PM's policy chief says time for Tories to 'move away from Thatcherism'

Boris Johnson’s policy chief says it is time for the Tories to ‘move away from Thatcherism’ and develop policies which tackle the ‘problems facing Britain today’

  • Tory MP Neil O’Brien is chairman of Boris Johnson’s Conservative Policy Board
  • Mr O’Brien has said it is a ‘funny thing to talk about being a Thatcherite in 2021’
  • Said economic policy should be ‘on the basis of problems facing Britain today

Tory MP and chair of the Conservative Party Policy Board Neil O’Brien 

Boris Johnson’s policy chief has suggested it is time for the Tories to move away from Thatcherism and to learn economic lessons from countries in East Asia. 

Neil O’Brien, a Tory MP and the chairman of the Conservative Party Policy Board, told the Bright Blue think tank that it is ‘such a funny thing to talk about being a Thatcherite in 2021’. 

He said Thatcherism was ‘a policy response to the problems of Britain in the 1970s’ and that policy should be formed ‘on the basis of the problems facing Britain today’.   

Mr O’Brien, the Conservative MP for Harborough, said: ‘It’s such a funny thing to talk about being a Thatcherite in 2021 given that Thatcherism was a policy response to the problems of Britain in the 1970s; literally before I was born. 

‘You can admire the achievements of that period, such as how they got inflation and the trade unions under control and removed bits of the state that didn’t belong there, but think that you’ve got to conduct economic policy on the basis of the problems facing Britain today.’

Mr O’Brien suggested in his interview with Bright Blue, published in the think tank’s Centre Write magazine, that UK economic debate is lagging behind other countries. 

He said: ‘The economics of how science and technology, industrial policy and finance come together and the economics of geography are the two biggest things to happen in economics over the past couple of decades. 


Boris Johnson’s policy chief suggested it is time for the Tories to move on from Thatcherism 

‘This hasn’t really been reflected in our national economic debate and certainly not in the papers… you wouldn’t see much mention of Hyundai or Samsung that have come into being as a result of government economic policies on the other side of the world. 

‘Taiwan went from having no semiconductor industry to becoming the world leader, all since the 1980s.’

Mr O’Brien also took aim at previous governments for failing to do more to boost economic development in poorer parts of the country. 

He said: ‘Compared to what has been done in regional policy in other countries like Germany, it’s not on the same scale. 

‘Our R&D budget has been very low in the UK and we need to change that. Then after that you need to think about infrastructure like transport and connectivity that all support growth. 

‘In the UK, too quickly we move to a conversation about levelling up and transport spending. Really that is something that follows on from the initial economic development.’ 

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