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Good day. Nigel Lawson, Chancellor of Tax Cuts, a major figure in the Thatcher government and a journalist for the FT, has died at the age of 91. My first thoughts and condolences are with his family.
One of my real pleasures as a political editor at the New Statesman was the occasional email from Lawson. (A low point was when, in response to this columnwrote to my editor, Jason Cowley, saying that he badly needed to read his memoir, as he had unfairly categorized his fight with Thatcher, although he thought the overall momentum of the column was solid, as I recall.)
His life and work sums up perfectly. in our obituary by Barry Riley and George Parker, but his legacy and his continuing influence on the Conservative Party mean he remains a living politician. Some reflections on that legacy in today’s note.
Inside Politics is edited by Georgina Quach. Follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenkb and please send gossip, thoughts and comments to email@example.com
Forever in his shadow?
Nigel Lawson left a shadow over his Tory successors that none of them have yet been able to escape.
The chancellors who came immediately after him, John Major, Norman Lamont and Ken Clarke, were in a sense destroyed by their failures. His tax-cutting budgets in the late 1980s sparked the “Lawson boom”, as the UK economy made a strong recovery and unemployment halved. Then both the long hangover from his policies and the withdrawal of British membership from the exchange rate mechanism shattered the Tory party’s reputation for economic competence and helped drive the Tories into the wilderness in 1997, despite excellent economic performance. which Major and Clarke oversaw during their final years in office.
But the most recent foreign ministers have not been able to escape the shadow of Lawson’s successful interventions. He later recanted his pro-European past and became the first major Conservative Party figure to call for Brexit in 2013. Matthew Elliott, former chief executive of Vote Leave, described him as one of the five unsung heroes of the Brexit campaign:
It’s hard to remember now, but at the time, this was a genuinely uplifting moment. Although [David] Despite Cameron’s promise of a referendum, Brexit still felt in many ways like a fringe position.
For Lord Lawson, a man revered by many Tories, coming out on the issue made it intellectually and politically possible for others to do the same. To use a term from political science, he expanded the overton window about what was acceptable to think and say in the European debate.
Lawson’s decision to step in briefly as Vote Leave chairman also helped stabilize the Brexiter campaign at a time when it could have broken out at launch. His vital role in leading the UK out of the EU directly led to the downfall of George Osborne, the man who helped lift the Conservatives out of the ashes of 1997 and into power.
Osborne’s successor, Philip Hammond, was a curious political throwback: economically and socially conservative, an advocate of the UK’s accession to the single market, he was in many ways the last bona fide original Thatcherite from the Tory party. The intellectual revolution in the Conservative Party that Lawson had helped spark made him an isolated figure who was able to accomplish very little at Treasury.
Hammond’s next three replacements, Sajid Javid, Rishi Sunak and Nadhim Zahawi, wrestled with the same essential problem: that the political promises made by the Conservatives in 2019 to get past Brexit made it impossible to deliver the kind of economic policies that Lawson had. Sunak had a famous portrait of Lawson on his wall, but in office he raised taxes to historic levels.
Kwasi Kwarteng’s brief doomed stint at Treasury was in many ways the result of absorbing too much of the myths, rather than the reality, of what Lawson did and how he did it.
Jeremy Hunt, who now serves at Number 11, again finds himself in limited circumstances partly because of the Brexit Lawson helped cause. Although Hunt faces a completely different situation than in Lawson’s day, he still finds himself unable to escape the legend of the man who was surely the most important Conservative chancellor of the 20th century.
A Note on Trophy Hunting
My column this week reflect on our own eating habits, as a ban on importing hunting trophies (lion skins, wild boar tusks and the like) into Britain reaches the House of Lords.
now try this
If you are looking for a well made but incredibly silly movie then this is really a must see. John Wick Chapter 4, a ridiculous action movie full of big sets. If you haven’t seen the others, all you really need to know is that Keanu Reeves is a widowed, retired hitman forced back into the business and has since been declared a non-person, or “excommunicated” by his peers. assassins in the beginning of the film. He’s beautiful to look at, but he’s tasteless like anything else. For a less favorable review, here’s Leslie Felperin..
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