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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "jobs"

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 

Charlotte Pickles: Ten million people are at risk of becoming unemployed. They must be Sunak’s priority this week.

Charlotte Pickles is Deputy Director and Head of Research at the Reform think tank.

The Chancellor’s economic statement next week may be his biggest test yet. During the last few days, UK firms have announced 12,000 job losses. John Lewis, Upper Crust, Topshop, Airbus, WH Smith, TM Lewin, Easy Jet, Accenture are just some of the household names cutting jobs. Small businesses will be doing the same; you just won’t hear about them.

This is the start of the wave of redundancies Reform predicted back in April when we called on the Government to extend the furlough scheme and make it more flexible. The Government stepped up then; they need to do so again. The alternative is the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression.

Some readers will be sceptical. Great swathes of the economy reopened this weekend. Across the pond, the American economy added almost five million jobs in June, and the rise in the Eurozone’s unemployment rate in May was lower than expected.

At home, Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England, announced that consumer spending had “risen both sooner and materially faster” than predicted, meaning the GDP hit could be half that predicted in May. Very good news indeed.

However, underneath these headline green shoots is a much starker picture. Haldane also says that the labour market outlook is not as encouraging – that unemployment could be worse than the Bank’s May forecast. As in much of Europe, where more than 40 million people remain supported on furlough schemes, we have no idea if furloughed workers will return to work or join the unemployment rolls.

So while it is promising news that the UK economy appears to be bouncing back, it would be dangerously foolish to assume a jobs recovery at the same pace. Indeed, vacancies last week were down 24 per cent on the previous week.

Next month, businesses are required to start contributing to the cost of their furloughed workers. That’s reasonable, over nine million people have had their wages subsidised and the Government cannot continue this £10 billion-a-month support indefinitely – not least as it risks keeping people in ‘zombie jobs’, delaying their move into new roles and damaging the economy further.

But the phasing out of the furlough scheme will trigger more redundancies. Hundreds of thousands of businesses have gone for three months with little to no revenue. The Government’s loans and grants provided a lifeline for many, but social distancing measures and people’s fear of the virus will mean suppressed revenues for some time.

Expenditure will have to be cut if businesses are to stay afloat – half of companies expect to make redundancies in the next few months.

Which is precisely why the Chancellor must use his statement on Wednesday to announce a comprehensive and ambitious plan for averting mass unemployment.

Because while it might be reasonable to see how consumers respond to the further lifting of lockdown before taking a decision on something like a VAT cut – which would be pointlessly costly if the issue isn’t demand – delaying decisions about investment in employment and skills could be catastrophic.

In a new report this week, produced jointly by Reform and the Learning and Work Institute, we estimate that around ten million people are potentially at risk of unemployment. Those at greatest risk are in areas that already had high unemployment, have low qualification levels and are currently in low paid work. In other words, they will be least resilient to losing their jobs. The result of inaction, even delayed action, will be a levelling down.

The Conservative manifesto pledged to undo the decade-long underinvestment in skills; to help workers “train and retrain for the jobs and industries of the future”.

This recession is unique for its sectoral nature, meaning a large number of workers will not only need to find new jobs, but to switch careers. But it is also unique in that the Government has a direct line to those most vulnerable to unemployment – the furlough scheme.

The Prime Minster should deliver on his manifesto promise with a bold offer to anyone on furlough, or in an at-risk sector like retail or hospitality. This should include universal entitlement to funding for a qualification, or modules of a qualification, up to and including level three, as well as online advice and support.

For those needing to change careers, which we estimate will be up to 200,000 people, the Government should provide a £5,000 learning account for accredited training. They should also receive a time-limited, means-tested maintenance grant to help mitigate wage drops as they start over in a new sector. Eligibility could be linked to an individual’s history of National Insurance contributions.

And to incentivise employers both to hire apprentices and career changers, and to pay living wages, the Government should allow firms to use a proportion of their apprenticeship levy to support wages, with an equivalent grant for SMEs.

On Wednesday, the Chancellor must show the same bold thinking that delivered the furlough scheme. Failure to act now could mean mass unemployment with its sky-high social and economic costs. That’s a legacy the Government should do everything to avoid.

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

Phillipa Stroud: Coronavirus has hit those in poverty hardest. The Government must support employment, fast.

Baroness Philippa Stroud, Chair of the Social Metrics Commission.

The UK is living through the most significant health, social and economic crisis of modern times. But not everybody is being impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic in the same way. A new report from the Social Metrics Commission (SMC), which I chair, shows that those who were already struggling to make ends meet are being hit hardest.

