Is Boris Johnson the most left-wing Tory prime minister ever?

Where on the spectrum do you place a government that spent billions on furlough, and on recruiting nurses, doctors and police officers, asks John Rentoul

Saturday 01 May 2021 22:54
<p>The PM’s not as right-wing as you may think</p>

The PM’s not as right-wing as you may think


did an “ask me anything” last week, where readers asked questions and I tried to answer as many as possible in two hours. There were a lot of questions about whether Boris Johnson was going to get away with what many Independent readers think is deplorable behaviour (yes, of course).

And there were one or two unexpected questions, such as from “MrRazza”, who asked if Johnson was “the most left-leaning prime minister since Heath; the most right-leaning since Thatcher; both at once; or somewhere in between?”

I think this identifies one of the big puzzles of current politics, which is that the terms “left” and “right” have become harder to define than ever. There has always been a certain amount of cross-dressing in successful British leaders – it is what I see as one of the advantages of a pluralitarian voting system. Tony Blair stole some of the right’s themes, on crime, the family, and defence; David Cameron stole some of the left’s, on gay marriage and greenery.

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