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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "environment"

Trump and Biden Square Off Over Environment

President Trump traveled on Wednesday to the new political battleground of Georgia to blast away at one of the nation’s cornerstone conservation laws, vowing to speed construction projects by limiting legally mandated environmental reviews of highways, pipelines and power plants.

One day earlier, his Democratic presidential rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., took a different tack, releasing a $2 trillion plan to confront climate change and overhaul the nation’s infrastructure, claiming he will create millions of jobs by building a clean energy economy.

In that period, the major party candidates for the White House displayed in sharp relief just how far apart they are ideologically on infrastructure and environmental matters of vital importance to many American voters, particularly in critical battleground states, including Pennsylvania and Florida.

Mr. Biden is trying to win over young voters and supporters of his vanquished rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, by showing an aggressive awareness of climate change and promising to move urgently to combat it. At the same time he has sought to maintain his promised connection to white, working class voters, especially in the Upper Midwest, who swung to Mr. Trump four years ago and are leery of what they see as threats to their livelihood, especially jobs in the oil and gas industry.

The president, in contrast, is pretty much where he has been for more than a decade: intermittently acknowledging global warming and calling it a hoax; making spurious accusations that windmills cause cancer, energy efficient appliances are “worthless” and zero-emissions buildings “basically have no windows.” At every turn and on every regulatory decision the administration embraces business over environmental interests.

“Biden wants to massively re-regulate the energy economy, rejoin the Paris climate accord, which would kill our energy totally, you would have to close 25 percent of your businesses and kill oil and gas development,” Mr. Trump said on Wednesday as he announced a “top to bottom overhaul” of the National Environmental Policy Act, a bedrock environmental law since its passage in 1969. He offered no evidence to back up his statistics.

“When I think about climate change, the word I think of is ‘jobs,’ good-paying union jobs that will put Americans to work, making the air cleaner for our kids to breathe, restoring our crumbling roads, and bridges, and ports,” Mr. Biden said on Tuesday as he outlined his plan.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 15CLI-TRUMPBIDEN2-articleLarge Trump and Biden Square Off Over Environment United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 Infrastructure (Public Works) Greenhouse Gas Emissions Global Warming environment Biden, Joseph R Jr
Credit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York Times

The events captured the two candidates’ radically different beliefs about the global threat of the planet’s warming, and offered a glimpse of how they would lead a nation confronting a climate crisis over the next four years. For Mr. Trump, tackling global warming is a threat to the economy. For Mr. Biden, it’s an opportunity.

“They are polar opposites on almost everything to do with the environment but particularly climate change,” said Christine Todd Whitman, the former Republican governor of New Jersey and administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under George W. Bush.

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Updated 2020-07-15T23:54:15.392Z

Mr. Biden’s plan would spend $2 trillion over four years to put the United States on an “irreversible path” to net-zero emissions of planet-warming gases before 2050, meaning that carbon dioxide and other pollutants would be completely eliminated or offset by removal technology.

To do that, he called for clean energy standards that would achieve a carbon-free power sector by 2035; the energy efficiency upgrade of four million buildings in four years; and the construction of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations. He also vowed to bring the United States back into the Paris Agreement, reinstate climate regulations that Mr. Trump has repealed and put more restrictions on things like emissions from vehicle tailpipes.

Mr. Trump has already moved to roll back virtually every effort the federal government made under President Barack Obama to combat climate change, from restricting emissions from power plants and vehicles to curbing methane from the oil and gas sector. He even rescinded an Obama-era executive order that urged federal agencies to take into account climate change and sea-level rise when rebuilding infrastructure.

The Trump administration’s latest overhaul to the National Environmental Policy Act highlighted their differences still more.

The changes finalized on Wednesday include a limit of two years to conduct exhaustive environmental reviews of infrastructure projects. They also revoked a requirement that agencies consider the cumulative environmental effects of projects, like their contribution to climate change.

Mr. Trump said the current lengthy process “has cost of trillions of dollars over the years for our country and delays like you wouldn’t believe.”

In past campaigns, candidates have shied away from bold proposals on the environment, especially on climate change, but Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said that Mr. Biden has more political space to pursue his agenda amid the economic and public health crises plaguing the nation.

“With the pandemic shaking up the core of people’s lives, they are much less worried about bold and radical change right now,” he said, “because that’s what they want in some way.”

Those political dynamics have freed Mr. Biden to pursue policies that his allies hope will electrify younger, more liberal voters who were skeptical of him during the Democratic primaries, without automatically alienating more moderate voters, Mr. Murray said.

Certainly, Mr. Biden’s allies also see political risks, should he be perceived as moving too far left on issues like natural gas hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a practice that is tied to many jobs in states like Pennsylvania. In contrast to a number of his Democratic primary opponents, he does not support a total ban on fracking.

“Fracking is not going to be on the chopping block,” he said in an interview last week with WNEP-TV, an ABC affiliate that serves Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania.

In a call with reporters on Tuesday, Biden campaign officials stressed that his long-held view on the issue stands: “No new fracking on federal lands.”

Mr. Trump is betting that his uncompromising, unchanging stands will appeal to business-minded voters and people who distrust government. But there is a risk to him, too.

Carlos Curbelo, a former Republican congressman from Florida who has championed a carbon tax to combat climate change, said he believes Mr. Trump’s disregard for the issue and his handling of the coronavirus are becoming linked to part of “the broader character question.”

Such character questions resonate with “not just young voters who have rejected his stance on climate for quite some time but also middle-aged and older voters who now in the context of Covid prioritize leaders who are good crisis managers,” he said.

Mr. Biden’s campaign criticized the president’s gutting of the environmental policy act as a way ”to distract” from Mr. Trump’s failure to deliver an infrastructure plan. “He has failed to deliver any real plan to create jobs and instead is cutting corners to once again ignore science, experts, and communities and reservations entitled to clean air, water, and environments,” read a campaign statement.

In some ways, the debate over climate reflects the broader political realignment in both parties that defined the 2016 campaign: working-class white voters, especially in rural areas, have moved farther from their union Democratic roots to embrace Mr. Trump and his energy policies, while educated, affluent white suburban voters, once staunchly Republican, drift toward the Democrats and appear increasingly open to more ambitious efforts to combat climate change.

“Biden’s pitch may play well with traditionally moderate Republican voters in the suburbs, just as Trump’s policy pronouncements may play well with traditionally more Democratic-leaning voters in other parts of the state, more rural parts of the state,” said former Representative Ryan Costello, a Republican who represented the Philadelphia suburbs.

But pro-business voters may see the danger of a Biden victory as just as high, said Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist.

“A tremendous amount is at stake,” he said. “Drastic overregulation and anti-business regulations could just decimate rural and middle-American economies already reeling.”