Research we conducted with YouGov reveals that almost two thirds (65 per cent) of those who were living in deep poverty – that is, more than 50 per cent below the poverty line – and were employed before the virus hit have lost their jobs, been furloughed, or seen their hours and/or wages drop. This compares to just over a third (35 per cent) of those living more than 20 per cent above the poverty line prior to the crisis.

Our analysis shows that, over the last 20 years, rising employment rates for those in poverty were helping families move out of deep poverty, so they were more likely to be able to escape poverty in the future.

Families in poverty where the adults work full-time are less than half as likely to experience deep poverty than those with part-time work or no job. A reversal of this success story could have a profound effect; increasing poverty rates and deepening poverty for those already below the poverty line. So supporting employment, especially for those on the lowest incomes, must remain a key priority for Government as the country emerges from the lockdown restrictions that have caused the economy to contract so severely.

We also need to empower those in or at risk of poverty to increase their financial resilience. The SMC’s analysis shows that, before the crisis hit, nearly three in ten people in poverty lived in families that were behind paying the bills and seven in ten were in families where no-one saves. This means they did not have a buffer available to them when the pandemic struck and are therefore more likely to have fallen further into poverty.

However, it is not all bad news. The SMC’s analysis also shows that, after rising for the last three years, the poverty rate for both children and pensioners had plateaued before the crisis, and that, since the turn of the millennium, poverty levels haves fallen for lone-parent families.

In addition, there has been a drop in the poverty rate for families that include a disabled child over the last 10 years, and across all age groups there has been a fall in the proportion of people in poverty who are also in persistent poverty.

These success stories demonstrate that poverty can be tackled and reduced. But with millions of people still in poverty, we cannot be complacent.

The first step is to ensure that poverty is properly measured. This is essential if action is going to be taken to improve the lives of those currently living in, or at risk of falling into, poverty, and to ensure that those individuals, families, communities, and areas of the UK that have historically been left behind are supported to improve their situation.

After decades of damaging debate that has distracted focus away from the vital action needed to drive better outcomes for the most disadvantaged in society, a new consensus is needed so that policymakers and politicians can track progress and can be held to account.

I am delighted that the Government has committed to creating new experimental national statistics based on the SMC’s approach, as the first step towards adopting it as an official measure.

While it is entirely appropriate that this work was paused during the pandemic so the Government could focus on providing support to those individuals and families whose health and livelihoods have been impacted by the virus, the need to return to it is clear.

The next step is for a full Poverty Commission to be established to develop solutions based on this measurement data. We already know that poverty is more likely to be experienced by some families than others, and that the nature of that experience is incredibly varied.

The causes and implications of the various types of poverty are different, which means that the approach needed to tackle them will be different. As with the SMC, it will be important that the Poverty Commission has support from individuals and organisations across the political spectrum as well as from business, the charity sector, and those who are in poverty.

However, while the Poverty Commission will need to conduct further work to assess what really creates an enabling environment for different people, the existing data clearly shows that work is one of the most effective pathways out of poverty. Therefore, as the country emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, an employment- and skills-based recovery will be vital.

We must enable the smooth transition of those on low incomes who have been furloughed and need to increase their hours, to avoid them falling deeper into poverty. We need to re-open schools so that the education of the poorest is protected and to allow their parents to work the extra hours that could make all the difference.

And we need to ensure that schools are preparing students for the jobs that will be available in the future, equipping them with the skills they will need in a world of artificial intelligence and new digital technologies.

In addition, given half of those in poverty live in a family with a disabled person, we must increase support to help those with disabilities find full-time employment. The inescapable cost of housing, and especially private renting, is also one of the major factors contributing to poverty, so it is also vital that we make housing more affordable.

My hope is that the SMC’s poverty measurement framework can inform the creation of a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy. Where there are obstacles, we need to remove them, and where individuals can build their own pathway out of poverty, we need to ensure that they have the tools and support they need to do so.

This will require a partnership between those in poverty and policymakers, business leaders, and community builders across the UK. Together we can ensure that poverty is less prevalent in the UK after the coronavirus crisis than it was before and that as many people as possible can enjoy a life free of poverty in the future.

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

Alan Mak: Reform capital allowances and R&D tax credits to fire up investment and create jobs

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

Improving Britain’s productivity is key to both our economic recovery after Coronavirus and enhancing our global competitiveness post-Brexit. The best lever for firing up Britain’s productivity is incentivising more investment in the latest IT and software, new plant and advanced machinery – all proven catalysts of growth and efficiency. Failure to direct billions of pounds into these fundamental building blocks of our economy will hold back our recovery.

The State cannot be expected to do all the heavy lifting, especially given the Government’s substantial spending commitments to help the country through the lockdown and beyond. Instead, it must be businesses that take the lead, especially SMEs who have traditionally made up the “long tail” of unproductive companies.

