EVEN though Brexit is the great political imponderable, the economic dividing lines between the Tories are plain after Theresa May told the Tory conference that austerity is “over”.
It saw Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn test this assertion at Prime Minister’s Question with a lengthy list of spending requests – and Mrs May respond by stating that fiscal responsibility “is not being brought to an end”.
This matters. Mr Corbyn’s strength is due, in no small, part to his ability to speak up in defence of public services and those day-to-day issues which exercise householders more than Brexit. Yet, while this does place the onus on Labour to cost its plans, it also places Mrs May in a predicament ahead of the Budget.
With Chancellor Philip Hammond already having to find another £20bn to honour prevously made promises to the NHS, the Government has to show it can invest in key services – and increase the wages of public workers – without jeopardising the economy.
If not, Mrs May’s conference message could cause political problems down the line if she still has to disappoint far more families than those already paying the price for the flawed implementation of Universal Credit.