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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Economy"

Ryan Bourne: Sunak should not and cannot try today to restore pre-virus Britain. It’s gone – and we must now adapt.

Ryan Bourne holds the R Evan Scharf Chair in Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute. 

Rishi Sunak earned plaudits for his dealing with the immediate economic fallout from Covid-19. Yet today’s summer statement presents a thornier challenge than playing Emergency Santa, dishing out funds to keep businesses alive. For today requires taking steps to further facilitate the “normalisation” of economic life.

Boris Johnson waded into economics last week, arguing (rather conveniently) that the Coronavirus highlighted the need for his pre-pandemic “leveling-up” agenda. Exactly how Covid-19 proves the need for, say, HS2 is unclear. But underpinning the Prime Minister’s argument was an assumption that, post-lockdowns, we can get back to focusing on pre-virus priorities – in the Government’s case, state-led economic rebalancing.

Similar “back to our future” thinking underpins business representations ahead of this statement. From calls for taxpayer-financed high street spending vouchers, to VAT cuts for hard-hit sectors, the prevailing discourse appears to be “now the virus is less of a threat, let’s incentivise returning to normal activity,” with “normal” meaning “what happened in early March 2020.”

Perhaps it’s because I’m in the U.S. and so have been to this reopening BBQ before, but I bear bad news: while the UK can expect a relatively sharp bounce-back in things such as retail activity, “normalisation” will not and should not mean a return to the economy of March 2020.

Before a vaccine, consumers will go where they feel safe, businesses from restaurants to cinemas will be supply constrained by social distancing, and certain behaviors (from the demand shift from restaurants to supermarkets, to the supply shift to working from home) will partially remain. That will bring major reallocation costs: businesses will close and lay off workers, while other sectors grow.

It was understandable that the Chancellor, not knowing which businesses would be viable after lockdown, set up a furlough scheme to avoid companies and jobs perishing. This helped protect important “job-matching capital” and “firm-specific capital” – i.e. people doing jobs they are good at and firms as important bundles of productive relationships. But one risk was always that businesses would interpret support not as mere lockdown relief, but a commitment to ensure their survival through the whole pandemic.

Some aspects of the campaign for arts subsidies, rumblings by MPs for ongoing aerospace supply-chain support, and the Resolution Foundation’s gimmicky “high street vouchers” idea suggest that some now do believe the Government should support sectors, even after full re-openings, precisely because consumers would otherwise continue to reject them, preferring not to fly as much, attend as many in-person events, or go to fewer restaurants or stores.

This is a very different policy proposition. Attempting to keep the March 2020 economy preserved as some eternal truth would mean workers and funds not being where businesses and consumers actually value them given today’s circumstances, bringing large economic costs beyond the fiscal.

For example, if more professionals now work from home semi-permanently, then tastes will shift from buying lunches within cities to local delis, online, or at supermarkets. Hence why Pret is laying off workers.

But as Julian Jessop has said, the purpose of economic policy should not be to protect Pret jobs. What normalisation should instead mean is the return to a functioning market economy where the rise and fall of businesses depends on their ability to meet our wants and needs in today’s circumstances. Sunak’s aim, in other words, should now be “market-led adaptation to the virus.”

We want businesses to figure out how to serve us in safe, cost-effective ways. The alternative – having the government tilt activity towards our early 2020 preferences – would not only encourage activity worse from a public health risk perspective, but also inevitably subsidise much that would take place anyway.

So Sunak should today reject “painting by numbers Keynesianism” that sees industry spending collapses as holes taxpayers should help fill in. He should snub VAT cuts or vouchers. If, with the virus still around, people would rather spend money on food to cook at home, Netflix subscriptions, and a hot tub for the back garden over restaurants, cinemas, and trips to the Lake District, workers and capital should flow accordingly. Economic activity serves consumers, not vice versa.

That’s not to say government cannot make this process less painful. But we need to be clear about the challenge we face: a supply-side shock we hid with relief. New realities mean workers in the wrong jobs, businesses serving customers in the wrong ways, and capital in the wrong places. Government policy should focus on removing barriers that gum up businesses, landlords, workers and entrepreneurs adjusting.

Sunak appears to get this on the worker side. He is tapering the furlough scheme gradually to give businesses breathing room, but inevitably those with newly uneconomic business models will make some permanent layoffs.

It’s crucial to try to get workers reallocated into new roles quickly to avoid the scarring effects of unemployment. Direct financial incentives for new hiring, even beyond subsidies for traineeships trailed in the papers, would encourage this. The reported plans for expansions of jobcentre capabilities are important too to try to speed up the matching process of unemployed workers to new roles, as would re-training efforts be. Some U.S. states are rolling back licensing restrictions on people shifting to different jobs too. With child-care difficult to come by, now would be a good time to review the UK’s oppressive childcare regulations, for example.

Yet the Conservatives should do more to facilitate the adaptation of businesses as well. Repurposing premises to earn consumers’ confidence often requires upfront investments that the Chancellor should write-off entirely for the basis of tax, through full expensing of investment. The planning law reforms should have an eye to business activities too – if more out-of-town activity is demanded, let it bloom.

The case for allowing existing businesses and property owners more flexibility – on how they operate, opening hours, what premises can be used for etc– is overwhelming as well. With apologies to my Editor, when we are seriously discussing throwing billions at retailers such as John Lewis or Topshop through vouchers, it seems daft to consider it beyond the pale that such retailers open beyond 6pm on a Sunday. Give freedom to businesses to adjust to what customers want: what barriers exist to entrepreneurs developing drive-through cinemas, for example? These are the sorts of supply-side questions that should animate government.

As always with fiscal events, any financial support to industries will be heralded as ‘good news’  and absence of it denounced as throwing sectors to the wolves. But it’s time for Sunak to be bold and honest: his task is not to “normalise” activity by resuscitating the composition of the March 2020 economy, but to “normalise” the market-led economy that makes us rich by meeting our demands.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Richard Holden: On Wednesday, Sunak needs to display as much confidence in Britain as local publications are showing in North West Durham

Richard Holden is MP for North West Durham.

