Welcome to my day: 18 July 2022 – live from my own isolation…

I guess that I was never going to evade COVID indefinitely, and thus Liberal Democrat Voice is brought to you from Day 4 of my home isolation. Luckily, I seem, so far, to have gotten off pretty lightly, and I can isolate in our home office, which has its compensations.

The past week has been a descent into fantasy politics, as five Conservative MPs vie to cut taxes, increase spending, level up and crack down, all at the same time. At least Nadhim Zahawi’s notion of cutting 20% of the headcount in all Government departments has bitten the dust, allowing him to spend time with his accountants. Given what is being suggested, he might need quite a lot of time with them…

But what is clear is that, between the five candidates that remain, there is little clue as to how government works, or how things interrelate. In the modern world, decision-making is made complex by international agreements, interaction between pieces of legislation and trade arrangements. And you can’t just go around abolishing statute without consequences. It’s not as though that message hasn’t been relayed to them. Previous attempts to “cut red tape” have faltered when it is discovered that the regulations were put in place for a good reason – customer protection, access to major trading markets, that sort of thing. So, you can cut the regulation on cooked meats, for example, but the producers may then find they can’t sell it into their major export markets. Effectively, they are bound by the regulations of their export markets.

It’s the same on tax and spend. Yes, you can cut taxes, but the markets don’t like it if you borrow to cover day to day spending, as Penny Mordaunt suggests, and levelling up is probably a dead letter until/if economic growth returns. And, if you’re going to cut spending overall, but increase defence spending, protect the NHS and address the cost of living crisis, someone, somewhere is going to get badly hurt. But, given the almost total lack of detail in their proposals so far, you might safely assume that they consist mostly of hot air.

The “woke agenda” is an issue for the odd Telegraph reader it’s true – can they all really be that odd? – but it’s an argument within the Conservative Party and isn’t likely to win many votes in a country which, despite all that has happened in recent years, is becoming gradually more tolerant in the generality. Culture wars are for people with too much time on their hands, although the damage they do to those whose lives they seek to disrupt is no less painful.

On the other hand, as Tim Farron pithily puts it;

We’ll probably see the end of Tom Tugendhat’s campaign today. Frankly, based on his campaign, I don’t understand why he was credited as being centre-right, unless his proposals were intended to win the internal contest – “run from the right, govern from the centre”. We’ve fallen for that before. If that’s moderate, old-fashioned Conservatism, then the old Conservative Party is dead. The question is, does this Conservative Party have an electoral future?

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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