Rather than a safety-first approach of hoarding cash, postponing investment and hunkering down, businesses must be incentivised to invest more in the coming months. This must be an economic recovery powered by bold investment decisions that create jobs, upgrade technology and boost productivity.

The dampening effect on capital expenditure (capex) and investment caused by Coronavirus is already large and destructive. One investment bank estimates that £23 billion has been slashed from this year’s capex budgets already, whilst the Bank of England predicts a 26 per cent drop in business investment for 2020. In 2009, as the financial crisis erupted, the fall was 16 per cent by comparison. Some of the country’s biggest employers such as BP and HSBC have already started cutting investment.

In practice this means IT systems and software – now at the heart of every business – being used for longer. Machines normally replaced every decade will have their life extended. Trucks and vans will be allowed to age. Outdated buildings that offer no room for new employees will be kept on. Research and development (R&D) could stall.

Reductions in investment not only have negative consequences for our country’s GDP, jobs and productivity, it also damages our capacity for R&D and our reputation as a nation that innovates for the future – key to our leadership of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Reforming and adapting two existing incentive schemes – the Annual Investment Allowance and the R&D Tax Credit – would have a major impact in reversing this decline in business investment and productivity.

Introduce a new Annual Investment Allowance ceiling for green or digital investments

Capital allowances enable a business to deduct the cost of qualifying items from their profits, lowering their corporation tax bill. This incentivises investment in key productive goods from machines to laptops.

The Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) is the annual cap on such deductions and its level has varied dramatically in recent years from £25,000 in 2012 to £500,000 in 2015. Until December 2018, the AIA was £200,000 but it was raised to its current £1M level from January 2019. The £1 million level is due to expire this December.

To encourage a green recovery and investments that focus on digitisation, the AIA could be allowed to fall back to the previous £200,000 ceiling, except for certain types of capital expenditure that achieve environmental or digital goals which would still benefit from the £1 million special ceiling. Replacing a diesel-powered machine on the factory floor with one powered by electricity, or digitising a production line by adding new software powered by artificial intelligence (AI), could be examples of investment that would be rewarded by the new special AIA ceiling.

Alongside the introduction of a special £1 million ceiling, the scope of what can be claimed through capital allowances should also be expanded to take account of the growing digital dimensions of every business. For example, digital tools purchased on a subscription basis (such as monthly website hosting costs) should benefit from relief not just one-off investments in physical goods (such as buying a new machine).

Increase R&D tax relief rates for SMEs and widen the scope of the reliefs

R&D tax reliefs support companies that work on innovative projects in science and technology, and enables the cost of qualifying projects to be reclaimed from HMRC. They’re especially effective for digital start-ups, who get a tax break and much needed cashflow back for critical work.

From April this year the relief rate is 13 per cent, but the lion’s share of R&D tax relief is claimed by large, research-intensive businesses. SMEs can currently claim up to 14.5 per cent in certain circumstances, but incremental increases such as this do not have a dramatic effect on investment appetite.

Often the most cutting-edge innovation, especially in the digital sphere, is carried out by small teams and growing start-ups – not just multinationals. To encourage more micro businesses and SMEs to pursue more R&D, new and much higher rates of relief should be introduced. For example, a rate of 25 per cent for SMEs with fewer than 150 employees, and 35 per cent for SMEs with fewer than 50 employees.

What qualifies for relief must also be broadened to include more of the digital tools that software developers use, including software testing tools and data analytics software. In addition, cloud storage fees, user experience development work and the cost of buying data sets needed to train algorithms for AI-driven start-ups should also be tax deductible.

Britain is currently 19th out of the 37 industrialised nations in the OECD when it comes to R&D investment, spending 1.7 per cent of GDP against the OECD average of 2.4 per cent. To match world leaders including Germany and Japan, who invest over three per cent, we must urgently update and expand our R&D tax relief regime.

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

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

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.

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

Sunder Katwala: Race and age. To older Britons, the pace of progress seems swift. To younger ones, frustratingly slow.

Sunder Katwala is the Director of British Future.

What do we talk about when we talk about race? Policing and crime. Coronavirus and health. Education and Jobs. Discrimination and racism. Immigration and Integration. National identity. History – and statues.

Statues, mostly, is where the wheel of fortune has landed for now. So I fully support both Boris Johnson and David Lammy in wanting to keep Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square. The sole difficulty has been tracking down anybody to argue that against. My own anecdotal twitter experiment, canvassing non-white views specifically, got two tweets in favour of removing it among about a hundred against. As the Prime Minister said, announcing his new Commission on inequalities, it is time to move from symbols to substance.