The Dairy Barn Cafe, North Bitchburn

As Saturday approached, you could feel the febrile excitement and demand for “the story” across the media. Television news and radio bulletins boiled over with predictions of carnage on Saturday night. The broadcasters and papers were eagerly anticipating Freshers Week-esque scenes of drunken debauchery as the public decided to get wasted in a post-lockdown bacchanal.

In North West Durham, I spent Saturday evening visiting the: Duke of Wellington, Consett Rugby Club, the Wheatsheaf in Leadgate and finally the Black Lion, my local in Wolsingham. I’m afraid that I must report that calm and friendly were the orders of the evenings – as it appears were the scenes across the rest of the country too.

Tog, the landlord of the Duke, four doors down from my office on Medomsley Road, took me to his beer garden to show me a mural he’d commissioned during lockdown from a local artist. Sarah-Jane, at the Black Lion, had me take a peak at how she’d transformed her beer garden from a flagged smoking area to a lively and welcoming garden of tables, tasteful lighting and colourful plants and flowers.

It was superb to see responsible local businesses at the heart of their communities investing in their businesses, and ensuring a safe and socially distanced experience for their customers. This hope of better things to come from local firms, with small but significant investments in themselves, is really welcome at a time when I know so many people are not only worried by the virus, but also about their jobs and their incomes.

However, in many sectors of the economy the broad economic impact of the global Coronavirus pandemic is coming through hard, and is reflecting just how interconnected demand is across our economy.

To give one example: at first as the crisis broke, I had travel agents and their staff get in touch. Then came had pilots and crew from Easyjet and British Airways based at Newcastle airport, as the airlines cut back. More recently, I’ve been in touch with a local manufacturing firm which makes inner parts for the wings of Airbus planes, and which is having to lay off half its staff (some of their factories across the UK have closed completely and will not re-open).

Very quickly, the lack of ability to – and demand for – travel has led to manufacturing job losses well down the chain. It’s clear that some sectors have been far more badly affected than others, and that base consumer demand is having a rapid knock-on effect.

Looking out of the panoramic window of the just re-opened Dairy Barn Café, I can see right up Weardale, and am reminded of a conversation I had early in the last election campaign. “Remember, we’re the working dale, Richard” a man in late middle-age in local authority housing in Stanhope had said to me.

At the time it made me think of where I grew up on the other side of the Pennines – walking up Pendle Hill in Lancashire 20 years ago, and looking south to the mill towns of East Lancashire nestled in the valleys below. Working towns like Burnley, Colne and Accrington which have since switched to electing Conservative MPs.

As the furlough scheme, which protected so many jobs at the height of the lockdown is wound down, we’ve got to do everything we can to help return demand to the economy – the demand that comes from confidence in the future. Demand that means work for decent working people up and down the seats of the ‘Blue Wall’.

This confidence and positive view to the future is not something anyone’s hearing from the Labour leadership under Keir Starmer. The best thing he could muster last week was to suggest that the Government was giving “mixed messages” by saying, “get out and about, have a drink, but do so safely”.  Which shows that he’s struggling to get cut-through – especially when the man in the village pub in County Durham is by and large is doing exactly what the Government has suggested.

Labour’s shambolic response to getting children back to school, by saying one thing nationally and another in Labour-run local authorities, certainly inspires no-one with confidence – except a growing confidence that Sir Keir is a political opportunist. He was, after all, remarkably quiet on anti-semitism under Jeremy Corbyn, in order to keep hold of Momentum votes for the leadership. And he tried to play both sides with Labour’s disastrous “we’ll accept the result, but negotiate a new deal, and then have a second referendum” policy on Brexit.

Perhaps most interestingly, this weekend marked the first time that any constituent has mentioned the Labour leader to me unprompted. She was a former Labour voter who switched to the Conservatives in 2017 (and had managed to convince her husband to do so in 2019), and it was clear that, after being initially open-minded, the new Labour leader was leaving them increasingly cool.

The Government has done well in giving support to business and jobs – Rishi Sunak has certainly won fans across the country for that. But without wanting to pile too much pressure on the Chancellor ahead of his statement on Wednesday, we’re all only as good as our most recent decisions in politics.

As we move out of the initial stages of lockdown, Rishi’s decision must be to put confidence as much confidence and therefore demand back into the economy – especially in hard hit sectors – as he can. Everyone knows that it’s going to a difficult time and no-one expects the Government to get everything a hundred per cent right, but voters do expect us to really try.

And in doing so over the next few weeks and months, the Government has got to show the confidence in Britain that my local publicans in North West Durham are showing. And, as they press ahead with “levelling up” their pubs, we must also keep that long-term goal in mind too for the North.

Confidence is the thing that underlies every relationship with the state that we have – from policing with consent to the value of the fiat currency in our pocket. Confidence that governments have the people in mind and the ability to deliver is what keeps them in office.

The electorate here in County Durham and in the mill Towns of East Lancashire took us into their confidence and bestowed their votes upon us. Despite the difficulties of the pandemic, the Government has supported people. Now our task is to give our businesses the confidence to look to the future positively, which will in turn give the people who work for them the confidence to invest and spend in a virtuous circle, bouncing forward out of the fear of recent months and towards the hope of a brighter future.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Peter Lampl: To build social justice and get the economy working, schools must open fully in September

Sir Peter Lampl is founder and Chairman of the Sutton Trust and Chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation.

Pubs, pubs, pubs. If you were to believe most of the ministerial and media rhetoric during these last few weeks, you would conclude that getting them open was the biggest priority to revive this country post-Coronavirus.

