The government understands the electoral hazard of a recession but is unprepared for the grim politics of large-scale job losses
Boris Johnson has never struggled to find a job for himself, nor shown much interest in unemployment as a struggle for other people. He was passing from Eton to Oxford for the industrial strife of the early 1980s. He spent the 1991 recession in Brussels, manufacturing Eurosceptic mythology for the Daily Telegraph. If he thought the Tory governments of that era were callous in their indifference to joblessness, he hid the scruple well.
The prime minister did imply a criticism of old Conservative dogmas earlier this year. The nation’s response to the pandemic proved “that there really is such a thing as society”, he declared 33 years after Margaret Thatcher’s infamous claim to the contrary.