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The Guardian view on Tory austerity: an unpopular policy returns | Editorial

Public spending is needed to green the economy and repair public services. But the chancellor plans £100bn in cuts

Sir Rod Stewart is a Tory who backed Boris Johnson in 2019. So it was a surprise to hear the 78-year-old singer, when asked about recent strikes by NHS workers over pay, telling Sky News this week that he was on the nurses’ side not the Conservatives’. “I personally have been a Tory for a long time, but I think this government should stand down now and give the Labour party a go at it. Because this is heartbreaking for the nurses. In all my years of living in this country, I’ve never seen it so bad.”

Polling suggests this is a widely held sentiment. The country is in a mess and everyone but ministers can see it. It is not “declinist” to say so. The government bears the bulk of the responsibility for failing to keep the trains running, the classrooms open or the emergency wards working. Public sector workers are fed up seeing their wages fall behind the cost of living. They have every right to feel aggrieved. Private sector industrial disputes are being sensibly settled – with pay awards outstripping those in the public sector. Yet the government doesn’t seem bothered about resolving industrial disputes.

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