Scientists said the next four years could be critical to whether greenhouse gas emissions from the United States rise or fall.

“We are on a trajectory to a hotter planet,” said Waleed Abdalati, director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, he said, “represent two very divergent paths.”

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

Alexander Stafford: Renewables – not just providers of green energy, but enablers of levelling up

Alexander Stafford is MP for Rother Valley.

In every conversation around the clean recovery there is, rightfully, a tendency of NGOs and commentators to look at how we can take the steps needed to achieve our net zero ambition. Job-rich initiatives such as energy efficiency and EV charging development are particularly alluring. The development of green hydrogen is promoted as strongly for its regional growth benefits as much as its importance for decarbonising heat.

The potential role of renewables in the green recovery is celebrated, but often overlooked. But it is these that are already driving jobs in the North of England and would help with this Government’s “levelling-up agenda”, as well as being the most publicly popular.

The Government has an ambitious target of 40GW of offshore wind by 2030, which will bring over £50 billion of investment into the UK over the next decade. The industry is already transforming ports across the country such as Grimsby, Great Yarmouth and Tyneside, employing thousands in high-wage high-value jobs and supporting our levelling up ambitions.

What’s more, as the cheapest large-scale new power source, the offshore wind that the UK will be building in the coming years, and indeed the onshore wind and solar, will be helping the British economy stay competitive.

Our competitive market framework of Contract of Difference auctions has ensured consumers get the lowest cost renewables, whilst supporting the development of a world-leading supply chain. New companies like Tekmar in Sedgefield have emerged as world-leaders in cables. Traditional oil and gas companies such as James Fisher, headquartered in Barrow-in-Furness, have found new contracts servicing offshore wind farms. However, we could be doing much more to support the development of the UK’s supply chain.

The Prime Minister is looking for infrastructure investment which will unlock future regional growth. The next generation of offshore wind turbines will be almost as tall as the Shard, so it is essential that we re-develop our ports so that they’re able to handle these incredible machines and their component parts.

Similarly, our manifesto rightly saw the opportunity of floating offshore wind, and the Government is looking at the CfD reform needed to develop it. We are well placed to become world leaders, with an established wind industry supply chain, expertise, and great wind resources. There’s the potential to power millions of homes by developing floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea and deep in the North Sea, but we need to invest in ports like Milford Haven and Nigg to do so – vitally, to maximise the development of the UK supply chain in the process.

We know proactive industrial strategy works in renewables. It was a mixture of market opportunity and Government support that unlocked £310 milliom of private investment in the Siemens Gamesa blade factory in Hull, which now employs over a thousand people, 96 per cent of whom live within a 30 mile radius of the factory.

We need to reignite bilateral conversations with major supply chain companies, and set up a policy environment that better supports the vast number of UK SMEs. Test facilities like the ORE Catapult in Blyth are fantastic in allowing UK innovators to trial new products on wind turbines but, once they’re proven, we will need to ensure the grants, tax relief or financial de-risking schemes are in place which help these innovators to scale-up their businesses.

Increasing our research and development funding to the levels of competitor countries like Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Japan will ultimately ensure UK’s companies are at the forefront of innovation and remain competitive in the global market.

When the global market in offshore wind is set to increase to at least £30 billion a year by 2030, we should be increasing our export ambitions and the support that government gives companies in entering these global markets.

Just as Denmark has an ecosystem of multiple agencies working to boost renewable exports, we too should work across Government. We’re rightly levering our role as COP President and world leadership in offshore wind to encourage countries such as Brazil, Mexico and India to take advantage of their vast wind and seabed resources too. We do so for the future of the world’s climate. But we should also acknowledge that, in doing so, we’re developing markets for our supply chain companies, and departments should act accordingly.

Finally, and most importantly,  the Government shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of also ensuring that people are re-skilled so they can take advantage of the jobs we create through the nurture of our renewables sector. We need to manage the transition.

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

Darren Grimes: Today, it’s Conservatives who are the real rebels – against woke conformity and the cancel culture

Darren Grimes is a political commentator and is content creator at Reasoned UK.

I’m often emailed by very kind folk who think I am acting bravely. I’ve always questioned this; after all, I am merely offering my opinions. But what they’re getting at is that ordinary conservatives are told their ideas and values are reactionary, prejudiced, sexist or racist, and to stand up against the trend, for the views of the common sense majority, is now considered brave to do.

Some might be wondering how on earth we conservatives can possibly be the rebels, when the Conservative Party recently won a Commons majority of 80, the party’s largest since 1987? It may also seem odd to describe conservatism as rebellious when rebels, by definition, want change, and conservatives seek to conserve.

But while self-described conservative political parties across the West win elections, they are losing the institutions that act as the scaffold of our culture. Consider the Left’s dominance of our media; social media giants playing the role of custodians of an openly left-wing environment, and the boardrooms of corporations seeking affirmation from those media and cultural gatekeepers – always a good demonstration of their enlightened values at dinner parties and Davos drinks receptions.

The reason why conservatism is rebellious today is that the dominant cultural view is one that seeks to uproot our past, and what we stand for – making it revolutionary to stand against this view. In this culture war propagated by our generously funded universities and the BBC, it’s clear that the Left’s online battalion of outrage mobs and cancellation notices are aimed squarely at those who dare argue against it.

There’s also a world of difference in small-c conservatism and the big C Conservative Party. The Left is winning, despite being formally out power; in education, the arts, among the regulators and within all of their powerful functions over everyday life, because our politicians seem more concerned with looking good to Twitter over actually being good.

It is perhaps understandable; it takes real guts to put your head above the political parapet – the most high profile curreny example is being J.K. Rowling with her defence of sex-segregated spaces and biological truth.

According to Populus, approximately two-thirds of British people thought that a male-born person, with a penis, who self-identifies as a woman, should not be allowed to use female-only changing rooms. For suggesting that this view is justifable, Rowling is dismissed by those that her work made stars of as “rather conservative”. So even what can be read as moderate conservatism is enough to warrant Rowling’s cancellation. A school has since dropped its plans to name one of its houses after her after the online furore.

For ordinary folk, to be conservative requires balls of steel. No platforming is a regular occurrence in our supposedly world-class universities: I have been contacted by students who report that it is almost impossible for some societies to secure venue bookings to host democratically elected MPs with centre-right views.

Imagine that. Those who represent our country are now not able to engage in discussion with our nation’s young. The invitation will be issued, accepted, a venue secured – and then, like clockwork, left-wing students will apply pressure to the university societies and diversity teams to work their no-platforming magic.

