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Our New Henry VIII

Summary:
Sajid Javid is out and Rishi Sunak is in. In addition to that, it has also been announced that the teams of number 10 and number 11 are going to be more combined. This may be a surprise or it may in fact be a repeat of the early 16th century. Let me explain why. Looking back to 2010 the Conservatives were steeped in fiscal conservatism. Cutting the budget was central and austerity was firmly the order of the day. Just as after the long dynastic crises of the wars of the roses, after the financial crisis of 2007-8 those who emerged to take power were self-proclaimed penny pinching Cameron and Osbourne. Both saw ‘that a full treasury was an absolutely necessary condition of establishing the new rule’ (Elton - England Under the Tudors).If you still doubt it, Osbourne even famously declared

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Sajid Javid is out and Rishi Sunak is in. In addition to that, it has also been announced that the teams of number 10 and number 11 are going to be more combined. This may be a surprise or it may in fact be a repeat of the early 16th century. Let me explain why. 

Looking back to 2010 the Conservatives were steeped in fiscal conservatism. Cutting the budget was central and austerity was firmly the order of the day. Just as after the long dynastic crises of the wars of the roses, after the financial crisis of 2007-8 those who emerged to take power were self-proclaimed penny pinching Cameron and Osbourne. Both saw ‘that a full treasury was an absolutely necessary condition of establishing the new rule’ (Elton - England Under the Tudors).

If you still doubt it, Osbourne even famously declared Henry VII his favourite monarch. Henry VII, like the Conservatives before him, concentrated on restrengthening the Crown, and its financial position especially, whether it was fining rather than executing certain rebels or restraining himself from costless expenditure (i.e. War). The spirit of the Winter king indeed survived into the May era. Hammond enjoyed the title spreadsheet Phil.

Yet on 21st April 1509, Boris Johnson Henry VIII became the new leader of the country. Both Johnson and HVIII are/were Eurosceptics; both had notable love lives; and both of course were susceptible to huge vanity projects. HS2 could soon become the white elephant of Henry’s expeditions in France (both of them). It would be interesting to see if the TPA could muster a tax strike like that seen in 1525. It would definitely be preferable to Johnson ordering the dissolution of St Mungo’s or similar to fund his exploits - or the handing out of corporate welfare just as monastic lands were dished out for financial reward and demanding noble loyalty. 

So was Javid a cautious Wolsey no longer to be tolerated by an ambitious new ruler? Possibly. It’s worth remembering that Javid backed HS2 just as Wolsey at least backed the attempt to obtain special dispensation from the Pope in annulling Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. However, I would much prefer to praise the integrity of Geoffrey Cox and his fellow lawyer Thomas More. Both showed loyalty but not at the expense of sacrificing their principles. 

So what can we expect from the new regime? While many were and possibly are still confident of Boris being the neoliberal darling, it is becoming clearer that Johnson is emulating Blair’s words in 1997 “we ran for office as New Labour, we will govern as New Labour”. Johnson put One Nation Tory principles at the forefront of his campaign and he seems to be doing little to persuade otherwise. By bringing the treasury further under his control and loosening the spending taps, Johnson might be sending us hurtling towards another fiscal crisis.

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