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Thursday, August 11, 2022

UK Conservative Party Primary Elections: The Battle for Margaret Thatcher’s Legacy

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Margaret Thatcher’s shadow over the British Conservative Party has proved an indispensable wild card. His invocation serves to defend one or the opposite; his legacy is being dismembered to get the most comfortable part, and the two candidates who will fight in the first trial to succeed Boris Johnson this August are vying to present themselves as a true sequel to The Iron Lady.

“I will be Margaret Thatcher’s heir. My principles are Thatcherite. I believe in hard work, family and personal integrity. I’m a Thatcherite. I’ll introduce myself [a las primarias] as a Thatcherite, and I will rule as a Thatcherite,” wrote former Economy Minister Rishi Sunak on the pages of The Daily Telegraphthe newspaper most identified with the hard wing of the tories

Paradoxically, her rival, Secretary of State Liz Truss, is reluctant to be identified with Thatcher – “I represent myself and we come from very different backgrounds,” she says – but it is difficult not to draw the parallel because of the way she speaks, to pose, to challenge the established order and to propose a radical change that reverses the situation. Your photo on a military tank in Estonia, brought back the memory of Margaret Thatcher in 1986 to many, when he visited the British troops stationed south of Hamburg. Her choice of dress in the first primary – a black jacket and white blouse with a large bow at the front – was an exact replica of Thatcher’s 1979 television campaign.

Sunak promises to cut taxes but wants to wait at least a year before bringing runaway inflation – 9.4% in June – under control; and with debt already reaching 96% of GDP, it refuses to burden the state any further with a rushed tax cut that could also help raise the cost of living. Thatcher has prioritized fiscal orthodoxy above all else, defending former minister.

Truss shares with the party’s historic leader the discovery and embrace of political and economic conservatism through a personal journey of conquest rather than as a mere inheritance of a family tradition and environment. “I see myself as an insurgent because I really want to make a change,” she said. According to surveys, the favorite candidate of the bases promises a tax cut worth more than 35 billion euros from day one. Excluding the 1.5 percent increase in Social Security contributions the Johnson administration approved to fund a struggling public health system and the corporate income tax hike planned for April from 19 percent to 25 percent. More deregulation and a change of rules to slow down a Bank of England that has been shy about curbing rampant inflation since independence. “We’ve had very slow growth for two decades. And now, after the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, we are facing a global economic shock. It is a defining moment in our country. Are we going to continue as before? Or do we do it differently, with more courage?” the candidate asked herself in the days after the start of her campaign.

The Faith of the Convert

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Although Truss campaigned against leaving the EU in the 2016 referendum, unlike Sunak, he has embraced the faith of converts in recent years. His act to unilaterally abolish the Northern Ireland Protocol, even at the risk of triggering a trade war with Brussels, has helped boost his credibility.

“For all his strengths, Boris Johnson never had a very clear economic philosophy. And the rest of the government and party were waiting for instructions,” David Frost, former Brexit minister, angry Eurosceptic and the black beast of Brussels during negotiations over the past few months, tells EL PAÍS.

Among British Conservatives, Brexit is no longer a goal but an eternal state of mind. It is the idea that only after this conquest can the UK start acting differently. Hence Truss, who has been involved in the last three governments tories, As a minister or in high positions, she gives new impetus to the grassroots. And Sunak, a Brexiteer since its early days, is nevertheless in the eyes of many the modern, cosmopolitan financier who, much as he tries to hide it, has more in common with the technocrats of Brussels than with the Brussels-a-county offshoots of the conservative southern English like Surrey.

“It’s not so much a fight for Thatcherism per se as between two different aspects of his legacy. What is of real concern is that both candidates present a rigid and unique interpretation of what the Conservative Party’s economic doctrine should be,” wrote William Atkinson, deputy director of the website ConservativeHomethe essential forum to really know how people breathe tories.

Fearing a possible strike by the postal service – Royal Mail officials threatened collective action in August – the party leadership has accelerated the process of postal voting by members. In practice, this means that affiliates will decide in a matter of days who is better able to weather the economy, Sunak or Truss, although the primary trial extends to September 5 (the date when the new leader will be announced). Storm. And to find out whether the Iron Lady’s recipes from 40 years ago are just as valid today.

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