He will have to be more than a kind of North London John Smith if he wants to do more than just profit from the Government’s misfortunes.
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It’s a mixed report, but most of those we spoke to were sanguine – which has less to with the Chancellor’s plans than with the current state of the polls.
Big changes to controversial social and political issues are ill suited to decisions made by Ministers and advisers behind closed doors.
The last word must lie with the voters, and their current answer, according to the polls, is: very well indeed.
Ministers are walking the tightrope of trying to save both – which helps to put the words of the Deputy Chief Medical Officer yesterday in context.
Our survey. An emphatic vote of confidence in the Government. Though one in five activists think that it has over-reacted.
Seventy-seven per cent of those polled back the lockdown; 90 per cent think the Prime Minister and his team are handling the crisis well.
The Minster for Health will be across a lot of the detail, and is well placed to step up to chair the relevant Cabinet committee.
At the moment, the most important Government action is rolling out testing, ventilators and equipment. Cabinet committees can and should deal with all that.
Two extreme versions of what happens next in Britain. Events are more likely to end up somewhere in the middle.
It is worth noting that face-to-face contact won’t always be necessary: those in higher-risk groups will be able to offer support by telephone.
As for “a limited period”, well, we shall see: as Milton Friedman used to say, nothing is so permanent as a temporary Government programme.
The perils and volatility that the Coronavirus – that ultimate leveller-down – brings with it suddenly endanger last year’s near-landslide winner.
The Chancellor should make further provision for them. But the vast though necessary expansion of state spending will need emergency powers-type checks.
So said a cross-section of Conservative MPs today – and rightly. They grasp that even the unprecedently statist package he’s announced is only a start.
One can conceive of Ministers seeking an all-party public front, and Labour objecting to responsibility with no power.