2023-01-18 18:25:04

The Guardian view on levelling up: a badge of Tory confusion

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The Guardian
By Editorial

Conservative prime ministers are adept at finding ways to talk about inequality without naming the problem. David Cameron bemoaned broken Britain and proposed the big society as a remedy. The idea was that civic bonds could be strengthened to fill gaps left by cuts to state services. Theresa May pledged to address burning injustices, which she rightly identified as drivers of support for Brexit. But then she alighted on immigration as the emblematic problem. She saw that globalisations bounty had been unfairly distributed, but retreated to the politics of blaming foreigners.

Then came Boris Johnson and levelling up. Here, too, was recognition that many communities had been left behind and needed active government to help them catch up. But Mr Johnsons idea, like most of his rhetoric, was a product of magical thinking. He wanted to spend money in deprived areas without making the case for increased public borrowing or raising new revenue from affluent voters.

Mr Johnsons Commons majority was delivered by an unstable coalition of wealthy, fiscally conservative Tories and former Labour voters who wanted a prompt Brexit dividend in return for switching allegiance. An honest programme of levelling up would recognise that the more affluent half of that coalition should subsidise the rest. But that would go against instinctive Conservative horror of redistribution as an assault on liberty and a disincentive to enterprise.

Continue read on theguardian.com

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