The Guardian view on Boris Johnson's two nations: employers and employees | Editorial

The prime minister has been unable to resolve the tension between his party’s free-market orthodoxy and a desire to cater to new working-class voters

Boris Johnson claims he is a “one nation Conservative”, bringing together the wealthy “classes” with the “masses”. Leaks from Downing Street signal a leftwing approach on economics and rightwing one on culture. Mr Johnson presents himself as the first Tory post-Thatcherite prime minister. His Brexit sales pitch was that he was prepared to sacrifice business profitability to regain “sovereignty”. Yet the Covid pandemic has shown Mr Johnson is unable to resolve the tension between his party’s free-market orthodoxy and a desire to cater to new working-class voters.

Pre-crisis the British economy was characterised by low levels of business investment, a poor skills base, stagnating wages and the zombification of UK companies, which had taken on £1.2tn of corporate rated debt. Covid presented a chance to reset the economic model that has seen the share of wages fall as a share of the country’s gross domestic product. As providers of capital, investors might think that having a bigger share of economic output is a good thing. But companies also need customers who can afford to buy their goods and services.

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