The ratchet effect is the process whereby when left wing parties get into government they move the country to the left, but when right wing parties enter government they simply hold things steady and rarely move things rightwards.
Part of the reason is that the Tories are often wimps and because political insiders are often more centrist than their supporters. However I wonder if the current economic crisis demonstrates another reason why. If the Tories win the next election they will inherit an economy that has been utterly wrecked by the global recession and the monumental incompetence of Labour in office. There will be very little appetite to reform public services or to shrink the state in a serious manner. This was also true of incoming Conservative governments in 1950 and 1979.
In contrast when Labour took office in 1997 they took over an economy that had been reformed and was growing strongly and was in a very healthy state. The opportunity to reform anything from welfare to schools to healthcare was huge.
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