While no doubt there are many out there thirsty for a pint, this is a huge distraction. The fact is that the single best way to both kickstart the economy, and to fix the damage that has been done to our social fabric, is to guarantee that schools open in full this September.

There can be no ifs and buts. The damage that was done by the (quite understandable) decision to close down our education system is so wide-ranging it is almost inconceivable. The cost to both GDP and the life prospects of our children will take an age to recover.

And so we must be absolutely clear that, as ministerial focus pivots from the immediate emergency, the threat to the NHS and saving many thousands of lives, on to the economic crisis opening up before us, the education system must share equal top billing.

The damage done to educational outcomes and to social mobility is frightening. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) – which I chair – has estimated that some ten years of progress closing the attainment gap between our most deprived young people and their wealthier classmates has been reversed by closing schools for three months.

The efforts of most heads and teachers has been heroic, but the provision of online teaching has been patchy, and the ability of school staff to reach those children most in need of their help has been stretched at best. A University College London study found that 20 per cent of pupils (two million) still do less than one hour of schoolwork a day at home, or none at all, while many private school students are doing six hours.

Research from the Sutton Trust, which I also chair, showed that of the work that is received back from pupils, 50 per cent of teachers in independent schools report they’re receiving more than three quarters of it.   This compares with only eight per cent in the least advantaged state schools.

And during this crisis, there have been too many people playing politics. The Government has said one thing, heads another, unions another, councils another. Parents have been left in the middle baffled – while their kids lose out to a frankly terrifying degree. Messages have been mixed and this has undermined confidence in the system.

No more.

The Department for Education, the Treasury and Downing Street must speak with one voice on this. The economic revival they so desperately seek goes hand in hand with nurseries, primaries, secondaries, colleges and universities reopening to the greatest degree possible.

We can’t get parents back to work without their kids being looked after in primary or nursery schools. And we can’t hope to achieve growth unless schools and colleges and universities are producing people ready to work. In the longer term, the cost of the damage to the country’s wider prospects of the education system misfiring will be in the billions.

The building blocks are starting to be put in place. The announcement last week of £1 billion to spend on tutoring, and on catch up support throughout the summer and into next year, is really welcome. Both the EEF and the Sutton Trust are excited to be working with the Government to make sure this money has the greatest possible impact.

And the announcement of a change in social distancing from two metres to one metre – although again, framed to allow pub, restaurants and hotels to open – creates a great opportunity for schools. No longer will heads be restricted to 15 kids in a classroom. At one metre social distancing – and recognising that, especially in primary schools, the risks are very low indeed – we can, and must, move towards having all or almost all children safely back into schools.

No-one – principals, lecturers, heads, teachers, students, parents – can be left in any doubt that the Government will be laser-like in its focus on this. The promise of support, funding, and clear, timely advice to all parties must be forthcoming.

Ministers must also be clear about the extent of their ambition: this must not be a half-way house. All schools must be open, all lessons taught by teachers, exams must be sat, sports fixtures played, uniforms worn, and extra-curricular activities enjoyed.

It is to be welcomed that we are going to have a detailed plan at the end of this week to achieve this ambition. We hear that the Prime Minister is “deeply frustrated” that we haven’t had as many kids back in yet. But government rhetoric must be matched by action, and steadiness of nerve.

There is a long time to go between now and September. The Government will experience many huge problems in the coming months. It will find itself fighting many economic and healthcare crises, and it will be forced to publish many more no doubt horrifying financial figures. There will continue to be vested interests arguing that we must remain on pause, or that we should focus on other areas instead.

The DfE must ensure that education does not get lost in all this noise. Where efforts are required across government, this must happen. Ministers and senior civil servants must fight for the attention of Downing Street and the Treasury. No one can be allowed to forget how much rides on getting school gates open at the end of the summer holidays.

I’ve spent the past 20 years working to improve social mobility and on transforming the life chances for young people. We cannot allow this virus to deflect us from this most important agenda. There is no time to waste: schools and their students need certainty about September now.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Andy Street: Our blueprint setting out the economic ambitions of the West Midlands

Andy Street is Mayor of the West Midlands, and is a former Managing Director of John Lewis.

Last week saw the launch of a blueprint setting out the post-Coronavirus economic ambitions of the West Midlands. As a manufacturing heartland, where draftsmen drew up plans for everything from steam engines to Spitfires, blueprints are in our blood. They illuminate our history. This intentionally ambitious £3.2 billion business case draws a clear trajectory to our region’s future.

As Mayor of the West Midlands, it’s my job to attract as much investment as possible. Rishi Sunak’s bold and decisive actions – notably through the furlough scheme – have provided unprecedented economic support for jobs during lockdown. Now, demands on the public purse are high. All investment must be fully justified, diligently used and – crucially – deliver real results. Every penny counts.

Our region was the UK’s fastest growing outside the capital until Covid-19 struck, and as a hotbed of export, manufacturing, construction and professional services, we play a key role in the UK’s economic success. This new blueprint lays out a powerful business case for how continued investment can spark rapid and sustained recovery, not only for us here but for UK PLC.

Our ambition is deliberate because the stakes are high. Research suggests we could be hit harder than most by the lockdown. When coronavirus struck, the West Midlands was in a strong economic position, with record employment figures and productivity growth well ahead of the national rate. However, our economic mix – dependence on manufacturing and business tourism, as well as a significant contribution from universities – leaves us vulnerable.

By following the blueprint we have drawn up, the Government can demonstrate its commitment to ‘levelling-up’ by backing the people of the West Midlands to deliver.

We need to do everything we can to get back on our feet quickly and return to the levels of success we were enjoying before the outbreak hit. That means driving a rapid economic recovery, safeguarding more than 135,000 jobs while building thousands of new homes. It also means learning the lessons of the financial crash of 2008/09, and listening to business.

Investment is crucial. However, while we need significant investment from the Government – £3.2 billion over the next three years – this is broadly in line with the £2.7 billion investment we have secured since 2017, which supported strong economic success here.

