I think it's pretty clear that the last Conservative government left Britain in a good state. It is also fairly obvious that when the current Labour administration is booted out, it's going to leave behind a hell of a mess. Many people would say, therefore, that we'd have been better off if John Major's Tories had remained in office.
But that was never really an option. By 1997 the Conservatives were a spent force – mired in scandal, deeply divided, and running out of ideas. Like many governments that have been in power for a long time, they had lost their touch. Departure from government was inevitable.
But what if we had had no government at all since 1997? What if public spending had simply risen in line with inflation, tax thresholds had gone up the same way, and existing policies had just been followed. It certainly wouldn't be a perfect world, but it would probably be a lot better than it is now.
Taxes would be a lower. There would be budget surpluses, and no public debt. The private pensions system would have remained the best in Europe. We would still have the opt-out from the EU's social chapter, meaning vastly less red tape for business, and greater flexibility in the labour market. We'd still have regulators, but their objectives would be purely economic, rather than social and environmental. We wouldn't be entangled in seemingly unwinnable wars. And our traditional civil liberties would, to a great extent, be intact.
Public services still wouldn't be great, but at least the internal markets in health and education would have been allowed to bed in, and teachers and doctors would be free to get on with their jobs. And while the trains still wouldn't run on time, the considerable improvement that occurred between privatization and the Hatfield crash could have been sustained, rather then squandered with the government takeover of Railtrack.
Not a utopia then, but what is? Perhaps we really would have been better off with no government at all...