The story of race in Britain can be very subjective. Eight million of us have different experiences of being not white in Britain. Half of us were born here, the children or now grandchildren of those who came as migrants, with markedly different experiences – by generation and gender, by geography, social class and ethnic group.

We are each shaped by our own lives. My parents came here from India and Ireland. Growing up Irish Catholic, with an Indian name, in 1980s Merseyside, I was quite likely to take some interest in history, and to follow football as well as cricket, but to be sceptical of a “community of communities” multiculturalism which hoped to slot us all into neat and tidy federated boxes.

So my lived experience is mostly of the retreat of racism and how opportunities opened up. My 14-year-old self, an Everton season ticket holder introduced to anti-racist causes by monkey chants in the stadium, would be glad to hear that racist incidents at big matches today are rare enough to merit shocked analysis on Match of the Day. When I left university, there were very few black or Asian faces in public life, outside sport and a few popular newsreaders. I cast my first vote, in 1992, for a parliament with six ethnic minority MPs out of 650 – so the shift from one in 100 non-white MPs to one in 10 seems a big deal to me.

There had never been an ethnic minority Cabinet minister in Britain before this century began. How surprising it now seems that there had not yet been a single Asian woman in the Commons, nor any Asian Cabinet minister, until 2010 now that British Asian Chancellors and Home Secretaries seem as frequent as London buses.

Yet I also experience direct racist abuse more often now – on social media – as the Internet takes the effort out of being a racist troll.

Experiences vary, however. If I felt less defined by my surname at work in this century than in the school playground in the last, British Muslim friends often felt the opposite: that 9/11 or 7/7 saw them viewed predominantly through the lens of their faith. The Black Lives Matter protests put the specific black British experience under the spotlight, reflecting distinct patterns of opportunity and disadvantage across different minority groups.

A striking generational paradox emerges in British Future’s research, talking to people about race. Young adults, aged 18-24, undoubtedly hold the strongest norms against prejudice or discrimination that this country has ever seen. Yet younger black and Asian participants, and their white peers too, were much less likely than older generations to think that any progress was being made.

That there has been progress over time, and that Britain has a comparatively good record on race, are the mainstream right’s two favourite arguments about race. Those are broadly accurate arguments. The blind spot can be in understanding when they may not seem relevant.

Britain certainly has the strongest framework on race policy in western Europe. Yet it would be hard to set a lower bar. The overwhelmingly white EU institutions seem allergic to discussing race. Britain and Ireland are unusual in western Europe in even collecting ethnicity data. Emmanuel Macron has pledged to act on racial inequality – but would need to change the law to investigate it properly. Britain’s race disparity audit would be illegal in France.

But these comparative arguments can be especially tone deaf if used to contest lived experience.  If I am a young graduate in Manchester, wondering if I will get a similar number of job interviews as my classmates, despite my ethnic surname or headscarf, the hypothesis that I might face more discrimination in Marseilles or Budapest would seem especially irrelevant.

Twenty-somethings have little interest in history lessons about the “bad old days” before they were even born. Who would expect the Stormzy generation to express gratitude at being less likely to get beaten up by NF thugs? Their birthright expectation is that the equal opportunities of which every Prime Minister speaks should have become a reality by now.

Evidence should matter in policy-making – but politics is always about identity and emotions too. David Goodhart sets out how there has been significant, though incomplete, progress for a growing black middle-class. But the framing of “facts versus feelings” won’t work for the liberal right on race any better than it has for the liberal-left on immigration.

It is because race is about feelings and facts that our public conversation about race often struggles to bridge the divide between those – particularly older, white Britons – for whom the pace of rising diversity has felt pretty fast, and the young black perspective that our journey to equal opportunities remains frustratingly slow.

Even the labels we use to talk about race shift across generations too. I never called myself black. I might have done, if I had gone to university in the 1970s rather than the 1990s. Black voices of an earlier generation would sometimes still tell me that I should. “Mixed race, mixed race, what’s all this mixed race nonsense, boy? If you’re not white, you’re black”, the late Darcus Howe told me in 2012, as we prepared to talk about some race Twitterstorm on Newsnight. Had I belatedly taken his advice then, I might be asked to drop that label now.

“We assure you that all organisers of BLM UK are Black (not politically black)”, says a statement of the Black Lives Matter (UK) organisers.  So the new Black movement politics also brings an era of the old black politics to a close.  Yet those who have turned up to Black Lives Matter events in both the US and the UK capture that these are also distinctively more cross-racial protests.

They come from a generation impatient if the story of incremental progress does not focus mostly on what still needs to change. Rishi Sunak’s response, making the case for patient gradualism, exemplifies the challenges of navigating that.