Our business plan is to build on our success and on the investment we have already attracted from Government, while leveraging much more private and public sector investment locally, including from our universities.

The blueprint sets out a business case for investments, while outlining the economic benefits they would deliver. For example, it directly supports our automotive sector by harnessing clean technology and electrification. A major investment package, including £250 million towards a Gigafactory producing state-of-the-art batteries, will unlock 51,700 green jobs.

The building of HS2, next year’s Coventry City of Culture festivities and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games present opportunities to create jobs for local people. By accelerating major infrastructure investment and supporting the recovery of the tourism and cultural sector we can unlock 33,000 jobs.

Then there is the West Midlands’ growing reputation as a hotbed for health research. By investing in healthcare innovation we can protect 3,200 jobs, while improving the health of our population.

Improving transport, housing and digital infrastructure will play a key part in a rapid recovery, while laying the foundations for future economic strength. We can build better transport and digital links to drive productivity and create thousands of jobs in construction. Schemes include extending rail, metro and bus routes, with cash for enhanced digital connectivity and to accelerate fibre connectivity in deprived areas. Reopening long-closed railway stations will better connect people to employment opportunities, attract investment into once-isolated areas and improve productivity.

The West Midlands has pioneered the regeneration of brownfield sites to tackle the housing crisis, while protecting the environment. We even have our own regional definition of ‘affordable housing’ applied at planning level by the West Midlands Combined Authority. We want to build 35,000 new homes – 15,000 of which will be affordable – with a focus on housing key workers. Plans include using a £200m investment package to regenerate derelict eyesores and £24 million for a new National Brownfield Institute in Wolverhampton, which will be a centre of excellence for land reclamation.

Investment to equip people with the skills needed for the future aims to help get them back into work. This includes helping 38,400 young people obtain apprenticeships and work experience, retraining 20,000 workers for in-demand sectors such as health and social care, logistics and business services, and upskilling 24,000 for jobs for the future.

Finally, we want to back the region’s businesses with support schemes – including helping them navigate their way through the post-lockdown world – creating or safeguarding 43,900 jobs.

This ambitious business case is based on our region’s experiences not only of recovering from the last downturn, but on the successes of the last three years. The blueprint has been developed as a team effort between the region’s local enterprise partnerships, universities, business groups and local authorities.  Crucially, some of our biggest employers have also shared their insights about how the region can play its part in securing a strong national recovery, putting central investment to good use.

For the UK to fully recover, all of its regions must recover too – creating a stronger country with a more robust, balanced economy.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Matt Kilcoyne: An unholy alliance is frustrating our freedom to shop on Sunday. Johnson should take it on.

Matt Kilcoyne is Head Of Communications at the Adam Smith Institute.

An unholy alliance of small shops, supermarkets with convenience stores, unions and the church has formed again to oppose ending Sunday trading restrictions. The whole argument against letting the big shops open after 6.00pm appears quite confected. After all, no other industry has this weird restriction in place. Our NHS doctors and nurses can work Sunday night.

Few small business owners will refuse to help a customer if they come a-knocking after hours with a genuine need. You can even order online and have it delivered on a Sunday.

Meanwhile, if you’re a reporter with a sharp nose for a story it doesn’t matter if it breaks after your shift. Notably, an article announcing opposition to ending Sunday trading restrictions was published in Monday’s Daily Telegraph, indicating at least some of the editing was undertaken after 5.00pm the previous day.

Indeed, I’ve done something rather naughty while writing this. For you see, most of this piece was itself written on the Sabbath, by my own free choice. And unlike shift workers, I don’t even get paid to do so.

Yet for some reason, we arbitrarily do not allow shops larger than 3,000 square feet to open for more than six hours between 10.00am and 6.00pm on a Sunday. Deuteronomy is famous for its niche laws governing every aspect of the observant’s life, but I must have missed the verse that says shops with 3,001 square feet are too big, and that opening for more than six hours is forbidden.

The Old Testament calls for a day of rest. We have those written into law, just at times of our own choosing rather than convention. Universality is lovely in morals, but can be poor in practice.

Our restrictions hurt consumers, workers and businesses. They hold workers back from flexible and well-compensated hours; they reduce consumer choice; and they put pressure on time-poor and cash-poor parents in tight spots.

These current laws unfairly punish larger shops, when in fact these larger shops are precisely the ones that allow for much greater social distancing in the context of Covid-19. It is, to be frank, bizarre to encourage people to go to smaller shops, with the higher risk of interaction and contagion.

The same arguments Conservatives made against Sadiq Khan shutting down the tube at the beginning of this pandemic apply to those that want to control hours of opening for Sunday shoppers.

A great deal of our economy has gone off the cliff  but, like Wiley Coyote, we seem to have not yet realised. Instead of debates over the shopping habits of the past, we need as many ways as possible to increase transactions, consumption, and employment as we can muster.

We also need to find ways to keep us safe against the undimmed viral threat by allowing greater social distancing in stores, which is certainly helped by spreading out shoppers and staff over the week.

We consumer capitalists at the Adam Smith Institute have noted before that shoppers actually like the extra bit of choice: when Sunday trading laws were suspended during the Olympics, sales increased 2.8 per cent inside of London and 6.2 per cent outside of London.

The current restrictions are not even that traditionally British. Scotland has no restrictions on Sunday trading — workers have a right not to work on a Sunday should they so wish. Northern Ireland has even stricter laws than England and Wales, meaning you can only go to the supermarket between 1pm and 6pm.

Keep Sunday Special is made up of: the Association of Convenience Stores and the National Federation of Retail Newsagents; the Federation of Wholesale Distributors; the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, the Church of England, and post offices.