Is all lost for Britain’s young? Eric Kaufmann, Professor of Politics at Birkbeck University, presents limited data that shows that Britain’s youngest voters, the Zoomers, seem to be diverging from voters aged between 22 and 39. He posited the idea that the chilling effect of political correctness could explain why the ‘Jordan Peterson generation’ is quite so conservative. However, the issues a warning: “The Conservatives are going to have to do a lot more to reverse the leftward drift of the culture if they hope to remain competitive in a generation’s time.”

In a brilliant interview last weekend, Ricky Gervais depressingly argued that The Office wouldn’t get the green light in today’s climate. He made the case that free speech protects everyone, and explained that the evolving definition of what constitutes hate speech is detrimental to society, when our speech is already policed via libel, slander, watershed, advertising and criminal laws.  And he delivered the wonderfully pithy line: “If you’re mildly conservative [on Twitter], you’re Hitler!” If only our Conservative politicians could defend our values in such a robust fashion.

If we look at reforms since 2010, with Tory-led or Conservative majority governments, there’s precious little in the way of public appointments or reforms that show the Conservative Party’s ideological commitment in this area. Remember what happened to the late and great Roger Scruton? But with or without the big C party, there is much we can all do.

Online cancel culture depends on social anxiety and fear, which creates this atmosphere of self-censorship for what are ordinary and widely-held views. Under-represented voices in the mainstream media, arts and academia agree with you, your politics and your value system. The more of us that come out of the closet – the political one – the more tolerant and reflective our culture will become. Producing better quality discourse and a more rigorous discussion of ideas.

Those with genuinely sexist, racist or homophobic views are, rightly, called out for being so today. But so are those unfairly accused of being so by those that disagree with them. We may have moved on from the Middle Ages: it is not the man who is executed anymore, but his character on Twitter. Free discussion is being shut down. Activists must be reminded that how you challenge uncomfortable views is, as is evidenced throughout history, through more speech, not less. We must be opening up, not shutting down, avenues to discussion and debate.

Our ancestors were much braver than we are today.  But all is not yet lost, come out and join the reasoned fightback against this madness.

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

Andy Street: Innovation and investment are turning the Black County blue

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

Today, July 14, is the date on which a pivotal moment in British history occurred – a flash of brilliance in the West Midlands that set us on the road to the world we know today. Yet this date, the day in 1712 that the first steam engine hissed into operation, isn’t widely known across the UK.

It’s only in the Black Country, where that engine was built, that July 14 is marked each year. And today, the people of this proudly independent and unique place will celebrate its role in sparking the Industrial Revolution, in our annual Black Country Day festivities.

I want to use this column to explain how the Black Country continues to quietly influence the national agenda by pioneering new technology, attracting global recognition from UNESCO – and being at the heart of the political change that smashed Labour’s red wall.

People sometimes think I am Mayor of Birmingham – I am not. The Black Country is just as big as the Second City; a cultural and historic union of four of the West Midlands Combined Authority’s seven constituent boroughs in Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

It is set apart from its West Midlands neighbours by a strong and distinctive identity, great traditions and a lyrical dialect that is only confused with ‘Brummie’ by people not from these parts. But while proud of its past, this is an area forging a better future through the innovation and invention that has always burned there.

The Black Country is quite literally ‘Middle England’, sitting at the heart of the nation. And it is also now at the heart of the Government’s agenda as we look to kickstart the economy and reawaken industry.

The Prime Minister chose Dudley as the setting to make the keynote speech in which he revealed his New Deal – focusing on infrastructure and construction to drive the UK’s recovery. Why Dudley? Dudley is a brilliant example of how innovation, ambition and investment in infrastructure are already reawakening the local economy and bringing tangible, visible change.

Appropriately, he chose the site of Dudley College’s Technology Institute to outline his vision, a new facility that will create the local engineers and innovators of the future. Dudley’s town centre is on the cusp of a new future too, as the region’s Metro tram system extends to provide vital connectivity to the rest of the West Midlands, with 17 new stops along the way. In May, Cavendish House, a huge derelict office block that had been a symbol of decay on Dudley’s skyline for years, was torn down.

The energy driving Dudley’s re-emergence is reflected across the Black Country, where innovation and investment are making a real difference in housing and transport.

Most notably, the Black Country is pioneering the reclamation of former brownfield industrial sites to help tackle the housing crisis, while protecting the environment. The Black Country will lead the way on this, through a new £24 million National Brownfield Institute in Wolverhampton, as we invest to regenerate more derelict eyesores.

However, these are more than just blueprints – it’s already happening. In Wolverhampton the first homes have gone on sale at Steelhouse Lane, a former industrial eyesore, while in Walsall sites like the old Caparo engineering works and the Harvestime bakery have got the green light to be used for new housing. In West Bromwich the biggest brownfield site development of all – Friar Park – will see a former sewage works, bigger than 30 football pitches, become a 750-home community.

The Black Country also provides evidence of how investment in transport infrastructure can get local economies moving. This year we have seen diggers in the ground – delivering schemes that have been talked about for years.

On the railways, phase one of the new Wolverhampton city centre station has now opened – proudly decked out in yellow and black to reflect the Old Gold of Wolverhampton Wanderers. Plans are steaming ahead to reopen old railway stations linking Walsall to Wolverhampton, boosting public transport in communities that haven’t had a rail service for decades.

The Black Country’s tradition of invention lives on with technology powering business success. Dudley council has partnered with the Warwick Manufacturing Group, with plans to create a Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre, assembling prototype vehicles and training engineers. In Cradley, Walsall and Smethwick local firms are breaking new ground with modular home construction. Wolverhampton boasts two sites building state-of-the-art aerospace systems.

One brilliant piece of news that may help bring more people to the Black Country was its official recognition as a UNESCO Global Geopark, which was revealed last week. This means Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton join the French wine region of Beaujolais, Vietnam’s Dak Nong, and only seven other UK Geoparks including the Scottish Highlands on this prestigious global list.

This UNESCO honour recognises that behind the industrial and manufacturing might of this remarkable place lies a strong and proud culture, and a people with their own distinct character. Like all Midlanders, they offer quiet confidence and self-effacing humour in place of swagger and bluster – but they value hard work, encourage ambition and inspire ideas.

They are also resilient. In the last few months, as Coronavirus hit, that local character shone through as manufacturers turned over their machinery to make PPE and volunteers rolled up their sleeves to help the vulnerable and isolated. Black Country folk get things done.

As the people who built that first steam engine, they also embrace a clear, decisive vision that powers progress. That’s why, I believe, the Black Country turned blue in the general election, with five Conservative gains making ten MPs across an area previously considered to be a Labour heartland.

The fact is, the local investment I have outlined above is evidence of ‘levelling up’ in action. As we celebrate Black Country Day, this remarkable area and its people are once again showing how investment and innovation can drive real change.

