RECENT speeches by Rishi Sunak and other senior Conservatives have signalled a decisive move to the right, and the party is likely to move still further to the right over the next 12 months. This will leave the Labour Party to choose between abandoning its traditional policies or risk losing the coming Westminster election.

Is public opinion really shifting to the right? What’s the evidence? Well it’s happened in every other European country, and it’s happening right now in the United States, where Joe Biden is trailing Trump in the opinion polls. Why should we believe that Britain is exceptional?

The watering down of green targets, notably postponing the need to replace gas boilers or buy a new electric car, has proved popular. Apart from the familiar promises to get tough on crime and illegal immigration (also popular), what else can we expect from the New Right?

READ MORE: Anti-trans hate crime rise 'could be down to political discussion'

They would really like to cut the health, social care and pensions budgets, but they know that spending on the needs of older people is politically off limits. Even Trump can’t touch it. There will be some tinkering at the edges, maybe slowing the growth of benefit payments, tougher work requirements for eligibility and raising the age of retirement, but these measures by themselves will not be big enough to make room in the budget for their Holy Grail – tax cuts. So most of the expenditure reductions will have to come in areas like infrastructure and defence. The ground has already been prepared for scrapping more of HS2, while a reduction in military aid to Ukraine is an easy win. We should not forget that it was a right-wing Tory government that gave democratic Czechoslovakia to Hitler in 1938; their counterparts today won’t hesitate to deliver Ukraine to Putin.

What about tax cuts? Britain today is in an economic trap that is closing. On the one hand, an ageing population is relentlessly driving up the costs of the NHS, social care and pensions. On the other hand, the growth of tax revenues needed to pay for these services is not keeping pace because the economy that generates them is not growing fast enough. There is no way out through further borrowing, because the British government has already maxed out its credit card.

READ MORE: Douglas Ross praises 'bold' and 'radical' Sunak conference speech

The New Right wants to escape from this trap by making the economy grow faster. So do we all. What is different about their solution is that they believe that the economy can be made to grow faster by offering tax cuts to the rich. The disastrous reception by the financial markets one year ago to Liz Truss’s proposal to abolish the top rate of income tax shows this is more easily said than done.

The current tax proposals of the New Right include reducing fuel duties, raising the VAT limit for small businesses and offering reliefs on inheritance tax. Although these measures may be popular with their middle class supporters, they will do nothing to improve the long-term rate of growth of the economy.

Only radical changes to the present tax system can help return Britain to a path of sustained economic growth. These measures might include assessing people’s tax liability on their expenditure rather than on their earnings, or the introduction of a land value tax. But there is no sign that the New Right have any taste for such things.

They may hope to attract voters with the kind of conspiracy theories that have worked so well in the United States. Truss herself has blamed “a powerful force comprising the economic and political elite, corporatists [and] parts of the media” for her failure when she was briefly in power.

READ MORE: Barbed comments keep on coming as FM and Douglas Ross trade blows

It’s easy to see how a populist campaign might be waged by the New Right against an elite who have let the country down by presiding over decades of stagnating living standards for most ordinary people while lining their own pockets. Sheltered by private education and healthcare, they have allowed the NHS and the social care system to crumble along with the UK’s infrastructure. A once proud nation has become powerless to control even its own borders.

This is a formidable charge sheet to which no convincing responses are coming from Labour. The policies of the Labour Party are almost indistinguishable from the present government’s. If they should win the 2024 election they will find themselves hemmed in by exactly the same budgetary and demographic constraints. Bold talk about a green transition is meaningless because the infrastructure to enable it doesn’t exist, and there is no money to pay for that. Labour are the continuity party; they stand for the continuation of failure.

David Simpson
via email