This moment is undoubtedly a challenge to the significant racial disparities that remain in our society. It is a product, too, of ethnic minorities having more presence, more voice and potentially more power in British society than ever before.  Things did change for the better on race in Britain. The next challenge is that expectations rose faster still.

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

Ben Roback: Why America’s election may turn on jobs, immigration, abortion and China – not race, policing, justice and riots

Ben Roback is Head of Trade and International Policy at Cicero Group.

General elections are won and lost on the political and societal dividing lines of the day. Recall our own 2019 election which was undoubtedly won by the Conservatives because of Brexit.

The 2017 election, famously, was intended to, but didn’t. A campaign intended to re-elect a ‘strong and stable’ leader on a platform to deliver the Brexit vision she had negotiated became derailed by a fateful domestic policy on social care. An intended Brexit election became a ‘dementia tax’ election in a matter of days. Theresa May was returned to office, but was hardly in power. She could struggle on for not much longer.

The 1968 presidential election in the United States became a ‘law and order’ election, steered by Richard Nixon. But the context that cast a long shadow over the campaign beforehand was the Vietnam War, since 1968 was the year in which US troop numbers peaked after Lyndon Johnson increased boots on the ground to over half a million.

Not only that; 1968 became the most expensive and deadliest year in the war for the United States. Societal tensions reached boiling point over the King and Kennedy’s assassinations, whilst the civil rights movement proved powerful.

So listen carefully to part of Nixon’s acceptance speech at the 1968 Republican convention:

“For a few moments, let us look at America. Let us listen to America to find the answer to that question. As we look at America, we see cities enveloped in smoke and flames. We hear sirens in the night. We see Americans dying on distant battlefields abroad. We see Americans hating each other, fighting each other, killing each other at home. And as we see and hear these things, millions of Americans cry out in anguish ‘did we come all this way for this?’ “

There are easily identifiable parallels between 1968 and 2020, and not just because Donald Trump has declared himself the “law and order” choice for Americans.

In the current climate of political and societal activism in America, it might well be “the quiet voice in the tumult of the shouting, the non-shouters, the non-demonstrators” which, Nixon later referred to in that speech, which decide the coming election. Indeed, Trump often refers to the “silent majority” which he considers his natural supporters and allies.

This is not to discount the widespread presence of progressive protests in cities and states across the length and breadth of America – this is not a movement hidden in the safe Democratic enclaves of California and New York. Protests demanding police reform and a fairer, more just society for African Americans and people of colour have gripped such Republican strongholds as Missouri and Mississippi, even though much of the political and media attention has been fixed on the liberal cities of Seattle and Washington DC.

Less than five months before the presidential election, if these protest movements can transition from marches and placards to voter turnout mobilisation, then traditionally red states could suddenly be within Joe Biden’s reach. In theory.

It is incumbent on Biden to be the voice of change, and the man to carry the message of the protesters from the streets to the White House. So far, he has struggled. The former Vice President told a popular radio host that anyone struggling to decide whether to support him or Trump in the general election “ain’t black.” The Trump campaign seized on the remarks, reminding voters of Biden’s support in passing the 1994 crime bill. An apology followed.

In seeking to reinvigorate his campaign, Biden will host a grassroots fundraiser with Barack Obama next week. Getting the old band back together will, the Biden campaign hopes, get his electoral message back on track. The current national spotlight on race relations makes Biden a natural ally for the protestors, but the associated arguments around defunding the police mean he risks being painted as being soft on crime – an argument the President is keenly making on Twitter.

Trump’s strength in 2016 was that he was an outsider. In 2020, as the incumbent, he cannot use American disunity against his opponent quite as easily. In 1968, Nixon was able to tie his opponent to the existing chaos because Hubert Humphrey was the sitting Vice-President. Campaigning alongside Obama will remind Americans that Biden was himself recently vice president – and so is hardly the voice of change, as a career politician.

And so, to Nixon

The 2020 election might well be cast under the familiar shadow that Nixon described in that Miami convention speech. American cities have indeed been enveloped in smoke and flames. Sirens have sounded long into the night. American troops are still dying on distant battlefields abroad, despite the commitment of successive presidents to return them home. Americans continue to hate, fight and kill each other. As in 1968, Americans might wonder again in 2020: ‘Did we come all this way for this?’.

The outcome of the election therefore becomes difficult to forecast, because the terms on which it will be won and lost remain in flux. For successive weeks since George Floyd’s death, the dominant political conversation has been about race relations and police reform.

Trump has shown a rare flash of flexibility in signing a police reform executive order, breaking a hitherto narrow commitment to law enforcement around the country.