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

Daniel Hannan: What broken windows can teach the Chancellor about mending the economy

Daniel Hannan is a writer and columnist. He was a Conservative MEP from 1999 to 2020, and is now President of the Initiative for Free Trade.

Anyone can spin the spending taps open. It’s screwing them back again that is the problem. Once vast subsidies have gurgled down the plughole, it becomes almost impossible to resist demands for an extra spurt here or there. Sums that were considered colossal in February now seem, next to the hundreds of billions of pounds spent on quantitative easing and the furlough scheme, almost trivial.

Don’t get me wrong. The Coronavirus outbreak was an exceptional event that called for an exceptional response. Almost every small-government type I know acknowledged that there was a one-off case for interventions. The worry is that these interventions will turn out not to be one-offs; that, rather as happened after 1945, the electorate has come to expect a higher level of state intrusion, so the dial won’t return to where it was.

There was a practical and moral case for helping businesses through the lockdown. The practical case was that keeping a firm’s heartbeat going is cheaper, in the long run, than letting it expire and requiring a completely new business to be launched afterwards. The moral case was that the government had a duty to rescue its own victims: if an otherwise profitable enterprise, such as a pub or a theatre, was closed by law, it had a claim to compensation.

So far, so uncontroversial. But what when the restrictions are lifted? Should the state carry on supporting sectors that have been adversely affected? Should it, for example, continue to subsidise pubs or theatres, even when they are allowed to operate again, on grounds that their customers are staying away? What about sandwich shops hit by the shift to working from home – a shift that may be permanent? Or charities hit by a general drop in donations?

What of payouts that are not directly to do with the lockdown? It was striking, for example, that the clamour for more free school meals was far louder than the clamour for schools themselves to reopen in full. Demanding money on someone else’s behalf is always satisfying and, in current circumstances, the demands are hard to resist. When we are spending a hundred billion on the furlough scheme alone, who is going to cavil about £19 million for poor kids?

The dynamics of that decision illustrate, in microcosm, why demands for higher spending end up being granted. Those who called for higher spending were described as brave and principled, their opponents as selfish and stingy.

In fact, there is nothing brave about saying “Listen – hear me out on this, I know it’s controversial – we should do more to feed poor kids”. That position might be justified, but expressing it requires no courage. Indeed, by far the bravest thing I saw during the controversy was a Tweet by the kind and clever Therese Coffey, gently correcting Marcus Rashford’s claim that people might be cut off by water companies for want of means. Therese pointed out that that would be illegal, prompting a pile-on of the nastiest kind from an online mob who did not want facts to interfere with their self-righteous rage.

Few MP want to be accused of being “mean” or “heartless” (to quote the adjectives chosen by Sir Michael Wilshaw, the former head of Ofsted). They know that, however absurdly, they will be judged as if it were their own money they were trying to save, not taxpayers’.

Yet the economic facts remain. Britain’s output is down by more than a quarter. So far, the hit has been taken largely by business but, eventually, it will be felt by everyone: students, public sector workers, pensioners and, not least, those the poet calls “your children yet unborn and unbegot”. I wish it weren’t so. But we can’t defy economic gravity by intoning “Our NHS heroes deserve a pay rise!” or “Supporting the arts is an investment in the future!” or “The government needs to create more green jobs!”

Yes, fiscal loosening is appropriate in the aftermath of an economic catastrophe. Yes, it makes sense to bring forward some spending, especially on infrastructure. But the only way out of this mess is economic growth, and the way to get growth to cut taxes.

Think of it like this. The government can put more cash into circulation by spending more or by taxing less. The argument for the second is that the money will be more wisely directed by individuals on the ground than by civil servants drawing up project criteria. Britain’s immediate priority, as the furlough scheme tapers out, must be to get businesses investing and hiring. That means cutting corporation tax, stamp duty, national insurance and capital gains tax.

Why tax cuts rather than grants? Partly because grants are blunt instruments, expensive to administer and prone to unintended consequences. Mainly, though, because of what the nineteenth-century French economist Frédéric Bastiat called “ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas” – what we see and what we don’t.

Bastiat famously gave the example of broken windows. Replacing a shop window generates lots of activity: the shopkeeper pays six francs to the glazier, who can then spend that sum on new shoes, meaning that the cobbler now has more to spend and so on. Why, then, can’t a country make itself rich by hiring boys to go around smashing panes of glass? Because, Bastiat says, of the unseen costs: the shopkeeper could have invested the six francs on something more productive, the glazier had to turn down another customer to make time to fix the window and so on.

It’s an argument a ten-year-old can understand, yet we seem unable to internalise its logic. When a government takes money out of the economy to spend on, say, green jobs, it is creating unseen costs. We might regard those costs as justified in the name of environmental protection; but they are still costs. Subsidising jobs is no more a route to growth than smashing windows.

Who, though, is prepared to make that case in the current mood? Who will argue for balanced budgets and low taxes? The lockdown may be ending, but I fear our economic woes are just beginning.

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David Lidington: Why I profoundly disagree with my friend and former colleague, David Gauke

David Lidington was the MP for Aylesbury from 1992 to 2019, and has held a number of roles including Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.

Last Thursday, in a piece that was characteristically both thoughtful and thought-provoking, my friend and former Cabinet colleague David Gauke came to a pessimistic conclusion. Choices had been made, he argued, which compelled the Conservative Party to pursue “the war on woke and Rooseveltian economics”. Implicit in his analysis was the suggestion that those whom he termed “small state free marketeers and one nation social liberals” had no future in the party and might have to look elsewhere.

I profoundly disagree. Throughout the 45 years that I’ve been a member and for decades before that the Conservative Party has been a coalition. Economic liberals, defenders of traditional values and institutions, social reformers, blue-green environmentalists: all have found a home. Different leaders of the party, at different times have chosen to emphasise different elements of the broad Conservative tradition.

As Paul Goodman pointed out yesterday, human beings tend not to fit neatly into a single, neat political category. Margaret Thatcher was strongly in favour of opening up broadcasting to greater competition and market discipline. Yet she was also passionate about the need for high standards of decency in what was broadcast – which meant intervention and regulation. I have crossed swords with Iain Duncan Smith many times over Europe, but have also admired his efforts to promote a Conservative approach to social justice.

The present government’s commitment to “level up” the opportunities available to people living in towns and estates that have for years felt left-behind and ignored will need to draw on all strands of Conservative thinking if ambition is to be realised: incentives for free enterprise to create wealth and jobs, and government action, both national and local, to provide modern infrastructure, drive urban regeneration and boost expectations and outcomes in education and training.

