WHEN, in the last week, the Financial Times has noted that the idea that government should "do less and tax less" is running out of supporters then it seems likely that something is changing in the world of politics. 

That something that is happening is becoming ever more obvious. It is the growing realisation that the economy is ceasing to work as anyone thinks that it should. The idea that "Britain is broken" is now commonplace, even amongst Tories.

I suspect that it is even more prevalent in Scotland than elsewhere.

What this makes clear is that people are beginning to expect radical change in the way that politicians approach the economy , precisely because they can see that what politicians have done over the last 40 years no longer works.

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The problem is, that, as far as I can tell, almost no one within the Tories or Labour Party, or SNP come to that, seems to share that opinion. They seem to think that politics can carry on as it has.

The Conservatives, and Margaret Thatcher (below) in particular, were the creators of the type of modern political economy that has been seen in this country ever since she came into office.

Her approach to economics was based partly on political dogma, but also upon a new understanding of business that was also developing in the 1970s. The politest possible description for that approach to Minority across UK see preserving Union as priority, IPPR study finds business is to describe it as private equity. More appropriately it is called asset stripping.

The National:

Thatcher was the ultimate exponent of this craft. She came into office with one intention. She intended to sell off all the major assets that the government owned, knowing full well that the benefit would go very largely to a small elite within society.

What she then wanted to do was leave behind a rump of government that she could claim was inefficient. That would then mean that she could propose that it use outsourcing, which process would again benefit her friends in the private equity world.

And then, once she had done that, her objective was to deny whatever parts of government were left of funds by reducing taxes, as far as was possible, leaving those who had relied upon the state to fend for themselves.

The similarity between this and the private equity companies approach to buying and selling companies is uncanny. This is exactly the model that they use.

The problem with the use of this model by governments has always been obvious. Whilst the private equity capitalist has always been able to asset strip the companies that they buy and then sell them on before departing the scene, denying all responsibility for the consequences of their actions, the government has never been able to behave in the same way.

The simple fact is that however much a government has been stripped of its assets there are still people who remain utterly dependent upon it for the provision of essential services that no one else can supply. It is ultimately not possible for government to run away from its responsibilities. The failure to appreciate that fact has been the flaw in the politics of the last forty years.

We have now reached the point where there is nothing left to strip out of government. It is threadbare, worn out and broken. The challenge at this moment is, instead, to work out how to manage and restore what is left.

This is where our current batch of politicians fail. Having been taught (all too often at Oxford) that Thatcher was right and that politics is all about the art of doing as little as possible, what our current generation of politicians now face is a demand that they take action. That demand is exposing their inadequacy, because what is clear is that most of them have not the faintest idea what they are meant to do in this situation.

The obvious need is for them to do things very differently. Against every instinct that they have they have they must end their inclination to sell, cut and close government services and must instead think about how they can invest in, grow and develop those services and invest in the infrastructure that supports them. Nothing less will do.

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That, however, means that we need politicians with vision, rather than with the expense cutting mentality of an accountant.

And it means that we also need politicians who can justify why government should now be doing more for society – and taxing more as a result – because that is what is clearly required. The problem is, no one now holding office in any of our major political parties has ever had to do that, and they very clearly have no idea where to start.

Will our politicians be able to adapt to what is now required of them? I really do not know. But if they can’t we face an even bigger crisis than any of us can imagine.