It is not, by any measure, a stellar performance. But new Oppositions have never consistently done very well at this stage of their struggles
Lady Thatcher’s governments did indeed achieve something of a renaissance in British productivity. The question is: at what cost was this victory bought?
The labour rigidities of the late 1960s are a thing of the past, and the hire and fire culture of the early twentieth century is if anything tilted rather too far towards the “rights” of employers rather than workers
Pasty taxes. Granny taxes. Petrol cans. Queues at the pump. Chaotic NHS ‘reforms’. A looming debacle over changes to the House of Lords. Aircraft carriers which won’t, then will, then won’t again, be mounted with catapults. Embarrassing emails between Ministers and powerful press barons. The arrest of donors to political parties. It’s been a torrid few weeks for a government that had seemed for a while above the fray, but will probably now have to deal with years of unpopularity.
Every time you board a flight, start your car, or surf the internet, there’s an element of danger. Accidents; reckless fellow-citizens threatening to run you off the road; identity theft and cyber-crime: they feel like they’re everywhere.
Except, of course, that they’re not. The aeroplane is by far the world’s safest means of transport; deaths in car accidents, both overall and per passenger mile, have been falling rapidly for decades; you are still rather unlikely, generally, to be the victim of online crime. What explains this strange contradiction?
Britain’s universities are one of the country’s most remarkable success stories. They have been beset by creeping centralised control since the 1980s, as well as funding cuts per student in the 1980s and 1990s that would have crippled most industries and almost any part of the welfare state. They have been assailed by populist critiques about their ‘privilege’, ‘exclusivity’ and ease, as well as their unfair subsidies to the middle and upper income cohorts – as if most campuses lived in a long Brideshead summer.
What to do about the Great Recession? The answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has thus far been to cut, cut and cut again. And when he presents his Autumn Statement to the House of Commons next week, the Chancellor is expected to stick to the austerity script. But the intellectual rationale for this prescription is tenuous at best.
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