For years, Conservatives have fretted about our loss of support in old industrial areas and among people on lower incomes. The fact that we now represent seats in County Durham and South Yorkshire as well as Surrey and Sussex is something to be celebrated: it gives our words about standing for One Nation much greater credibility.

If a successful policy of levelling up (and at the same time improving our chances of holding those seats) means a tilt towards the economic and industrial policies of Macmillan, Heath and Heseltine, it should be seen as a pragmatic response to the needs of the times, certainly meriting debate and argument, including within the Conservative family, not some heretical departure from the one true faith.

Nor do I share David’s pessimistic conclusion that there is an inexorable electoral logic which must compel the party to abandon the ideas, policies and perhaps even the support of liberal Conservatives.

By 2024 the Conservative Party will have been in office for 14 years. The coming economic storm, even if, as we all hope, it is short-lived, will have left many people scarred. The Labour Party will be led by someone who is not Jeremy Corbyn. The temptation to vote “for a change”, to “give the other lot a chance” will be strong. It will be as great a challenge to secure re-election then as it was for John Major in 1992. We shall need every vote from as broad a coalition of support as we can.

Of course we shall want to hang on to traditional Labour supporters who lent us their votes last December, which in turn means that in four years time they need to see that we are at least beginning to deliver results for their families and neighbourhoods.

But that on its own won’t be enough. By 2024 there will be about three million new electors on the register who were too young to vote in 2019. According to YouGov, at last year’s election the tipping point – the age at which someone is more likely to have voted Conservative than Labour – was 39.

That is better than 2017, when it was 47, but still leaves no room for complacency. While it is possible that those who were in their teens, twenties and thirties in 2019 will automatically shift into the Conservative column by 2024, we cannot count on it happening.

In any case, we ought to be seriously concerned that so many people in their twenties and thirties – working, paying tax and often holding both professional and family responsibilities – should have preferred Jeremy Corbyn’s socialism to what we had to offer.

To win again in 2024 we shall need to secure support from more younger voters than we did in either of the last two elections and to do that will mean reaching out to people whose values are, in the convenient shorthand, more “socially liberal” than those of their parents and grandparents, and who want to see political parties to take seriously their concerns about issues like the environment.

Next year, the Prime Minister will host a world summit on climate change. The Glasgow conference will be an opportunity for the United Kingdom and its Conservative government both to showcase its own ideas to address the climate emergency and to demonstrate global leadership on the issue.

In recent years, “green” policies have been identified with the liberal wing of the party. David Cameron took a lot of flak early in his leadership for focusing on this agenda.

Again, it’s easy to oversimplify: I’m old enough to have been in the audience at the party conference in 1988 to hear Mrs Thatcher declare that: No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy – with a full repairing lease. This Government intends to meet the terms of that lease in full. The key point is that it will be both right and in our electoral interests to take action on the environment and to be seen to do so.

Another political reality that the party must grapple with is the fact that voters from British people of Caribbean, Asian, African and central European heritage make up a significant proportion of the electorate in a growing number of constituencies.

Yet again, we need to beware of oversimplification. Many of my former constituents from Pakistani, Indian and Polish backgrounds are on the social conservative rather than social liberal end of the spectrum. They are certainly a long way from being “woke”.

But they care passionately about racism – sadly almost always because they and their children have been at the receiving end of abusive or insensitive comments – or worse. They judge politicians in part by how they handle these matters. Community relations and anti-racism are causes that, like the environment, have been championed within the Conservative Party by its liberal wing and, once again, are issues where our electoral interest coincides with what it is right to say and do.

The Conservative Party’s electoral success has rested in large measure on its ability and willingness to adapt to the realities of social and economic change. Far from giving up in despair, liberal, centrist Conservatives should redouble our efforts to influence the party’s thinking about how we can win again in 2024.

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The Next Energy Battle: Renewables vs. Natural Gas

Dominion Energy, one of the nation’s largest utilities, in late June erected wind turbines off the Virginia coast — only the second such installation in the United States — as part of a big bet on renewable energy.

The company is also planning to build new power plants that burn natural gas.

Utilities around the country are promoting their growing use of renewable energy like hydroelectric dams, wind turbines and solar panels, which collectively provided more power than coal-fired power plants for the first time last year. But even as they add more green sources of power, the industry remains deeply dependent on natural gas, a fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gases and is likely to remain a cornerstone of the electric grid for years or even decades.

Utilities maintain that they need to keep using natural gas because the wind and the sun are too unreliable. They are also reluctant to invest in energy storage, arguing that it would cost too much to buy batteries that can power the grid when there isn’t enough sunlight or wind.

“We’ve got to have a resource that has an ‘on’ and ‘off’ switch,” said Katharine Bond, vice president for public policy and state affairs at Dominion.

For years, environmental activists and liberal policymakers fought to force utilities to reduce coal use to curb emissions and climate change. As the use of coal fades, the battle lines are rapidly shifting, with the proponents of a carbon-free grid facing off against those who champion natural gas, an abundant fuel that produces about half the greenhouse gas emissions that burning coal does.

Coal plants supply less than 20 percent of the country’s electricity, down from about half a decade ago. Over that same time, the share from natural gas has doubled to about 40 percent. Renewable energy has also more than doubled to about 20 percent, and nuclear plants have been relatively steady at around 20 percent.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 00energy-02-articleLarge The Next Energy Battle: Renewables vs. Natural Gas wind power Solar Energy natural gas Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Greenhouse Gas Emissions Great River Energy environment Electric Light and Power Dominion Energy Coal Batteries Alternative and Renewable Energy
Credit…Ting Shen for The New York Times

Experts argue that the surge in wind and solar energy, while impressive, is not reducing emissions quickly enough to avert the worst effects of climate change, including more intense heat waves and storms. They argue that utilities urgently need to reduce the use of natural gas, too.

“Replacing coal with gas doesn’t solve our public health problem,” said Mary Anne Hitt, national director of campaigns at the Sierra Club.

Proponents of renewable energy note that solar panels are increasingly the cheapest source of electricity. Solar panels can deliver power to 650 homes for one hour — one megawatt-hour in industry jargon — at $31 to $111 a megawatt-hour, according to Lazard, the investment firm. By comparison, natural gas peaking plants, which utilities can turn on and off quickly to meet surging demand, deliver power at $122 to $162 a megawatt-hour.

A report in June by the University of California, Berkeley, concluded that by 2035, the U.S. electric grid could get 90 percent of its power without greenhouse gas emissions while lowering electricity rates. To do that, the country would have to increase its use of renewables, energy storage and transmission lines while closing all coal plants and slashing natural gas use by 70 percent.

Some lawmakers argue that utilities are wasting billions of dollars by investing in natural gas plants that will have to be shut down before their useful lives end.

