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  • Sean Voitov

The Policy Race

The story of the Tortoise and the Hare, Off they went. The tortoise and the hare went as fast as it could to mock the tortoise for being so slow, but the hare burnt itself out and took a nap whilst the tortoise overtook the sleeping hare and won the race. The Moral of the story is The race is not always to the swift. One can describe politics at the moment like the hare and tortoise, two party’s racing each other to the end, winning an election, however Sunak, the hare, seems to have forgotten this age old story.

Sunak released his five new year's resolutions. Halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut NHS waiting times and Stop the Boats. These are 5 somewhat ambitious plans. When the economy is widely expected to be in recession and the worst affected developed economy this year, growth seems a while away as well as the chance of reducing debt. Asides an ailing economy, the NHS is under crisis and the refugee system has an enormous backlog of vulnerable people.

However these are also equally vague promises. The details of what Stop the Boats is and how it will be done is still up in the air, the most known is that it means to turn down anyone who arrives illegally. Cutting NHS waiting times whilst easy enough to quantify does not mean they'll go down below the years before the Conservatives were in power. Halving inflation is not even his responsibility, it is the Bank of England's responsibility to deal with inflation and it is mighty difficult to provide any fiscal stimulus to grow the economy without causing more inflation.

As well as policy, Sunak is trying to reignite the boosters of Thatcherism, promoting Fiscal stability and fighting off the trade unions. But fighting the unions doesn’t make sense. Firstly these are different unions. They are not causing mass blackouts and not grinding the country to a halt in comparison to the Thatcher days. The strikes are disruptive but have the majority of the public sympathy. A fight with the Rail unions would have made a bit more sense, it is after all harder to see and understand the role of a train operator. But after being told to support our nurses, clap for them, cheer them on during the worst period in NHS history, it seems foolish to think fighting them now will harbour any support.

Starmer on the other hand is slow with his policies. No big bullet points of a plan behind his speeches and most policy ideas released have been without fanfare and dramatic speeches. There have been a few biggies such as House of Lords reform, immigration policy and NHS outsourcing, but nowhere near the number or magnitude that sunak is going for nor the clarity a country should have of an incoming government. Going too fast could risk losing momentum in the polls after all. People do not know what Labour stands for and that can be useful for the party, it does not matter what people think they will do, as long as they think they are better than the conservatives then that is all they need to think. There is also the side of things that reigniting any conflict in the Labour party will lose voters' idea that the party is ahead of party infighting.

But this is not a solid proof plan. It relies on the weakness of the conservative party, in which there are many, to be in a mess with party politics and incompetent to do anything well. Just because Sunak is not good at running the race does not mean Starmer is a good racer, it just means his opponent is weak. This might well work in the next general election, but one of the skills of the last Labour leader was to think of the future and that is what Starmer might also want to consider. Is it really tenable to have a party in government where no one knows what they're about in the first place.

Arguably Sunak needs to be the Hare to mitigate his loss and especially if he wishes for a victory in the polls. If he slows down he gives people no reason why the conservatives should continue to be in power. He must show that after 13 years the government can be new and innovative, it requires lots of new, large and coherent policies. Sunak is losing the race not only because the tortoise is wiser at the competition, but because he is being slowed down and must waste more energy in trying to be faster. The Conservative party's constant naggings over bills and threats of revolts means he cannot provide the legislation he wants as quickly as he wants. Whether it be over Online Safety or wind farms, the threat of a revolt on his backbenchers has seen Sunak quietly give in into his party and their demands, even if it means that his plans are put on hold. Sunak will reach the point on the track where there is nothing that he can do if the party continues to tie their own shoelaces together.

This is not just about getting policy out though, it also depends on the type of policy. Starmer is leading a different Labour Party. immigration has seen the biggest change for this by far with Starmer wanting to remove Britain's reliance on immigrant labour. This suggests two major policy turns traditional of a Labour government. Firstly it means the link between the Labour Government and Free movement is seeing its end. We can longer expect a Labour government to mean more immigration into the UK. But it also means a small decline for the welfare state. Starmer's left out a lot of details and for good political reasons, but for his general plan to be successful, then he will need more British people in work, and traditionally this has always taken place by reducing the role of welfare in the country to force people into work. It is by no means the only way but it is the one that works quickest and can be argued the one that works the best.

Sunak on the other hand seems to be taking a more government approach to the running of the country. He continues to supply the country with energy relief payments and cost of living payments and whilst they are low in comparison to what is needed, it is a step away from a neo-conservative approach to government. This is not to mention the increase in taxes on business and people all whilst the funding on public services does continue to increase, even if many argue it is not enough. What is seen is both the Conservatives and the Labour party trying to attract each other's voters. The conservatives want the working class that the Labour party always traditionally held, meanwhile the Labour Party wants the middle class conservative voters to join them in this messy political era.

The hare is trying so hard and is in blissful ignorance that he can win, but the reality is that the slow tortoise, if he runs cautiously and with enough determination, can win easily. The finishing line is in sight, but not near enough.

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