With the tap of a Tweet or an unexpected policy announcement, the President has the ability to suddenly shift the spotlight onto an issue of his choosing. Building a wall on the US-Mexico border is an ace card that the President has reached for in times of need previously. An entrenching of the White House’s hawkish approach to China is never far away.

Whereas Trump has the White House podium, 82 million Twitter followers and a 24-hour news cycle that always needs something to discuss to amplify his message, Biden has far fewer tools in his arsenal.

Were the election to be fought tomorrow, we might reasonably expect it to be won and lost on the candidates’ record and responses to race relations, police reform and Covid-19. But that is not to say that the major diving lines come the autumn won’t be foreign election interference, immigration, unemployment and abortion.

Trump is the more skilled communicator in both dictating the terms of the conversation and then delivering a message. The question will be whether or not those terms are favourable to his campaign come November.

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

Darren Grimes: Since we must use coal, why import it all – when we could instead create jobs by mining it in the North-East?

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

“The screen behind shows where Britain is getting its energy from right now,” explained Natasa Dinic from the National Grid in a recent BBC News segment that triumphantly celebrated the UK going cold turkey from coal for two months.

“Why would you burn coal?” the BBC presenter claimed, when “you can get electricity from these” – and the shot changing to panoramic film of wind turbines. However, a quick rewind to a list displayed in the previous interview at the National Grid reveals that wind actually powered a paltry 1.7 per cent of our grid, with almost 80 per cent coming from gas and nuclear power.

But the central point remains. The UK has gone two months without coal in the energy mix all, and both Labour and the Conservatives are jubilant. So why, Darren, you might ask, why are you about to argue that we still need it?

Coal use in UK electricity generation will come to an end by 2024 – that’s set in law. This is achievable because of practical, lower emission alternatives that can be deployed at the necessary scale, such as gas and nuclear, and not the BBC’s hot air about wind. However, this doesn’t tell us the full story.

While it is true that coal will soon no longer be part of our electricity generation, it still makes general, economic and environmental sense to obtain the coal needed for a range of crucial industrial needs by mining it here at home.

There’s a massive domestic demand for coal in such industries as steel, cement, the UK’s heritage railways and even for the heating of rural homes. Going forward, once all coal-fired generation ceases, it’s estimated that the UK will still need around five million tonnes for these industries every year.

I come from an ex-mining village in County Durham; coal and community runs through my family tree. My grandad and his dad before him mined coal. Grandad had arthritis, respiratory problems and couldn’t fully extend his arm thanks to his years down the pit. It would have been unthinkable for him to see his offspring go through what he had to, but such are, thankfully, no longer the working conditions for hardworking lads and lasses working in the industry in the North East today.

Surface mining is a much cleaner and safer operation to extract the coal that we still need. It’s a process that’s complete with restoration and regeneration projects, represents a boost for the local economy and is a world away from the dust-ridden and unsafe practices that my great-grandad once endured.

That’s why I am incensed by moves that would see these high-skill, high-wage jobs in extracting that coal that we need here at home, exported elsewhere – especially when it’s to the likes of Russia.

When you consider that our Prime Minister has never met a bridge he doesn’t like and, with the levelling-up agenda that he’s promised to communities like mine (that gave him his 80-seat majority), the UK is going to require a lot of coal to produce the necessary steel and cement.

Coal that without the means of having a local coal source, you’d have to import and ship in a very costly way – likely from halfway around the world. Take HS2; the government reckons that an estimated 2,000,000 tones of steel will be needed. To produce that amount of steel, 1.6 million tonnes of coal would be required. Does it make sense to import this coal from the Russian bear, thousands of miles away from our shores?

The stats are stark. In 2018, just to transport 4.7million tonnes of Russian coal was equivalent to a whopping 130 jumbo jets whizzing, non-stop, around the globe for an entire year. It’s enough to make even Hollywood-greenie Emma Thompson blush, who famously flew 5,400 miles from LA to London to show how green she was at an Extinction Rebellion protest last year.

I’m surely not alone in believing it ridiculous to propose forgoing high-skill, high wage jobs here at home, which would enable us to remove thousands of carbon-miles out of the levelling-up process, only to export them overseas. But that, regrettably, is precisely what the government looks set to endorse.

There is a proposed open cast mining site, the Highthorn scheme, that would see Banks Mining create at least 100 well-paid, full-time jobs on a site in Northumberland. The Government is currently opposing this plan, which would invest £87 million into the local economy.

It would also keep a total of £200 million within the UK economy, by ensuring we can do without the importation of three million tonnes of coal from international suppliers, as well as supply chain contracts worth an estimated £48 million to local businesses. These are all impressive feats that Banks Group have already pulled off at other sites.