“The urgent need to address the climate crisis means we can’t make reckless investments now that will have to be paid off for decades,” said Senator Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat and one of the authors of the legislation known as the Green New Deal. “We have to consider clean options, which, fortunately for consumers, are also cost-effective.”

Some experts say they hope that the country can move away from fossil fuels in part because the use of renewables has grown even as the Trump administration has repealed environmental regulations and pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.

“Fighting the transition is not going to stop the transition,” Dennis Wamsted, an analyst for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said. “Economically, it will happen inevitably.”

Utility executives acknowledge that renewable energy will continue to grow. But many dismiss the idea that wind turbines, solar panels and batteries can replace natural gas plants.

Great River Energy, a Minnesota utility owned by its customers, recently gained national attention when it said it would phase out coal use. The cooperative plans to shut down a 40-year-old plant in Underwood, N.D., called Coal Creek after failing to sell it.

“The situation that led to our decision was based purely on the economics,” said David Saggau, president and chief executive of Great River Energy. “It has been tougher and tougher for some of our legacy facilities to compete in the marketplace.”

Credit…Dan Koeck for The New York Times

The Underwood plant and a nearby coal mine that supplies it employ about 660 people, many of whom will probably have to leave the area to find new jobs, said Underwood’s mayor, Leon Weisenburger Jr. “It’s going to hurt those communities severely,” he said. “Some won’t survive.”

But while Great River plans to increase its reliance on wind turbines, it is not giving up fossil fuels and will convert its other coal-fired power plant to natural gas.

Another large utility, the Alabama Power Company, won approval in June to replace some of its coal-fired plants with the equivalent of two large natural gas facilities, even as its parent, the Southern Company, has proposed to make its entire system carbon neutral by 2050. The utility and regulators gave little consideration to renewables and batteries.

Even where elected leaders have committed to eliminating emissions, utilities have found it difficult to rid themselves of fossil fuels.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, for example, wants Los Angeles to have an all-renewable electric grid by 2045. But the city-owned utility, the Department of Water and Power, still gets about 18 percent of its electricity from a coal-fired plant in Utah and about 30 percent from natural gas plants.

Credit…Dan Koeck for The New York Times

It will take five years for the city to end its reliance on coal and much longer to wean it from natural gas. Officials said they would like to move more quickly, but Los Angeles owns some power plants with neighboring municipal utilities and has had to resolve labor contracts, plan the use of transmission lines and line up other energy sources.

Dominion Energy, with more than seven million customers and operations in 20 states, said it had high expectations for offshore wind farms, which have been widely used in Europe for years. The company is erecting two wind turbines off Virginia Beach this year — with blades as high as 620 feet above sea level — as a test for the installation of nearly 200 turbines over the next six years.

While environmental groups have long criticized Dominion’s record, executives say they are committed to a greener grid and are planning to shut two coal-fired plants in Virginia in 2024 before either turns 30. Last year, the company closed six coal plants and converted five to natural gas, a fuel it views as complementary to renewables.

Investors, customers and lawmakers are demanding electricity from cleaner sources. In April, Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia signed a bill requiring almost all coal-fired power plants to close by 2024 and the state to become a carbon-free electricity producer by 2050.

On Sunday, Dominion and Duke Energy announced that they had canceled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would have crossed the Appalachian Trail, after legal challenges drove up the project’s cost to $8 billion from about $4.5 billion. The two utilities said they had proposed the project “in response to a lack of energy supply and delivery diversification for millions of families, businesses, schools, and national defense installations across North Carolina and Virginia.”

At the same time, Dominion announced a separate deal to sell all of its gas transmission and storage to an affiliate of Warren E. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

From Dominion’s perspective, its growing focus on clean energy should not have surprised anyone because the utility said it was a pioneer in the use of technologies like energy storage. In the 1980s, it built a power plant near Lexington, Va., that can use excess electricity to pump water to a reservoir at a higher elevation. When power is needed, the company can release water to a lower reservoir. The company said the six-turbine facility was the largest of its kind, able to power up to 750,000 homes and less expensive to operate than a bank of lithium-ion batteries.

Executives said such plants could be built only in certain areas, so Dominion is also investing in batteries. But the company said it had concluded that the current generation of batteries was still too expensive and could generally store only up to five hours of power for the grid.

“Natural gas remains the only resource that allows us to ratchet up and down,” said Ms. Bond, the Dominion policy executive. “We’re absolutely committed to investments in renewable energy — gigawatts’ worth of wind, gigawatts’ worth of solar. We’re also committed to keeping the lights on for our customers.”

Credit…Dan Koeck for The New York Times

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Hugo de Burgh: We owe it to future generations of Brits to work with China

Professor Hugo de Burgh is Director of the China Media Centre. He is the author of China’s Media in the Emerging World Order, has held office in three Conservative associations, and stood in unwinnable seats several times.

China is our third largest market and the one with the greatest potential. China is the country with which we must work if we are to have any impact on the resolution of global problems from environment to nuclear proliferation. China can accelerate the development of African and Central Asian economies, mitigating the risks to Europe that come from population explosion there without adequate economic growth. China is the largest economy in the world and already influential in a majority of countries.

For all these reasons, it is patriotic and reasonable for British leaders to find a way to work with China, which they will only do if they understand China as it is. Among other eminent Brits who started with a morbid suspicion of China, I have accompanied Boris Johnson and Jeremy Paxman on extended visits, and watched the scales fall from their eyes as they understood the enormity of the challenges facing Chinese government and the absurdity of imagining that its leaders wasted a moment thinking about conquering the world.

The reverse is the case. They are determined not to be conquered by the world. In the past, China built a Great Wall to keep out foreigners; today China is initiating the Belt and Road initiative to secure their back as they restore their civilisation, threatened from the east.

Fantasising about regime change in China, some US politicians make outlandish accusations. Had they talked to a few Chinese punters, followed social media or watched chat shows on TV, they could not possibly claim that China is a totalitarian country. Had they read Pew’s surveys of public opinion they would realise that the Chinese are, overall, more satisfied with their governance than European citizens, to say nothing of the USA. And are you surprised? While Europe and the USA are beset by economic and political troubles, Chinese people see ahead of them only more wealth, health and social mobility.

We need to recognise that demonisation of China is a weapon with which some US politicians deflect attention from their own failings and reflect their commercial jealousy. Both our National Cyber Security Centre and GCHQ have maintained until now that Huawei’s involvement in the UK poses no security risk that cannot be managed. Otherwise why would the US trade Department last week reauthorize US companies to work with Huawei, even as Donald Trump bullies other countries not to?

