Britain needs a Labour government. That’s quite a line for a Tory to write, but it’s true. All governments run their course. The Thatcher/Major years came to their natural end just as the Blair/Brown years came to theirs. And now, it is clear, the Conservatives’ time is up.

When Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow chancellor at her party’s conference in Liverpool this week, sounds more prudent than Kwasi Kwarteng, the new man in No 11, you know the Tories are in the deepest trouble. Conservative governments are elected not because people love them: they are elected when people trust them. And what we are witnessing right now is not only the Conservative party trashing its own brand: it’s the Conservative party trashing the economy.

This is not because Mr Kwarteng and his boss, Liz Truss, are wrong to pursue growth. They are right to put it front and centre and they are equally right to condemn a Treasury orthodoxy which, for far too long, has failed to do so. But the means they have selected to drive the growth to which they aspire are the wrong measures, in the wrong order, at the wrong time.

If you really want growth you don’t start with tax cuts for the wealthiest in society and hope that the effects trickle down. You start by stimulating the supply we need to meet the demand that is already there. There is demand for affordable housing in attractive places – but there is a chronic lack of supply.

There is demand for flexible skills training in the jobs economy – but there is a chronic lack of supply. And there is demand for a robust, resilient and affordable energy supply – but, as we all know, our supply depends to a degree which is so foolhardy as to be downright irresponsible on imported, non-renewable gas.

There is also, one might add, a demand to be slick, fleet of foot, and innovative as a trading nation – but the distance Brexit has put between the United Kingdom and its biggest trading partner is an impediment, not a short-cut, to growth.

I am a Conservative. I’m all in favour of a high-growth economy. I’m all in favour of government intervening in markets to stimulate the supply which meets demand and drives growth. That’s why I campaigned for City Growth Deals, just as that’s why I applauded Michael Gove’s levelling-up agenda. I did this not least because such growth boosts tax revenues. That is the time for cutting back on our too-high taxation, not now.

Inherently unconservative

Yet the newfound Trussonomics says that we cut tax first. It is profoundly unconservative. A conservative would grow the economy first; a conservative would tackle the deficit first; a conservative would get public spending under control first – and only then, only once growth has returned to the economy – would a conservative cut tax.

Evidently, the markets agree. The hammering that the pound is taking not only against the dollar but, even more worryingly, against the euro, is the strongest possible sign that the markets don’t buy the newfound recklessness, the dogma that you can tax-cut your way to lower public spending.

Evidently, the voters also agree: Labour now has a whopping 17-point lead in the latest opinion poll.

It is a truism that oppositions do not win elections: governments lose them. And it is true also that the 2024 general election will turn on the economy, and not on the constitution. All of which is just as well for the Labour party because, in contrast to Rachel Reeves’ prudence on the economy, the noises coming from the party leadership of late on how Labour will save the Union, reform the constitution, abolish the House of Lords, and reboot devolution are cacophonous drivel.

They are drivel not because there is no case for significant constitutional reform in the UK: they are drivel because to think this is anything to do with “saving the Union”, or to aim your fire at the House of Lords whilst overlooking much more serious weaknesses elsewhere in our democracy, is both to misdiagnose the problem and to prescribe the wrong solution.

Labour naivety problem

As to the former, if the Labour party really thinks that Yes voters are inclined to independence only because the House of Lords is unelected, or because the Fixed-term Parliaments Act was repealed, or because combined regional authority mayors don’t have enough powers over local property taxation, they are mad. Fiddling with the old British constitution will do nothing – nothing at all – to bring disaffected Yes voters back into Labour’s fold, and Gordon Brown should know better than to pretend otherwise.

And as to the latter, the decay that rots at the heart of Westminster is not in the House of Lords: it’s in the Commons. Parliamentary democracy is supposed to be about finding ways of allowing majorities to govern. But, under the combined effects of the first-past-the-post system and the ways modern political parties are run (from the top down), British parliamentary democracy has morphed into entrenching a bizarre form of minority rule.

There is no majority in the United Kingdom – there is no majority even in England – for Trussonomics, yet this is the dogma the newly unelected government are now imposing on us. The House of Commons has the power to stop it, but not the will (the will of its members being not in their own hands, but in those of the whips). The House of Lords may have the will to stop it but, this being a money matter, it has no power to do so (their Lordships’ powers over the public finances having been removed from them more than a century ago, in 1911).

If Labour were serious about constitutional reform it would forget about the House of Lords and focus its energies instead on the Commons. Reform of the House of Commons should be adopted as a priority by the Labour party not in any misguided attempt to “save the Union”, but because it is manifestly in the national interest for it to be done.

Adam Tomkins was a Conservative MSP for the Glasgow region from 2016 to 2021.