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We have now had a hundred days of a Conservative Government. Rather than a quiet period recovering from the gruelling election campaign and new Ministers finding their feet it has been a period of energetic radicalism with reforms being announced every day.
There is a risk in trying to do too much of course. Tom Gash of the Institute of Government says:
“A focus on new policies may lead to neglect of existing projects and core ‘business as usual’ services that the public also care about. The government already has a portfolio of nearly 200 major projects (as defined by government), 60 percent of which government itself has judged as highly challenging and a long way from completion. Existing services meanwhile absorb the vast bulk of departmental resources.”
However the emphasis today on ensuring more schools become academies suggests that implementation of existing policies has not been forgotten. Another important example is Universal Credit. This revolutionary – and desperately needed change – had only just started to be brought in before the election. Steady progress is quietly being made in it being “rolled out”.
Unity in the Conservative Party has held up pretty well thus far – given the narrow Commons that is vital. There has been a balance with soothing rhetoric – talk of “one nation” and “centre ground” – to accompany the tough measure being brought in.
Often the changes are Thatcherite – indeed going further than anything that Margaret Thatcher achieved. Sometimes this is helped by technological advances. For instance in an era of online banking and direct debits it is old fashioned for the state to deduct trade union subscriptions from the pay of employees.
There are other measures – such as prison reform and cutting tax for the low paid – which are also Thatcherite but are not always recognised as so and they don’t conform to the Left’s caricature of Thatcherism.
The pace of change represents a challenge for the Labour Party. Some of them are talking about how they could have better addressed the concerns of the country in May. But much of their rhetoric – for example attacking shale gas – will seem even more dated in 2020.
Most secondary schools are already academies. Many more will be in 2020. Do Labour really want to position themselves as regarding them as enemy institutions?
In five years time there will be fewer trade unionists and more people running their own businesses. There will be fewer people on welfare or working for the state but public services will not have collapsed – as Labour constantly claim is about to happen. If “seven days to save the NHS” did not succeed as a campaign this time how can it be expected to do so in five years time.
Faced with the odds so dauntingly against most in the Labour Party appear to have decided not to try. Instead they will go back to the comfort of Jeremy Corbyn and singing the old songs.