Robert Zoellick, a US former Deputy Secretary of State, is among the calmer heads to remind us just how positive a collaborator China is: that it recognises climate change issues, is in the forefront of environment innovation and has worked hard on endangered species; cooperates with the IMF over stimulation; provides more UN peacekeepers than the other members of the Security Council combined.

He points out that between 2000 and 2018 China supported 182 of the 190 Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on nations which violated international rules or norms; China collaborated on the Iran and North Korea proliferation treaties.

Zoellick is not given to dire warnings about how dysfunctional it will be if the West really manages to ‘cut China off’, but they are implied in his general remarks about China, restated at a recent Henry Jackson webinar. China, he reminds us, is the biggest contributor to global growth; the fastest growing market for United States products; no longer manipulates the exchange rate; and, in response to our pleas, has improved its legal system. All in all, Zoellick tells us that cooperation with China “does produce results” but we should not take China’s cooperation for granted, “it could be very different”.

At home in Blighty, those calling for “a reckoning with China”, demanding a COBRA-like committee to mull over retaliation, wanting to “hold China to account” should ask themselves whether our businesses, for many of whom China is their most important market, want matters to become “very different”.

As to Hong Kong, the whole world must be astounded at the descendants of nineteenth century imperialists sending out paper gunboats commanding that China order its affairs according to our desires. A long time ago as a student, I demonstrated against colonial rule and police corruption in Hong Kong, and can still feel the truncheon on my back. In the face of much more vicious violence than anything we democracy activists attempted, Beijing has been restrained. In Northern Ireland, when security deteriorated, the UK imposed direct rule and fiercely rejected US interference on the IRA side. Over Hong Kong, we should try to see how interfering former imperialists look to most Asians, let alone to Chinese.

There are aspects of Chinese policies that we do not like, just as there are aspects of US policies that we abhor. The China Research Group is right to be concerned about cyber security and human rights. The way forward is to deal with China as a partner in the solution of common issues, such as terrorism in Xinjiang and Afghanistan. We have always worked with regimes with different standards when it suits our national interest. And respecting and being respected by China is in our national interest.

In the words of Kevin Rudd, the former Australian Prime Minister: Over 30 years China has pulled off the ‘the English industrial revolution and the global information revolution combusting simultaneously and compressed into not 300 years but 30’. There is a lot to learn and if we are to develop and prosper in the world ahead, we must be part of this. We should also celebrate that China’s rise is bringing better nourishment, greater life expectancy, education and security to hundreds of millions around the world.

Fulminating at China’s internal affairs and rejecting Chinese investment in order to please its commercial rivals will have no effect beyond signalling our impotence and arrogance; they are of no benefit to Britain and have no place in a long-term plan for Britain to prosper in the Asian century. Our government must develop a strategic approach to China. We owe it to future generations of Brits to work with China.

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Alan Mak: A new tech scrappage scheme will boost productivity

Alan Mak is MP for Havant and Founder of the APPG on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, governments around the world including those of Japan, Germany and the US responded to calls to help struggling car manufacturers by introducing popular scrappage schemes. After new car registrations declined by 30 per cent in the UK in the first quarter of 2009, the schemes saw demand bounce back, while dirty, polluting old cars were consigned to the scrapheap.

Now there is media speculation about a new car scrappage scheme – drivers will be given up to £6,000 to swap their petrol or diesel cars for electric ones – designed to provide a shot in the arm for the UK electric car manufacturing sector in the wake of Coronavirus.

Yet focus should also be given to how the Government could launch a similar scheme to help factories and businesses investing in the latest technology. We must use this period of recovery to press the fast-forward button on helping our businesses to improve their performance by adopting new technologies quickly, accelerating processes that would have otherwise taken many years into a much shorter period.

Just as the Government ushered a brand-new fleet of cars onto our roads a decade ago, a new scrappage scheme should be introduced for old and obsolete IT, tech and machinery. By particularly focusing on the adoption of robotics, it would achieve the dual ambitions of boosting productivity, and giving our businesses the cutting edge in international markets post-Brexit.

More British firms need to follow in the footsteps of innovators such as Ocado, who have created one of the most advanced automated warehouses in the world. Ocado’s newest fulfilment centre uses automation to pick 200 items per hour of labour time using its hive system – far outstripping traditional supermarket competitors.

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution accelerates, for British manufacturers and suppliers to keep up with international competitors, they must upgrade the machinery and software that is powering the workplace.

Yet automation and the adoption of new technology is an area where the UK needs to improve if we are to boost the nation’s productivity and economic growth after Coronavirus. Research published by the International Federation of Robotics shows that the UK has a robot density of 71 units per 10,000 employees – below the world average of 74 units – ranking us 22nd globally. Europe’s most automated country, Germany, has more than 300 units per 10,000 employees.

Whilst the critics will always fear job losses from automation, as we recover from Coronavirus, we can create high-wage employment through robotics. I’ve visited factories, such as Harwin’s manufacturing site near my own constituency of Havant, that have successful re-trained factory workers as high-skilled robot operators. We must rebut trade union leaders and others holding back change and hindering the adoption of new technology.

Just as a car scrappage scheme was brought in to safeguard the car manufacturing industry and protect demand in its vast supply chain, a tech scrappage scheme also has the potential to boost the fast-growing UK tech and robotics sector. Businesses that could benefit include Tharsus, the Blyth-based robotics company that supplies Ocado’s automated warehouse, which is now one of Europe’s fastest growing technology firms.

While individual businesses know the products that are right for them, a tech scrappage scheme can and should promote world class British engineering and high-end manufacturing by creating more demand.

Every UK business could benefit from upgrading technology and IT, but key to the success of the car scrappage scheme was incentivising people into the new car market by making them more affordable. To be eligible, the car had to be at least ten years old and many of those taking part in the scheme would never before have bought a new car. The same must be implemented for a tech scrappage scheme. The Government needs to target the least productive SMEs that have never before invested substantially into the latest robotics, software, automation or information technology.

Research published last year based on a survey of 2000 business owners showed that 46 per cent of small business owners believe technology is more important to their business than people. Just as we incentivised car owners into the market, a new scrappage scheme will give SMEs the confidence to make the tech upgrades their businesses need.

There would be environmental gains too. Just as polluting cars were taken off the road through scrappage, businesses would have the opportunity to replace diesel-fuelled machinery with cleaner and more energy efficient alternatives.

As our country bounces back from Coronavirus, and the focus shifts from health emergency to economic recovery, the Government must continue to focus on not only supporting businesses in the short term but arming our businesses to be ready for the long term impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Our economic recovery must be both green and digital – a scrappage scheme for IT, tech and machinery achieves both goals.

This is the third in a three-part series on how to boost our economy after Coronavirus.

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Anand Menon: Our latest research finds that the Conservatives are divided on economics, but united on culture.

