Niall Gooch

How to waste an 80-seat majority

The privatisation of Channel 4 is a sign of drift


Cast your mind back to Channel 4’s election night programme. The 2019 exit poll results flash up on screen. Realising the size of the Tory majority, hosts Krishnan Guru-Murthy and comedian Katherine Ryan, along with pundits Amber Rudd and Tom Watson, all look crestfallen: the Conservatives had won and Brexit was secured. 

However, nearly two and a half years on from that night, the joy of the Channel 4 clip feels a bit empty. Very little has been done with that huge parliamentary advantage. Instead, the government’s big announcement this week is that they’re privatising the broadcaster. Fine. No problem with that; it’s probably a good thing. Except it doesn’t seem to be part of a wider programme for government.

In fact, the Tories seem absolutely incapable of achieving anything significant. Housing costs are higher than ever and still climbing, shutting out young people from the kind of experiences that might one day make them more Tory-minded: marriage, parenthood and home-ownership. The Channel migrant crisis continues. Growth projections are unimpressive. The tax burden is at a 70-year high and grand, transformative infrastructure projects remain elusive. Policing is in crisis, especially in London, where the Met is hampered by a ridiculous requirement that they recruit men and women on a 50-50 basis.

And yet nothing happens. There seems to be very little thought in No. 10 about what exactly the government wishes to achieve, what levers need to be pulled and what obstacles need to be cleared away. The strategic thinking and determination that Dominic Cummings sought to bring to Downing Street seems to have dissipated entirely.

The government puts on quite a show of taking the conservative side in cultural disputes around national identity, representation, race relations and free speech.

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