The latest Tory catchphrase has landed: Labour will take us ‘back to square one.’ Apparently, it’s not a nice place — certainly not one you’d want to go to on your holiday. So, what exactly is this elusive land of Square One that the Conservatives want to protect us from?

Option One: The Stone Age

You can see the headlines on the cave walls already: ‘Labour makes dirty pact with Woolly Mammoth Party’ — ‘SHOCK revelation: Labour leader supported sabre-toothed tiger to be Prime Minister’ — ‘Will the last person left in the cave please put the fire out!’ Great beasts will roam the earth, as men with pointy spears, fashioned out of fallen branches and rocks, chase them. Campfires will burn incessantly, leaving trails of ash in their wake. Fred Flintstone, the new Transport Secretary, has introduced new high-tech ministerial cars to propel the country towards the Left’s net-zero agenda. This is what you voted for, folks. We, the good people of the Conservative Party, tried to warn you but you just wouldn’t listen. You didn’t believe Labour had a time machine that would take us back to caveman times. And now look what you’ve done!

Option Two: 2010

This is perhaps a more plausible option as to Square One’s nature. It suits the narrative that Labour left everything in ruins, while the Conservatives (and the Lib Dems for a little while) rode in on their steeds, capes flowing behind them, to clean up the mess. Granted, things weren’t particularly rosy. The 2008 Financial Crisis triggered a recession. Huge amounts had to be borrowed to part-nationalise and recapitalise banks on the brink of collapse. The crisis was caused by a lack of regulation, allowing financial institutions to take more risks — particularly, by lending to those who did not necessarily have the money to repay (subprime lending).

Today, however, several key metrics have deteriorated — or at the very least, failed to improve. Sure, NHS waiting lists rose in 2010, but from a comparatively low base. They were nowhere near the levels they are at today. Despite the bailout of the banks, debt as a percentage of GDP was only 64.7 per cent, compared to the current 97.1 per cent. As the recovery began, the economy grew by 0.9 per cent and 1.1 per cent in the first two quarters of 2010.

Technically, the UK is presently in a small recession. Net migration was 256,000 in 2010. For the year ending June 2023, it was 672,000. Real wages have largely stagnated since 2010 — not a great result for the last couple of years of the Labour government, but a worse reflection on the Tories’ fourteen years in office.

The point I wish to make emphatically is that while everything may not have been sunshine and rainbows in 2010 (Labour wouldn’t have lost the election otherwise), with hindsight, Square One hardly seems bad in comparison. If anything, Square One land was ahead of wherever it is we are now. Why the Tories would bank on discrediting this land of promise to win an election, baffles the brain and defies all logic.

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