Beside the Church of England, which understandably wants us all in the pews rather than pounding the high street, you may have spotted the giant vested interests in this campaign. All the shops are themselves quite happily open on Sunday (and that includes some supermarkets with smaller inner city stores too), those that supply these small stores, a union that wants to limit labour competition, and the post offices that are reliant on corner shops.

This has nothing to do with keeping Sunday special. It has everything to do with shutting out the competition.

The idea that we’re a downtrodden people beholden to capitalists that want us to work every single second of every single day like Scrooge himself is both wrong and wrongheaded. The opposition and the quick backtrack from Number 10 also shows something much more worrying: a weakness for sticking to a choice when it’s made at the heart of a government.

Instead of the surety that should come with an 80-seat majority and the public’s support, we’ve had another U-turn in record time. In the face of obvious vested interests and a small but vociferous campaign that says it can muster 50 MPs to its cause, but only managed seven names on an open letter. And there’s something really off and quite worrying about the Chief Whip’s personal opinion ending up on the front page of theTelegraph.

For a Government that is supposedly obsessed with public opinion, this decision shows a deaf ear. A recent YouGov poll found 48 per cent in favour of abolishing Sunday trading rules with just 31 per cent against. Conservative voters were most in favour – with 53 per cent of self-identified Tories saying they would support relaxed trading hours rules.

Nobody is going to suddenly turn up at your house at 6.00pm on the Lord’s day, and drag you out of the house to a supermarket and stand over you while you weep in the veg aisle. But your opposition to Sunday trading should not prevent me from having that choice.

Boris Johnson should take back control of the agenda from a vocal minority on Sunday trading. The existing rules are inconsistent and hypocritical. They do not reflect a 24/7 economy, where people can purchase online and receive deliveries any time. They are backed by vested interests masquerading under a campaign of faux outrage. In their place, with a decisive move to liberalise, could come more opportunities to work, hours that meet our needs and reduced risk — and a reflection of the values of the voters that put the Conservatives back into power in December.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Richard Holden: Here in Durham, Labour ponder tinkering with statues – while local people yearn for jobs, security and pay

Richard Holden is MP for North West Durham.

Chatterbox Café, Marketplace, St John’s Capel, Weardale

Grabbing a sausage bap (on brown, butter and brown sauce) and coffee (black, no sugar) from the Chatterbox Café in St John’s Chapel yesterday, I remembered it was Father’s Day, and that my dad had come up to campaign with me in the very spot where I was sitting last year. So a phonecall and a natter about how him and mum are managing – and I as no longer the least favoured child.

Like millions of other families across the country and thousands in North West Durham, the lockdown has really affected him and my mum. While she’s been doing more shifts as a ward clerk at the local community hospital back in East Lancashire, my dad has had to shield with my grandma, for whom he’s a carer and, therefore, socially distance from my mum, even in their own home.

As we slowly emerge from the global health pandemic element of Coronavirus though, for the country and my constituents, it’s the barrel of its economic consequences that we’re now staring down.

The biggest fall in GDP ever last week was made only too real last Thursday for many of my constituents. Back in my slowly opening-up constituency, I visited the large local employer who’d emailed the day before.

It makes the aluminium parts that go into the wings of planes (which allow a flex of up to 45 degrees – so when you see those plane wings move, it’s the men and women of Consett who’ve made that possible). They take on apprentices, and their highly skilled local workers earn, on average, just under £30,000 a year, with their most experienced workers earning about £40,000.

Due to the collapse in travel, the knock-on hit on the airlines, the further knock-on hit on aircraft leasing and the subsequent knock-on impact, therefore, on aircraft manufacture, they’re going to have to lay off half of their workforce – over 100 people.

Speaking to their plant manager on site on Friday, it was clear that, if it hadn’t been for huge investment in recent years and major efficiency improvements, the plant would now be under threat of closure. As it is, they’re in a position of being able to survive, and they have my commitment to do everything I can to help them secure more work from wherever possible.

This economic challenge that we’re now facing is at least as significant as the health one we’ve just faced. But the Left has barely mentioned it. Most of them are fine – all the polling shows that many of Labour’s most loyal graduate voter base in cities will have been on full pay, working from home.

Indeed, the activist left appear to have been most active at trying to ignite a culture war. Even Labour-led Durham Council has announced they are conducting “a review of all statues and monuments” a couple of weeks ago, as it simultaneously ignored the pleas of local businesses while coning-off previously open disabled parking bays in Crook, Consett and Willington, in order to prevent people from being able to get to the newly re-opened shops last week.

On a national level, after an early barrister’s bounce presenting his opening case, Keir Starmer has started to flap under cross-examination himself. Trying to keep the Labour membership, Labour councils such as ours, Rebecca Long-Bailey and the more extreme elements of the National Education Union happy by refusing to support the Government as it tries to get schools back makes him look increasingly tin-eared to the concerns of ordinary voters.

My constituents are also increasingly concerned about wanting to get ‘back to normal’ in terms of our NHS – with many having seen long-planned operations cancelled – so they want to get hospitals back to normal as soon as possible, too.

But the biggest concern is about the economy and, to my constituents, that means opportunities to work in good, well-paid jobs and local businesses that are able to thrive. Without demand returning, times are going to get increasingly tough. When it comes down to it, “levelling up” is certainly about improving health and education but the driver of that, as Boris Johnson said during last year’s Conservative leadership campaign, is the “other wing that Labour always forget about” – the strong and vibrant economy that pays for it all.

As we’ve seen over the last few weeks in terms of trade deals internationally with Japan, Australia and New Zealand, we’re well on the way. Britain’s approach to the EU, by which we seek a free trade agreement but will clearly take control back of our own borders, money and laws, is the right one to give certainty about what we’re after too. That’s solid, welcomed and good for the long-term.

