This article originally appeared in our Elevenses newsletter.
Dancing on Ice fans will have enjoyed Rishi Sunak’s nifty pivot away from his controversial and divisive Rwanda plan and towards the economy this week as he looks to put clear ground between himself and his performing band of fighting families.
Most political commentators agree that, like in the US, the economy is where the battle will ultimately be won at the next election and it will come as welcome relief to the prime minister to take the fight to the opposition rather than fighting fires within his own party.
What’s more, in Jeremy Hunt they have one of the last remaining ministers who still projects a degree of competency and, dare I say, sanity, and oh how they have missed that in recent weeks. Little wonder, therefore, that the PM has committed to keeping him in post until the next general election when it is hoped that his tax-cutting spree will help revive their fortunes.
Yet, as has become the norm these days, the Tories have failed to read the room. Polling by YouGov for The Sunday Times shows just 22 per cent of the electorate want the government to cut taxes at the expense of investing in public services, with the vast majority (62 per cent) saying spending on essential services is more important. Even among those already saying they will vote Tory, only a third prioritise tax cuts over public services. So who are they trying to impress?
Last night, BBC Panorama broadcast footage of children in crumbling classrooms wearing coats and gloves to keep warm, with some visibly struggling to write. According to the government’s own figures, the average primary in England needs £300,000 worth of maintenance or upgrades, while the average secondary school needs an estimated £1.5 million. And schools are not the only crumbling public service in Britain. Parts of the NHS, a place of healing, are now being operated out of buildings classified as dangerous, while libraries are being bulldozed at a rate of knots and most other services are being run into the ground.
One has to ask oneself, what use is having a few extra quid in your pocket if the public services we all rely upon are falling into disrepair? I want a tax cut as much as the next man, but I want to live in a country that is providing for its people first and foremost. That is a view that seems to be unanimously shared outside the walls of Westminster. That those inside are refusing to listen explains a lot about the perilous position they currently find themselves in.
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