Congratulations to Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, the two survivors in the Tory leadership race. When they look at the in-tray should they become Prime Minister, they may wonder if it was worth it.
For on day one – whoever takes the gig – they will have to face up to the fact that Britain’s economic strength and the size of the state do not match up. In short: the former is lacking, and the second is expanding.
For all the ludicrous culture war waffle, the defining challenge that Britain has to face up to is that it cannot justify the size of the state as it currently stands. Trend growth, disrupted though it is by the pandemic and the inflationary impacts on the back end, will not keep pace with the size of the state: from pensions to welfare to the health service.
This defining challenge has barely been mentioned during the leadership contest, more interested in whether or not a woman with a penis can go in to a leisure centre changing room. Whether or not Britain is ‘woke’ is not a debate that will help us solve our sizable economic challenges. It is now time for both candidates to get serious, and lay out their solutions – or best efforts – to Britain’s demographic conundrum.
The first week or so of this contest has been absurdly rushed. Only Sajid Javid and Tom Tugendhat have laid out anything close to substantial policies to address Britain’s myriad problems, from housing to the economy. It remains challenging, to be polite, to ascertain quite what the party stands for, and whose vote it is attempting to sway at the next election.
Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak now have six weeks to put out their electoral stall.
If the Tory party yet again descends into internecine warfare, it is unlikely that the summer will be well-used. But we remain optimistic that the Conservative party possesses just enough new ideas that this so-far uninspiring leadership contest can turn for the better.