During the next few weeks or so, though, the Government faces immediate challenges on how we drop a gear to get the economy accelerating again, as we move beyond direct state support from grants and furlough. When they do so, Ministers should consider the businesses small and large, from tourism to transport at the heart of those changes. The primary change we need to make is to switch from saying “what’s allowed to open” to instead specifying “what in the interest of public health needs to continue to be restricted.”

Good jobs are the foundation of a solid economy and society. As Starmer sits on the fence, pulled to a stalemate in a perpetual tug-of-war from both sides of his party, while locally Labour wastes time and taxpayers’ cash on trying to mastermind its own mini-cultural revolution, the overwhelming majority of what we must do is to tackle the impact of Coronavirus on the economy.

Ensuring that we get demand going to save as many jobs and businesses as possible, and deliver for the fathers and families of North West Durham and across our country must be our number one priority. At times like this, we need to remember the words of Iain Macleod, the only other person I’m aware of who entered politics after attending my old grammar school in North Yorkshire, who spoke at the Conservative Party Conference exactly 60 years ago: “The Socialists can scheme their schemes, and the Liberals can dream their dreams, but we in the Conservative Party have got work to do.”

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Polling snapshot. Is the statues and history fracas helping to solidify the Conservative vote?

Westlake Legal Group polling-snapshot-is-the-statues-and-history-fracas-helping-to-solidify-the-conservative-vote Polling snapshot. Is the statues and history fracas helping to solidify the Conservative vote? ToryDiary Technology State Schools Sir Winston Churchill Sir Keir Starmer MP schools Redfield Winton Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Marcus Rashford jobs History employment Edward Colston Education Economy Culture children British history Boris Johnson MP

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2020-06-20-at-17.51.43 Polling snapshot. Is the statues and history fracas helping to solidify the Conservative vote? ToryDiary Technology State Schools Sir Winston Churchill Sir Keir Starmer MP schools Redfield Winton Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Marcus Rashford jobs History employment Edward Colston Education Economy Culture children British history Boris Johnson MP

Source: Politico

Our newslinks of Monday June 8 carried reports of the violation of Winston Churchill’s statue and the destruction of Edward Colston’s.

According to Politico’s poll of polls above, the Conservative poll rating had been sliding slowly since about April 23rd, when it stood on 51 per cent, to June 2nd, when it reached 43 per cent.

Today is June 20th, the best part of three weeks later, and that Tory rating is still 43 per cent – for all the recent dramas involving children’s meals, the NHS App, closed schools, falling vacancies and so on.

The Politico chart doesn’t take into account a Redfield Winton poll released yesterday, but that shows the same concluding figures as the graphic: Conservatives 43 per cent, Labour 38 per cent.

Explanation One: until the effect of closures and sackings work their way through the economy, there is a floor beneath which the Tories won’t fall of 40 per cent or a bit above – all other things being equal.

By the same token, there is a limit to which Keir Starmer can squeeze the Liberal Democrats and others, so for the moment there is also a ceiling above which Labour can’t rise.

Explanation Two: the race and riots row is helping to solidify the Conservative vote, now that Boris Johnson, after an uncertain initial response, is gradually toughening up his position.

Similarly, it is helping to pause the progress of Starmer, who after all decided, as the Prime Minister did not, to be photographed “taking a knee”.

Or maybe a bit of both. As academic like to say, “we need more research,” but it is noticeable that the Tory rating, having fallen by about seven points, seems to have stabilised for the moment.

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Simon Fell: We can revitalise the North after Covid-19

Simon Fell is the MP for Barrow & Furness after being elected last year.

The recent employment statistics highlight the economic challenge that already exists as a result of the Coronavirus crisis.

In my constituency of Barrow & Furness, we have seen a rise of 53.3% claiming Universal Credit. As the Chancellor has rightly said, this is not unexpected given the enormity of the challenge we are currently facing, but it does point to the need to restart and recover the economy as soon as is safe to do so.

The tentative unwinding of lockdown measures is therefore welcome in constituencies such as mine. Not least as the consequences of poverty risk doing far more lasting damage to my constituents, their health and life chances, than Coronavirus ever will.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that austerity will not be the answer to this – something we should all applaud. Instead, we must start where we meant to begin and double down on our agenda of levelling up constituencies such as my own. We should be aggressively backing UK manufacturing, science and green tech – and the skills clusters which they enable – as a key plank of our recovery.

A revitalised industrial strategy is crucial to delivering for the North. When industrial strategies work, they really deliver, providing a much-needed framework for reinvesting in schools, families, communities, and infrastructure.

In my own constituency, the BAE shipyard which produces the Astute and Dreadnought class submarines for the UK, directly employs around 9,500 people. However, what is less appreciated is the extent of the supply chain that this enables across the UK, all in support of this national endeavour.

Furness thrives thanks to this strong employer and the adaptable skills it fosters. Dozens of specialist manufacturers now exist in the area as a result. A stone’s throw away, Furness College serves an ever-growing appetite for good, ready-to-hit-the-ground-running, employees with the right skills for our area. Demand drives demand.

In Furness that growth has been, to a degree, organic – pulled together over decades. But a more structured approach would accelerate this in other sectors too.

As an example, alongside submarines, Furness’ coast also hosts the second largest offshore windfarm in the world. We have a gas terminal; we are the perfect site for a tidal barrage, which could produce up to 5% of the UK’s energy need through renewable methods; and we share a coast with Sellafield in Copeland. Wrap an industrial strategy around this and it’s not hard to see that the south coast of Cumbria could be empowered to sit at the centre of a renewable energy revolution.

Coronavirus has given us reason to pause and assess the merits of onshoring supply chains to improve our resilience. Defence is a sector that, largely due to security reasons, is ahead of the curve on this front. We should look now to see where other sectors may follow. This isn’t about wrapping ourselves in the flag, but rather building on idea of a liberated Britain that actively trades out and into the world with confidence.

Philip Dunne MP wrote an excellent report for the MOD in 2018 on prosperity and procurement: Growing the contribution of defence to UK prosperity. It is apposite to take on board that report’s recommendations, and appreciate the value of the defence pound to the UK.

