Just you wait – Boris Johnson will soon show his true centrist colours

Enthusiasm for Brexit does not always go hand in hand with support for the untrammelled free market

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Future of Northern Rail being evaluated, says Government

The general election, we are told, was followed by a sharp rise in business confidence and a small, but welcome, economic upturn. Some put this down to the size of Boris Johnson’s majority that promised to finally end three years of wrangling over Brexit. According to those who claim to be in the know, however, there was a bigger, simpler, reason: the new certainty that Labour’s leftist leader Jeremy Corbyn was not going to be prime minister.

So what on earth is business opinion likely to think now that the Johnson government appears to be taking more than one page out of the Corbyn-McDonnell playbook? Not only has the transport secretary announced that Northern Rail is to be brought into public ownership – under the aegis of a Department for Transport offshoot delightfully called the operator of last resort – but it is also loosening the Treasury purse-strings to the point that the chancellor says he will give the go-ahead to the controversial rail line, HS2, despite the probable cost already running far, far ahead of initial estimates. Whatever happened to the supposedly right-wing, free-market Brexiteer Boris Johnson?

The first point to make is that even among Conservatives, enthusiasm for Brexit did not always go hand in hand with support for the untrammelled free market. There is nothing that automatically connects the one cast of mind with the other. The desire to “take back control” – not to be part of a political, as opposed to economic, European project – may indicate a predisposition towards freedom in other areas. Then again, it might not.

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