The North East employer put forward the scheme that was recommended for approval by Northumberland County Council and the Government-appointed Planning Inspectorate. This was then rejected in 2017 by the then Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, disregarding the planning inspector’s decision for the scheme to go ahead.

Banks Group appealed the decision. After presiding over a two-day hearing, the Judge did not hold back. Mr Justice Ouseley found in favour of Banks Mining on all of the bases on which the challenge was lodged, describing Javid’s rejection of the planning inspector’s findings as ‘significantly inadequate.’

Despite this, the scheme is yet to get the go-ahead. Meanwhile, we continue to import our coal from bad-faith actors on the international stage. The greenhouse gas emissions directly linked to the transportation of these imports, from Russia to UK consumers, are five to seven times higher than transporting coal mined here at home.

Mining the coal we need in the UK massively cuts greenhouse gases, offers an immediate boost to the levelling-up agenda, is all done under UK safety, employment and environmental standards (do you reckon you can say the same thing about that mined in Russia?), and the carbon emissions saving from not having to transport this coal from Russia is equivalent to covering an area the size of Newcastle upon Tyne in trees.

Our politicians can celebrate the fact that the national grid has gone two months without coal, but they can show that they care about the North East, and reduce the UK’s carbon footprint, by reversing the lunacy of denying jobs in a region desperate for them – all in a futile attempt to appease the likes of the privileged prats in Extinction Rebellion.

The North East doesn’t want state handouts or meaningless slogans; it wants jobs, opportunities and transport links. The Government will be sending the wrong message entirely to these new voters if it makes clear that, by destroying potentially high-wage, high-skill jobs in coal extraction, the first casualty of its asphyxiating net-zero by 2050 target will be them.

Prime Minister, voters in the North East have placed their trust in you; do not let our lads and lasses down.

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

Ray O’Rourke: A technological revolution is underway in construction. Here’s how the Government can speed it up.

Ray O’Rourke KBE is founder and CEO of Laing O’Rourke.

Times of great challenge can lead to great change. As ever-larger parts of our economy reopen and we focus as a nation on a return to economic growth, now is a moment to seize the opportunity for transformational change in how we do things.

A strong construction industry will be the foundation of our economic recovery, using highly-skilled workers to build the modern hospitals, schools, homes, offices and transport networks we need. The Government rightly enabled construction sites to stay open – with appropriate protections in place – throughout the lockdown and is now looking at how to bring new projects forward. For an industry that employs almost three million people and supports hundreds of thousands of UK companies this support has been essential. 

Yet it won’t be enough on its own to get this vital sector back to full health, not least because we have yet to address a fundamental structural problem at the heart of how we build things in this country.

At the moment most construction in this country is still done in a way that the Victorians would recognise – by hand, brick by brick, out on site come rain or shine.

Unlike almost every other sector, construction has yet to update how it works and take full advantage of advances in technology. Now we need to change that.

In April, Laing O’Rourke completed work on several sections of The Grange University Hospital in Gwent, South Wales, allowing a large part of the hospital to open more than a year ahead of schedule.

This early delivery of critical bed-space was at the request of the Health Board, allowing them to have additional beds and wards available as part of their Covid-19 plans. A hospital build that was originally planned to take four years will be completed in two and a half, even factoring in a global pandemic and lockdown.

This has been made possible because the hospital was designed and built using what’s called Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) or what we at Laing O’Rourke pioneered through Design for Manufacture and Construction (DfMA). Both exteriors and interiors were built in sections at our specialist factory in Nottinghamshire and then precision assembled on site. As a result, it was already well ahead of schedule before the Covid-19 crisis, allowing us to hand over large parts early when asked.

Our MMC factory in Bassetlaw is Europe’s most automated precast concrete products facility and since it began production in 2009, it has helped build 240 UK projects ranging from schools, hospitals and rail and road bridges, to residential and commercial developments.

Using this high-tech approach means that 70 per cent of construction on a project now takes place offsite, leading to a huge 60 per cent increase in productivity and a 30 per cent reduction in build time. Importantly, it creates long-term, well-paid, high-skilled and inclusive jobs permanently located in communities across the UK. For much of our workforce, it means they work in the same location day-in, day-out, living at home with their families rather than having to spend months away from home wherever the work is.

It means that, despite many large construction projects still being concentrated in London and the South East, the jobs associated with those projects can be in communities across the Midlands and North of England, with a network of regional production facilities. As the Government seeks to level up investment, new projects in the North and Midlands could be delivered in record time.  

Prior to Covid-19, this Government was rightly focused on investing in our dated and creaking infrastructure and our sector felt on the cusp of a phase of growth. We now need to ensure that this growth still happens and that it is the underpinning of a much overdue transformation of this industry. 