Covid-19 has rightly made us all question who we view to be key workers. The health service and care sector, as well as our public sector workers and many others, rightly deserve praise for their response to this crisis. It is my hope that this pandemic also makes us rethink essential skills and capabilities, introducing longer term thinking and local industrial strategies.

We are blessed in this country with some of the most skilled engineers and manufacturers in the world. We have seen this in their response to the pandemic. Whether it is the coordination of the response to the Ventilator Challenge, or the extensive production of PPE across the country for our front-line services, our manufacturing companies have been at the heart of our response.

These same manufacturing companies can also be the heart of our recovery. We should be using large manufacturing bases to lead on track and trace to get people back to work, ensuring a safe working environment. This will mobilise our already extensive supply chains, thereby growing the economy and public confidence at the same time.

And we should be looking at successes amongst our leading manufacturers to inform and further cultivate our science and green tech sectors, building industrial strategies around what works, and learning from what hasn’t in the past.

Manufacturing is one of the most productive sectors in our economy. Let’s back it to revitalise Britain post-Covid.

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The culture of “special measures” prepares to counter the threat of the virus

The Government’s original anti-Coronavirus campaign slogan was “Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives”.  It opens up a way of assessing Boris Johnson’s choice as he seeks to balance closing down the disease with opening up the economy.

For as the slogan reminds us, the Government’s aim wasn’t to reduce the virus to the lowest possible level in order to save lives – if only because there is a trade-off between lives lost from it and those lost from cancelled operations for other conditions, or from illnesses for which an operation can’t now be booked in the first place, and so on.

And that’s quite apart from the damage to the economy, jobs and livelihoods that brings illness and, in some cases, death in its wake.

No, the core of Johnson’s aim was crudely political.  It was to prevent horrified voters from seeing Italy-style live pictures of people choking to death in hospital corridors or emergency rooms.  The uproar from a terrified public would have stampeded Conservative MPs into collapsing the Government, and him with it – for all its majority of 80.

So it came about that the NHS was saved.  You may think that this was as much by luck as judgement.  Or that the success in hospitals it must be offset by the failure in care homes.  But it represents a win for Johnson and Matt Hancock amidst other losses.

The question that therefore follows is whether the NHS is in danger now from the relaxation of the lockdown that is currently taking place – and that is due to gather speed, particularly if the Government scraps the two metre rule, as Rishi Sunak and some other Ministers want.

On this site in April, Bernard Jenkin wrote that “if [the R number] is consistently above one, the disease will spread to the entire population”.  Which would certainly overwhelm the NHS were there no plan in place to reduce it – whether a lockdown one or some other.

However, it stands to reason that the R number isn’t the same everywhere.  So the national figure for it in Britain is of limited value.  It doesn’t tell one who has the disease and where – in other words, what local rates areThis information is vital.

Consider the virus in care homes and hospitals.  Last month, we reported that it was driving up R because their own R average was higher to start with, and they therefore represented a greater share of the overall R average.  This may help to explain why the Government has recently been in retreat on R.

In his address to the nation on May 11 announcing his new plan for reducing the Coronavirus, the Prime Minister put great stress on bringing down R.  He explained that the new Covid alert levels “will be determined primarily by R [our italic] and the number of coronavirus cases”.

However, the new Joint Biosecurity Centre, which was to monitor the Covid Alert System, has only recently been established.  And within a week, Jenny Harries, was publicly distancing herself from Johnson’s stress on R.  “The real outcome is the reduction in the number of cases, that is our focus, not the R,” she said on May 15.

Which is just as well for the Government, because R has been rising recently in the North West and to a lesser degree in the South West.  Certainly, the move to relax the lockdown have not marched in step with changes in the Coronavirus alert level.  It has not moved from level four to level three. It is merely transitioning towards it.

Chris Whitty reportedly resisted a downgrade from four to three, and “the scientists” are certainly collectively cautious of lockdown relaxation.  We mean it in the nicest possible way when we add: “they would be”.  For after all, their aim as government advisers is to reduce the presence of the virus.

It follows that they have no stake in the wider economic – or even healthcare – considerations that Johnson and his Cabinet must mull.  Downing Street will be watching them very closely, now that the pre-inquiry blame game has begun.

The Prime Minister will not want bolt-from-the-blue resignations from senior scientific, whether undertaken from high reasons of principle or low reasons of blame-shifting.  At any rate, Ministers have recently taken refuge in the claim that the five tests, not the R-rate, is their main determinant for relaxing lockdown.

Which takes us back to the NHS – since only the first and last of the five tests have substantial meaning, and they are both about protecting the service.  (The fifth says: “we need to be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelm the NHS”. The first is about its “ability to cope”.)

It is impossible to estimate infallibly how soon a rise in Coronavirus cases would swamp the service.  To know that, one would have to know the speed of the increase, and where and among whom it was concentrated.  What is certain is that since mid-April the Nightingales have been largely empty.

All in all, it’s clear that Johnson is no longer being “guided by the science” – in the sense of taking his cue from any clearly identifiable measure.  He is operating intuitively – holding up his metaphorical finger to the wind; sniffing around the R and infections numbers; watching his back for revolting scientists, Tory MPs and Ministers.

Are we therefore doomed to wait for the Government to slam the lockdown breaks on again having lifted them off – in order to save the NHS from accelerating virus cases?  Not necessarily.  This is where the new test and trace system comes in.

If it works, local outbreaks will be countered not only by testing people and tracing their contacts, but by local lockdowns.  We wanted the Government to experiment with lifting the original lockdown on an area basis.  It is set to do the opposite – i.e: to impose new shutdowns on such a basis, as the nationwide one is gradually eased.

