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Austerity is back – the question is whether it will cost the Tories the next election

1 12 0
04.03.2021

Understanding the gamble Rishi Sunak made in his Budget this week starts with a seemingly unrelated question: why did the Conservatives win a majority in 2015 but lose it two years later?

One argument goes like this: for the first five years of the Tory party’s current stay in power, there was plenty of government spending that could be cut without upsetting the voters that David Cameron needed to keep him in office. But after five years of cuts, it was impossible for the Conservatives to keep cutting without upsetting and alienating too many voters to stay in office.

According to this argument, the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party on an avowedly anti-austerity ticket was a cause, not a symptom of the Conservative Party’s problems. Labour members were sufficiently angered by the consequences of the cuts that they elected a man with no real basis of support among Labour MPs, who they knew would face an even tougher ride from the press than Labour leaders usually do.

For Cameron, the unsustainability of austerity then led to a painful backbench rebellion over tax credits, and the resulting row saw his popularity collapse – just months before his narrow defeat........

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