The victory of the Conservative Party in May of this year was by no means surprising. Despite huge consensus that Britain was about to enter a second coalition government, the Tory majority, although unexpected, only reaffirmed the well-known fact that Britain is, and perhaps always will be, a fundamentally conservative country. In light of this, what is perhaps more surprising then is the fact that, in what was the first all-Tory budget for 18 years, the Chancellor, George Osborne, chose to depart from the traditional right-wing principles upon which the party was founded and instead adopted a distinctly liberal approach.

Specifically, it could be said that, with his various budget announcements that will determine the economic outlook of the UK for the duration of the next Parliament, Osborne led a significant move away from Thatcherism. Indeed, the overriding theme of the budget was a recognition of the importance of the role of the government both in the public sector but also in the private sector. In contrast to the swathe of privatisations in the 1980s that characterised the rule of Thatcher and which was justified simply by Nigel Lawson’s ‘less government and more market’, Osborne supposes that government intervention will act to increase productivity and hence stimulate growth.

In addition to this, Osborne proposed to increase the National Minimum Wage from £6.70 an hour to £9.90 an hour by 2020, a rise of 34 per cent. This again signals a move away from the legacy of rule by Thatcher who was staunchly against the introduction of a minimum wage and saw economic inequality as a positive force. Indeed, traditionally and particularly with Thatcher at the helm, the party operated under the belief that inequality of both wealth and income would act as an incentive to seek a job, work hard for a sustained period of time and hence improve your economic and social position.

These two policies proposed by Osborne are fundamentally Liberal. Indeed, they reflect the left-wing desire to promote equality and dispel unjustified inequality in society, and additionally, they reflect the belief that capitalism, in order to function successfully, must be controlled by a higher power. Therefore, this leads us to the question of what such liberal conservative policies will do for the wider political picture? Indeed, beneath the numbers and statistics, an image of the consequences, in need of clarifying it must be said, is slowly beginning to be revealed.

Although the future of the Labour Party is still to be determined, it is certainly not unreasonable to question whether this shift to the centre by the Tories will usurp traditionally left-wing voters from the opposition party. Following its great defeat in Scotland earlier this year, this is certainly not something that the Labour Party wants, and will no doubt attempt to battle in the coming months. And so, whilst Osborne’s announcements were not what was expected of the first all-Conservative budget of this century, they have certainly acted to unsettle Westminster in this post-election period.

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