BORIS Johnson is going – eventually – bringing into focus the wider challenges and crises of Toryism and UK politics which get darker and more foreboding by the day.

British Toryism and the ever-expanding cast of wannabe Tory leaders draw from a script well-known, worn and increasingly full of holes – of the low tax, free market, minimal state.

All the putative Tory premiers- in-waiting have to hide from the reality – not just of 12 years of successive Tory governments, but of being in office for 30 out of the past 43 years, alongside their dominance of the economic and ideological paradigms of the past 40 years.

The damning reality, as we survey the wreckage around us, is that for the last four decades, the Tories have shaped how Britain understands itself, is represented and is portrayed. This presents the recent past as an arc running from the 1970s and the UK starting with it being “the sick man of Europe”, followed by the country held ransom by “the winter of discontent”, leading to the rise of Thatcherism.

This led to the age of Thatcherite triumphalism, the rhetoric of “putting the Great back into Britain” and an explicit assertive British nationalism not seen before in the post-war era. Tories still believe – despite all the evidence to the contrary – that in the 1980s they turned the country around, reversed relative economic decline, and that all they have to do now is to return to this golden elixir and political success and dominance will continue.

This account has become so pervasive that Labour – the Corbyn years apart – swallowed it hook, line and sinker, leading to the New Labour era of acceptance of the legacy and mythology of Thatcherism. This bought the delusion that the Tories in the 1980s had saved a near-bankrupt, ruined country and put it on the path to a golden era.

READ MORE: SNP's Mhairi Black in stark warning over rightward-drift of the Conservatives

Today, neither the Conservatives nor Labour have any plausible, constructive idea of what to do about the multiple and fundamental challenges facing the UK. As importantly, neither has anything convincing to say about shaping the future of the UK.

It is not an accident that all the Tory leadership candidates are clinging to the mantras of the 1980s – of incessantly talking about the cutting of corporation and personal taxes, more deregulation and dramatically cutting back the state.

This is what they have been repeatedly told (and have convinced themselves) was delivered in the 1980s. But all it actually delivered was changing the narrative – aided by privatisation receipts, North Sea oil and an ideologically committed right-wing press. There was no Thatcherite economic miracle, no matter how many times The Spectator, Daily Telegraph and right-wing think-tanks suggest there was.

Tory candidates are stuck and obsessed with this Thatcherite mirage, unable to deal with the reality of their past and present failings. In the words of journalist Jeremy Cliffe: “the UK has low tax and regulatory burdens by rich-world standards. If lower taxes and more deregulation are your fundamental answers, you’re asking the wrong questions.”

All of the Tories have nothing substantial to say about the real challenges facing the UK: poverty, inequality, hardship, the cost of living, and the responsibility of the uber-wealthy. Not one of the candidates has suggested for all the tax talk, that now might be a good time to think about the obscenely rich paying more tax.

One of the biggest silences of Tories is saying anything about the failings of British capitalism.

They cannot do so because short-termist, speculative, finance dominated capitalism has become their fix. Belatedly, they have discovered the UK’s historically appalling record in low productivity, R&D and investment, but all this pre-dates Thatcherism and was accentuated by its belief in letting the City and markets rip.

The Tories of the 1980s, for all their zealotry and certainty, did not actually alter many of the fundamental weaknesses of British capitalism. Instead, they rebalanced it from manufacturing and production to services and finance, encouraging the rise of – in the words of Brett Christophers’s Rentier Capitalism – selling and renting assets, monetising them and adding nothing productive to the economy. In Thatcherite lexicon, this is a world we can all enter and join, but what it has meant is that every aspect of society, including public goods, can be financialised.

Another issue is the collapse of the British state and government and its inability to enter the modern age, being resolutely stuck in the age of pre-modern sensibilities and pre-democracy. In truth, the main organs of the British state and government never fully embraced and embodied the democratic age and spirit.

The actual political infrastructure of the UK is fraying and stretching to breaking point. The Tory class see the solution to everything as the return to power at the imperial centre – nobbling and bypassing the political hubs of Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, and laying waste to the rich traditions of local government and civil society.

The Tories cannot contemplate reforming this rotten order because they are its direct beneficiaries. Worse, they actually want to make it further deformed, anti-democratic and centralised. All of this is aided by their accumulation of decades of power, privilege and patronage, stacking and gaming the political system for their own naked self-interest which reached an apex under Boris Johnson.

It is no accident that no Tory leadership candidate is talking about overhauling and democratising the British state.

But what of Labour? Why can they not break free of the illusions of Westminster and overhang of Thatcherite framing and set out a bold critique? Britain fails the vast majority of its citizens; it has a broken economic, social and democratic system – all of which are related. Yet Labour cannot be confident and make the connections, knowing the brutal fightback and assault it would face from the entrenched interests of the right-wing establishment.

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Labour have little imaginative, original and radical to say. They cannot break from the allure of Empire State Britain because in their hearts, Labour spokespeople dream of capturing that state and using its central institutions to push through change, while enjoying and misusing monopoly power on a minority of the votes. Labour, just as much as Tory Brexiteers, still make a magic fetish of parliamentary sovereignty and stand for authoritarianism – of the imperial centre telling everyone else what to do.

This Tory contest and UK politics are caught in a prison of a fabricated, imagined past created by the ideological right – one which Fintan O’Toole has rightly said reduces the UK to the equivalent of “a rogue state”, tearing up treaties, getting into bitter arguments with European neighbours, threatening the Northern Ireland peace process and reducing relations with Ireland to their lowest in decades.

This debased British nationalism springs from a “little Englander” mentality with little understanding of the complexities and diversity of the real UK and its people. Whoever wins the Tory leadership – whether someone presenting themselves as more continuity such as Rishi Sunak or a disrupter like Suella Braverman or someone else from the hard right – Toryism is not coming back to the mainstream.

Toxic Toryism is the future of the party – and the government when in their hands – with Labour having little answer. Labour, LibDems, and even Tory representatives in Scotland should take note. They are all wedded to this disaster nationalism that they continue to let Scotland be governed by.