The industry will have to make very substantial investment to achieve this change and to do so there must be a partnership with Government and public authorities. There are three priorities we see that could make a substantial difference.

First, the Government should – as is already being discussed – accelerate the start of those projects which it has already started to commission, getting money flowing into the industry and the supply chain at this crucial time.

Second, the Government and public authorities across the country should improve their own development pipelines – showing the industry the projects they are committed to long-term, persuading lenders that there is a viable pipeline to support their investment.

And finally, it is imperative that the Government now delivers on the commitment it made to prioritise offsite construction in its own procurement. In November 2017 the Government announced a presumption in favour of offsite building with the MoD, DfE, DHSC, DoJ and DfT committing to prioritise tenders with offsite construction components.

But in October 2019 it transpired that not a single health, transport or defence project with any offsite component had been procured in the first eight months of 2019, while the MoJ had awarded only one. DfE had done better with 22. But MHCLG – despite housebuilding being such a huge priority – was notably absent from the list of departments committed to offsite construction.

If the Government wants the country’s regeneration to be as efficient as possible this has to change and this year’s Comprehensive Spending Review provides an ideal opportunity for the Treasury and Number 10 to ensure that this commitment is made across every part of Government. Then put the onus on us to deliver.

At Laing O’Rourke we are excited about the part we can play with our industry in rebuilding this country’s economy and at the same time transform how we rebuild Britain. We look forward to partnering with the Government to do so.

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

Graham Brady: As it stands, the quarantine plan won’t work, will wreck holidays, damage aviation – and lose jobs

Sir Graham Brady is Chairman of the 1922 Committee and is MP for Altrincham and Sale West.

Just as the Government’s focus starts to shift from handling the acute phase of the Covid-19 crisis towards what needs to be done to ensure that all those furloughed millions have jobs to return to, the quarantine policy threatens to do enormous damage.

It would deter the vast majority of people from flying to and from the United Kingdom, leaving airlines unable to fly near-empty aircraft economically; it would place hundreds of thousands of jobs in jeopardy and would cut Global Britain off from global markets.

For what? I wouldn’t have a problem with quarantine if it was attached to a real, identified risk. Passengers flying from a coronavirus hotspot could be required to quarantine and to take the necessary tests, but a blanket quarantine that includes the countries that have very low rates of infection would make no sense at all.

When the Government sets out its plans, it should at the same time either announce a number of countries that are considered safe: which could be included in ‘air bridges’ with exemption from the new measures, or at least set out the criteria on which such exemptions will be based.

Failure to give sufficient clarity about how and where restriction-free flights can take place will push many parts of an aviation sector that has already been hit harder than most into some very rapid decisions: job cuts and routes that won’t reopen this year.

Announcing those crucial details a week or two after the announcement would be too late for many, because the airlines need a significant lead time to get their planes and staff in the right places in order to reopen routes. If what looked like a well-informed leak to the Guardian yesterday morning proves to be accurate, this damage would be caused by something that might not even be recognisable as quarantine. The freedom to use public transport and to go out for your grocery shopping might suggest that no-one really thinks that high-risk individuals are involved here.

There are other ways of ensuring safety. Dubai and Austria are amongst those countries which are basing their strategy of reopening air travel on testing passengers. This option should be explored rapidly for Britain. In the UK, the Aviation Health Expert Panel has produced comprehensive recommendations for the safe resumption of air travel too.

So if quarantine is introduced, it should be as narrowly defined as possible. Ideally there should be a short list of destinations that are deemed to be high risk, rather than a short list of ‘air bridge’ exemptions. The criteria for exemption should be clearly announced, and any list of exempt destinations should be reviewed frequently against them.

After a difficult, often tragic few months, many people will feel that a summer break is vital therapy for them, young people who have been locked-down with Mum and Dad might need a break for their mental health; couples who have been apart will want to make up lost time and emergency workers who have been hard at work throughout the crisis might like to take a break too.

But this is about so much more than summer holidays. It is about a million jobs directly employed in aviation. It is about the businesses that depend on the ‘belly hold’ freight of passenger aircraft to carry their high value exports. It is about the network of international connections that can bring us the medicines that we need.

At a time when there is a danger that the UK might have ended lockdown and got back to work later than many of our competitors, it is, crucially, about making sure that our businesses are out there winning contracts, not sitting in quarantine while others corner the world’s markets.

As Britain goes back to work, moving on from being urged to ‘work from home if possible’ towards an assumption that people should go to work as long as their workplace is safe to go to, it would be a sad irony if we chose to shut down the international connectivity on which so much of our prosperity depends. This is exactly the time when we need to be telling the world that Britain is open for business – not a time for putting unnecessary obstacles in the way.

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