The best parallel we can think of is those Michael Gove reforms at education, mimicked later by Jeremy Hunt at health, of putting schools and hospitals in “special measures”.  In went Ofsted or new leadership teams from other hospitals to turn everything round.

Local special measures, complemented by test and trace, instead of national lockdown: that’s the plan.  But it depends on tracing and testing working, in a less conformist culture than South Korea’s, and in which the state has less power.

And on those special measures biting, too.  In the meantime, Johnson, with the threat to the NHS relatively distant as we write, should move to help the livelihoods on which lives depend, and which ultimately fund the health service in the first place.  That means lifting the two metre rule, and classroom restrictions come the autumn.

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Gavin Barwell: We underestimate Starmer at our peril

Lord Barwell was MP for Croydon Central between 2010 and 2017, before serving as Chief of Staff to Theresa May. He now runs his own business.

I was interested to read the recent piece on this site by its Deputy Editor, Charlotte Gill, arguing that Keir Starmer’s chances at the next election are being overhyped.

Few would argue with her assessment that he is already proving more effective than Jeremy Corbyn at the Despatch Box. Everyone, Conservatives included, should welcome that. Governments benefit from effective scrutiny – good Ministers identify where they have the better arguments and where they don’t, and adjust Government policy accordingly.

But as William Hague demonstrated, being effective at the Despatch Box is no guarantee of electoral success. And Charlotte went on to argue that Keir Starmer was being “overhyped by a media that repeatedly gets election results wrong” and “has massive problems with widespread appeal”.

I am not so confident.

First, we shouldn’t underestimate the impact of Labour no longer being led by Jeremy Corbyn. Boris Johnson’s triumph last December was based on building a coalition between people who liked his Brexit deal and people who were not so keen on it – in some cases, actively hostile to it – but who judged that having Corbyn as Prime Minister would be even worse. With Corbyn gone, that coalition could easily fracture.

And Corbyn’s departure also increases the risk of Labour and the Liberal Democrats co-operating to encourage tactical voting. Johnson got 43.6 per cent of the vote in December. That’s just 1.2 percentage points more than Theresa May got in 2017. The reason he got a big Parliamentary majority, whereas she lost hers, is that in 2019 the anti-Conservative vote was more divided. There is a significant risk that in individual constituencies that won’t be the case next time.

Second, we also shouldn’t underestimate the importance of Brexit being done. Maybe those Leave voters who switched to the Conservatives last year will stick with us, but it’s not a given – that’s why Number 10 wanted the election before Brexit was done. And if they don’t, getting back the historically Conservative Remain voters we lost won’t be easy.

Third, for both of the above reasons I think Charlotte is wrong to assume that winning back the Red Wall seats is Labour’s only route to power. Of course, they will be hoping to pick up some of them, but there are seats in London and the South where, without the risk of a Corbyn as Prime Minister, Labour will fancy their chances (and others where the Liberal Democrats will fancy theirs).

Fourth, Keir Starmer’s election has dragged Labour further back towards the centre ground than appeared likely during the leadership election. During the campaign, he didn’t depart far from Labour’s 2019 manifesto, but the reshuffle he conducted on winning – jettisoning a number of leading Corbynites and bringing back Blairites – signalled a much bigger shift.

Fifth, Charlotte rightly argues that Labour is out of touch with the voters it lost on Brexit and identity politics more generally. But here, too, Keir Starmer has been deft. Take his line on Brexit: he has not joined the chorus of Remainers asking for the transition period to be extended. His line has been: “You said you had an oven-ready deal, so let’s see you finalise it quickly and end the uncertainty”. Or consider this week’s pulling down of a statue of the slave trader, Edward Colston, in Bristol, where – to the frustration of many of Labour MPs and activists – he argued that while the statue should have been removed from our streets a long time ago, it shouldn’t have been taken down in the way it was.

Sixth, Covid-19 has transformed both the focus of this Parliament and the Government’s political position. We are only a few months into this crisis. If the Chief Medical Officer is right, it is going to be at least a year before life is back to anything approaching normal, and we will emerge with a weaker economy, hundreds of thousands more people out of work and a structural deficit that will have to be dealt with either via spending cuts, tax rises or a combination of the two. And recent polling shows that public support for the government’s handling of the pandemic has collapsed (British people now have the most negative view of their government’s handling of any country YouGov polled). And, while we still have a voting intention lead over Labour, that has narrowed significantly.

Seventh, we shouldn’t underestimate the pendulum effect. Elections essentially boil down to a choice between ‘more of the same’ and ‘time for a change’. The longer you are in government, the more powerful the siren voice of ‘Time for a change’ becomes. Assuming that the next election isn’t until the end of this Parliament, we will have had Conservative-led governments for 14 years. It would be a triumph unprecedented in modern political history to secure another five years.

Eighth, Charlotte argues “Starmer may simply have a personality issue in an age where people want clearer messaging from MPs”. Possibly, but during my lifetime the electorate have oscillated between charismatic leaders and leaders who are more comfortable with the detail of policy than in the TV studios. It may be that in the aftermath of the pandemic, people are looking for someone whose appeal is based on a forensic grip of detail, not a clear message.

Finally, there is one massive problem that Starmer faces which Charlotte didn’t mention: it will be incredibly difficult for Labour to win an outright majority at a general election for as long as the SNP holds nearly all of the seats in Scotland – and, as things stand, that doesn’t look like changing (although forecasting British politics in recent years has been a fools errand).

But to become Prime Minister, he doesn’t need to win an overall majority; he simply needs to deprive Boris Johnson of one. The Liberal Democrats, the SNP, Plaid, the Greens and the SDLP would all prefer him as Prime Minister to Johnson.  So, too, might the DUP, given that he gave in to the EU’s demand for a separate arrangement for Northern Ireland in the Withdrawal Agreement.

Four and a half years is a long time in British politics, but Starmer has a better chance of becoming Prime Minister after the next election than some are assuming. We should take him seriously.

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