sectional two-nation politics, May has made such a song and dance about the kind of Britain she wants to preside over that we might actually see some of that blue collar Toryism that's excited the wonks for a while.

If May follows through her rhetoric, this is a significant shift for the Tories. From policies that are self-destructive and self-defeating back to "responsible" custodians of capital as a whole, her premiership is looking to be the most Keynesian since Jim Callaghan's. What an absurd world we live in. But it makes economic and political sense for the Tories to do what needs to be done. The economy is in a weak state and teeters on the edge of a nervous breakdown thanks to the Brexit vote. What British business desperately needs is stability, hence May's pledge for a slow Brexit and no mention of austerity. Politically, as Labour settles in for a summer of self-harming she's seeking to redefine the centre ground around a Tory party interested in managing things and doing what works - all the better for painting Labour as wildly left regardless of who wins the leadership contest.

On her appointments, they are indisputably political decisions - as they always are. Ability comes second. And so, Boris Johnson is resurrected as foreign secretary, giving him opportunity for rehabilitation and a position in the public eye. Guaranteeing, indeed, that he and his still powerful faction don't cause trouble. The appointment of David Davis and disgraced former minister (now disgraced current minister) Liam Fox to the new Brexit and international trade ministries is further red meat for her back benchers. And Amber Rudd is pretty much May's mini-me - expect continuity of the most rancid, racist kind at the Home Office.

Them's the politics, but what bumps lie ahead? There is always a danger of history repeating. Having struck a 'no flash, just Gordon' pose from the beginning of her leadership campaign, competence depends on decisiveness, as Brown found to his cost. Her immediate problem is the general election question. Does she run the risk of an Autumn/Spring contest? She has ruled it out so far, but the rumour mill will churn and the press have column inches to fill. The other option, and one that might play to her one nation instincts is a national government that could cripple and split the opposition - especially now. Failing that, the slim majority isn't a problem that has gone away. May remains vulnerable to the Tories' taliban tendency who want Article 50 enacted yesterday. Slow Brexit is something they will find difficult to reconcile themselves with, despite the appointments of Davis and Fox. When the outcome isn't to their liking, because it won't be, what happens then? And on economic policy, after decades of free market dogma the shift to overt Keynesianism might befuddle those rare Tories yet to realise principle comes second to power.

It should never be forgotten though that if May does embark on her Milibandist programme, it's not because she's been converted to centre leftism. It's about the preservation of British capitalism. It will provide our movement new opportunities and audiences for deepening some of the measures her government ends up pushing through, but as Tories they will be careful to ensure they do not empower the collective power of working people. In this, it's up to us to ensure their efforts to keep us down prove fruitless.


Socin1bed said...

Shift to Keynesian policies, do me a favour!

andrew adams said...

Maybe a bit harsh on Amber Rudd? She strikes me as being a reasonably decent, liberal Tory.
Although I guess one could argue that if that were really the case she would be unlikely to get the job.

asquith said...

asquith said...