THIS may be the fag-end of a Parliament representing a fag-end government, out of ideas, time and any understanding of the challenges people face.

But the Conservative moves of this week and last will shape the contours of UK politics not just for the next year, but to the General Election and afterwards – even if Labour win.

Coming up tomorrow is Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement. Whatever the actual contents, the direction is clear: trying to mitigate 13 years of Tory failure and the highest burden of UK personal taxation post-1945 which is funding UK burgeoning debt levels – now standing at 100% of GDP for the first time since 1960 – and not supporting public services.

Hunt wants in principle to cut income tax rates, National Insurance, stamp duty (Scotland excepted) and inheritance tax – the last of which only affects the richest 4% of households, who will reap 82% of the financial benefits should its rate be halved.

This despite the upside-down world of the UK where the super-rich pay less taxation lower rates of taxation than the less fabulously rich, and inheritance tax being a tax the super-rich easily avoid and minimise.

No doubt Hunt will create traps for Labour to either accept or dare them to repeal, but the wider canvas will be one of broad agreement by Tories and Labour; Hunt and Rachel Reeves, shadow chancellor; on taxation and public spending.

Missing in this is an analysis which looks at how those on average and below-average incomes are clobbered by Tory taxes.

For example, the repeated fiscal drag of Tory chancellors refusing to increase the standard rate tax threshold in line with inflation has seen 2.2 million people who previously never paid any income tax dragged into paying it despite their low pay.

Personal taxation is at its highest in 70 years to pay for low growth and soaring debt, yet taxes on wealth are at an all-time low – at a point in time where assets and wealth have never been worth more.

This picture has been fuelled by the Bank of England’s Quantitative Easing (QE) measures, ongoing since the 2008 banking crash and given added impetus by the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns.

QE has been a licence to print money and inject it into the economy; inflating assets, property, shares and government bonds, and acting as a gigantic state-sponsored redistribution to the rich.

It has been “socialism for the super-rich” which the rest of us have been, and are, paying for. It is regressive, unsustainable, and publicly subsidising the UK speculative economy of finance capitalism, increasingly divorced from the everyday economy that most of us live in and rely upon.

The Tories are embarking – as they have been incrementally post-Brexit, post-2019 – upon leaving the anchors and moorings of what traditional Toryism used to stand for.

This can be seen in the fury of front pages such as “Enemies of the People” by the Daily Mail raging against judges over Brexit (resuscitated last week after the Supreme Court’s decision on the Rwanda policy), proroguing Parliament, and dragging the late Queen into politics.

All this was just a warm-up act. Toryism in the past few years, intoxicated by Brexit and the 2019 General Election victory, has come to represent a politics of bitter division.

It has increasingly stigmatised people; displayed casual racism and xenophobia; embarked upon endless “culture wars”; and treated any opposition as unpatriotic and “unBritish”.

Hence the toxic rise of weaponising immigration and asylum-seekers; the blunt, heartless slogan of “Stop the Boats”, and the expensive and outrageous decisions about Rwanda.

The public are also being played; encouraged to adopt and accept such views via the constant drip feed of the right-wing media.

Their relentless campaign of dehumanising refugees and asylum seekers takes place every day without any recourse to compassion, context, facts or international law.

The UK is not where most refugees or asylum seekers go in Europe or the developed world. There has never been an “open border” approach in the UK and no-one has ever proposed one.

The UK was 19th in Europe in asylum seeker applications per head in 2022 according to the House of Commons Library; Cyprus is 18 times higher per head, with Germany, France and Ireland significantly higher.

A regular Tory line is that peddled by Robert Jenrick, the Immigration Minister, who has said “the refugee convention says people should seek asylum in the first safe country”, an argument which attempts to make the case that no refugee who arrives in France should try to enter the UK, when the above assertion is completely untrue.

Add to this the Tories claiming that dealing harshly with refugees is “the will of the people” and the “number one issue facing the country”.

A reality check is needed to challenge their hyperbole. Rwanda was not even in the 2019 Tory election manifesto, so there is no popular mandate, which the House of Lords will doubtless note.

The same is true of any fledgling move to withdraw from or limit the remit of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). And in terms of public opinion, migration and refugees are is not the top issue, consistently trailing the cost of living crisis and the NHS.

Something even more serious is at work. Suella Braverman may appear an outlier post-sacking when she states that the UK Government should not only consider withdrawing from ECHR and the UN Convention on Refugees but also ride roughshod over common law and the rule of law.

This is the politics of authoritarian populism, illiberal democracy and the imperial centre thinking it knows best.

It represents the true meaning of “Take Back Control” revealed in all its horrors: punitive, brutal, accruing power to an undemocratic, unchecked centre tearing up the last checks and balances which pass for British constitutional practice.

Rishi Sunak may flinch a little at the explicit agenda of Braverman, but this is the trajectory of the Tories. He is a weak Prime Minister with no mandate being buffeted by events and Tory ultra-right-wingers whose only agenda is increasingly desperate, delusional and filled with lies and disinformation.

The last Conservative leader who appeased the rancid, zealot right was David Cameron over Europe and that ended with him blowing up his premiership and taking the UK out of the EU.

Sunak is repeating the same mistake of playing to the agenda of an impossibilist, dogmatic right who are inflamed by the fantasy of a purist Brexit which will result in the Tories chasing the idea of an isolationist Britain broken free of all constraints and laws that protect the population.

The UK has a broken economic system, a bust economic model which has dominated the past 40 years, and a savaged, hollowed-out social contract which fails to support those who need it most.

Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies observed that “we have the meanest welfare state in Europe” – this is not an accident, but a conscious design of Tory and Labour governments in recent times.

How do you present yourself for re-election with that record? By finding a host of issues which allow you to stigmatise, vilify and dehumanise refugees and asylum seekers and parade your broken system as the fault of others.

Then tearing up the law – domestic, humanitarian and international – and stoking “culture wars”, revving up the threat of “the woke” and “hate marches”, all to aid your authoritarian impulses and war on liberty and dissent.

Such an approach is characterised by performative cruelty, intolerance and trying to look tough, all to fuel the right-wing lie media machine, the most fanatical part of the Tory base and its aged membership.

It should not be enough. But never write off the Tories and their sheer arrogance and determination to do anything to remain in power. Talk of Labour landslides is misplaced when they have a huge mountain to climb from 2019.

If that were not enough there is the alarming prospect that on the economy, public spending and taxation, as well as refugees and asylum-seekers, Labour hardly offer a whisper of convincing critique – and no real alternative.

A Labour government led by Keir Starmer and Reeves will have inherent unprecedented economic and fiscal challenges and has no prospectus or policies to address them.

We have already had a decade-plus of “socialism for the super-rich” and Labour in office will likely offer little more than “Thatcherism with a human face’.

Unfortunately, this may well allow the Conservatives to say after an election defeat: why not stick with the real deal?