Westlake Legal Group anand-menon-our-latest-research-finds-that-the-conservatives-are-divided-on-economics-but-united-on-culture Anand Menon: Our latest research finds that the Conservatives are divided on economics, but united on culture. Workington Working Class Wakefield UK in a Changing Europe Transgendered people The Right The Left Social Liberalism Social Conservatism Social Class Race and multiculturalism Race Paul Mason Middle class Labour Together Labour in/out referendum EU Referendum environment Economics Dominic Cummings Culture COVID-19 coronavirus Conservatives Comment Climate Change Boris Johnson MP black lives matter Bishop Auckland

Anand Menon is Director of the UK in a Changing Europe.

Dominic Cummings must be rubbing his hands with glee. As more and more questions are raised about what some are calling the ‘lethal amaterurism’ that has characterised the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, the country spent most of June distracted by furious arguments about race and statues.

This has moved the debate on from Boris Johnson’s chief advisor’s unique approach to optical health. More importantly, a debate about values rather than health outcomes suits the Government down to the ground.

The referendum of 2016 polarized the country along values lines (between social liberals and social conservatives) rather than along the left-right cleavage that traditionally structured political competition.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2020-06-29-at-16.14.22 Anand Menon: Our latest research finds that the Conservatives are divided on economics, but united on culture. Workington Working Class Wakefield UK in a Changing Europe Transgendered people The Right The Left Social Liberalism Social Conservatism Social Class Race and multiculturalism Race Paul Mason Middle class Labour Together Labour in/out referendum EU Referendum environment Economics Dominic Cummings Culture COVID-19 coronavirus Conservatives Comment Climate Change Boris Johnson MP black lives matter Bishop Auckland

Source: British Election Study

Nor was this a one-off phenomenon. The values division laid bare by the referendum went on to shape the nature of subsequent electoral competition. Think back to last year’s election.

The fact that the Conservatives won seats like Wakefield, Bishop Auckland and Workington, or that they won by 21 per cent among working class voters is testimony to the realignment that had taken place in our politics.

So too is the fact that in seats where over 60 per cent backed leave, the Tories increased their support by an average of six per cent, whereas in those seats where more than 60 per cent voted Remain, the party’s vote actually fell by three points.

The argument over statues that has been such a central part of the Black Lives Matter protests in this country has mobilized that same division. And it is terrain on which the Conservatives are relatively well equipped to fight.

Recent work carried out by the UK in a Changing Europe compares the attitudes of MPs, party members and voters, by asking each group a series of questions about fundamental ideological attitudes. The findings are revealing.

When it comes to social values, the Conservative clan looks relatively united. Even more importantly, on values they are far closer to those crucial voters who switched from Labour in 2017 to the Conservatives in 2019 than to Keir Starmer’s party.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2020-06-29-at-16.14.33 Anand Menon: Our latest research finds that the Conservatives are divided on economics, but united on culture. Workington Working Class Wakefield UK in a Changing Europe Transgendered people The Right The Left Social Liberalism Social Conservatism Social Class Race and multiculturalism Race Paul Mason Middle class Labour Together Labour in/out referendum EU Referendum environment Economics Dominic Cummings Culture COVID-19 coronavirus Conservatives Comment Climate Change Boris Johnson MP black lives matter Bishop Auckland  But when it comes to the politics of left versus right – questions like whether ‘there is one rule for the rich and one for the poor’, and the idea that ‘ordinary working people do not get their fair share of the nation’s wealth’ – the picture could hardly be more different.

Conservative MPs are to the right of both their own party members and Conservative voters, and significantly to the right of those 2019 Labour-to-Conservative switchers. Labour, on the other hand, is not just far less internally divided but considerably closer to those lost voters.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2020-06-29-at-16.14.41 Anand Menon: Our latest research finds that the Conservatives are divided on economics, but united on culture. Workington Working Class Wakefield UK in a Changing Europe Transgendered people The Right The Left Social Liberalism Social Conservatism Social Class Race and multiculturalism Race Paul Mason Middle class Labour Together Labour in/out referendum EU Referendum environment Economics Dominic Cummings Culture COVID-19 coronavirus Conservatives Comment Climate Change Boris Johnson MP black lives matter Bishop Auckland  Looking forward, then, the Conservatives have an interest in maintaining a focus on values. Think of it this way. On the (feigned) threat to Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square, the Conservative Party spoke with one voice and rallied behind Boris Johnson. When it comes to the economic response to Covid-19, the party’s backbenches are increasingly restless.

The easing of lockdown will focus attention firmly on economic recovery. How these issues are framed then takes on crucial importance. We face another decade in which political life will be shaped by the impact of an economic crisis.

The Conservative narrative may well seek to major not on the details of the economic response – on how great the role of the state should be, or how we pay for ballooning deficits – but on arguably more ‘ephemeral’ concerns.

Conservative commentators are already queuing up to point out that it is surely no longer a priority to publish gender pay gaps, or to ‘suffer a little for the sake of the planet.’ Others argue that fads like the war on plastic have been made redundant by the virus.

It seems Number 10 is, in the short term, planning a number of ways of triggering values divisions. The Sunday Times reported that the Government is planning to scrap plans to allow people to change their legal gender.

Other reports suggest that some in Downing Street are encouraging the Prime Minister to launch a ‘war on woke’. The hope is clearly to profit from profound values divisions within Labour’s electoral coalition and detatch voters who might, if it really were all about the economy, stupid, support the centre-left rather than the centre-right.

For Labour, then, the key will be to find a way to nullify this strategy. Paul Mason has rightly argued that the party must focus on coming up with a more convincing narrative about reshaping the role of the state in the economy, as a means of uniting a coalition that has fractured over the last decade over values questions.

The party now has a leader that the public, including Leave voters, find broadly convincing – and one who is going to be less easy to label as an unpatriotic ultra-liberal.

A narrative about economic fairness unites Labour and has the potential to tap into the ideological attitudes of the median voter.

The Government’s current plans to emerge from lockdown will create millions of economic losers, and the Conservatives look set to incur significant governing costs.

A laser like-focus on the economy and on the steps needed both to recover from the post-lockdown slowdown in such a way as to tackle the numerous inequalities that the pandemic has highlighted could command broad support, not least among those voters that fled the party last year.

As the recent Labour Together review of the 2019 election concluded, Labour could win by building support for a ‘big change economic agenda’ that neutralises cultural and social tensions.

Whatever happens, the relative impact of the two cleavages – left vs right and social liberal vs social conservative will be crucial. The relative success of each side in imposing its own agenda on the political debate will help determine who ultimately triumphs.

This article is a cross-post from the UK in a Changing Europe’s website.

Read the Mind the values gap report here.

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