Tania Mathias: Social care reform should be Johnson’s legacy as much as Brexit

6 Jul

Tania Mathias is an NHS doctor and former MP for Twickenham.

At the weekend Sir Simon Stevens deftly moved away from the problems during the current pandemic – that have led to NHS doctors protesting outside Downing Street, fears about the lack of PPE, and the paucity of testing – by commenting on the much needed reform of social care which had been highlighted well before SARS-CoV-2 had reached its human host.

Many clapped for the NHS at five o’clock on Sunday. Next year, if we have had progress in medical and social care integration, it could be a clap for NHSCARE.

Theresa May’s manifesto in 2017 addressed the need for social care reform, and we have had a Green Paper promised ever since. Now is a perfect rainbow: we need more people opting to work in the social care sector, and many people in retail and hospitality are facing the need to re-train and look for other jobs. If we can ride the wave of respect and current attention on the NHS, we can direct people seeking work to the care sector.

This year is the opportunity to give more status – financially and culturally – to jobs involving person-to-person care. Several Cabinet Ministers have spoken about the challenge of the fourth industrial revolution. High tech jobs are a dominant need in our society yet the often missed need is the “high touch” or empathetic jobs that are needed yet no artificial intelligence can mimic.

People do not need to have a calling or a vocation to be able to look after another human being who is in need of personal care. The new Job Centre mentors need to look to filling care jobs that also have a career structure to help the thousands of people who suddenly find themselves unemployed.

The Cavendish report addressed the need for a better career structure for care workers. Indeed, better training may have saved lives during this first pandemic peak. For example, who saw the images of the fire brigade workers training care workers how to put on PPE and wondered shouldn’t the care worker being the one to teach the fire brigade how to do this?

Care has been an overlooked career but now is a rainbow opportunity to bring a range of people from different life and job experiences into the care sector to fill vacancies. Instead of furlough, the Government could be subsidising the wages for people entering the care sector.

Longer term the Government could be encouraging companies to give their skills to the care sector. The Territorial Army is a template and now we have a chance to move some of the COVID-19 volunteers into a NHSCARE army, or rather NHSCARE family.

Sir Simon Stevens referenced Beveridge’s five evils. And I am told Margaret Thatcher kept a copy of Beveridge’s report in her famous handbag. I don’t care if that latter anecdote is true or not: the point is Thatcher cared deeply about the end to want, disease, ignorance squalor and idleness. A boost in recruitment in the care sector can address several of these issues at once.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s term of office was expected to be dominated by Brexit. A greater legacy will be a care sector fit for the next 72 years and integrated with a stronger NHS – the birth of NHSCARE. Thatcher would be proud methinks.

The arts bailout: a reminder not to underestimate Dowden

6 Jul

In recent weeks, it’s fair to say that Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, hasn’t been particularly popular with the arts sector. After the industry was badly affected by the Coronavirus crisis and the mass closures of theatres, cinemas and the rest, many accused him of not doing enough.

Indeed, when he announced a five-stage roadmap to help businesses recover, people took this as evidence of a man who’s all talk and no action. “If you and your government have no desire to invest in and save theatre, then you should at least announce that decision as soon as possible”, posted one individual on Twitter, very much encompassing the general attitude.

With that being said, yesterday the culture secretary forced everyone to reconsider their perceptions of him after he managed to negotiate £1.57 million in funding for the industry. As The Times put it: “The phrase ‘from zero to hero’ may be overused, but what better words describe Oliver Dowden today?” It was an achievement that will not only transform the future of the arts sector, but that of Dowden within the political sphere, who is experiencing his first real arrival on the public stage – the same way Rishi Sunak did when appointed Chancellor.

Dowden’s announcement speaks, first, of his ability as a PR man. Despite the fact that Sunak is announcing a series of measures on Wednesday – including stamp duty scrapped for first-time buyers and an investment in green jobs – the culture secretary managed to get his own statement a centre stage slot over the weekend.

The announcement is not only impressive in its pledges – which includes £120 million capital infrastructure and for heritage construction projects in England, among others – but the list of illustrious names who’ve added their support to it, such as Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sir Simon Rattle and Alex Beard, the Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House.

There’s also the fact, of course, that Dowden negotiated such an enormous bailout in the first place. It indicates that he has great influence in Downing Street, which he’s been developing for years, having started out as a specialist adviser and as David Cameron’s deputy chief of staff. Now the political networking is paying off.

Although the package is not perfect – there have been complaints about whether it can support smaller venues and freelancers – it has received an overwhelmingly positive response. It is a real vindication that we have been listened to“, Kwame Kwei-Armah, artistic director of the Young Vic, told Times Radio; Sir Nicholas Hytner, once Artistic Director of the National Theatre, said it was a better plan than anyone expected.

Throughout the Coronavirus crisis, Dowden has pledged to sort out an investment for the arts – even if no one believed him – so the fact that he has not so much succeeded, but exceeded all expectations, bodes well for his future in the party – though not perhaps for the BBC, which he has previously argued needs an ideological shake-up. And, as Sunday’s news shows, Dowden is a man who means business. 

Roderick Crawford: We have interests in the rest of Europe, but must be free to run our own foreign policy

6 Jul

Roderick Crawford works on conflict resolution in countries such as Yemen, South Sudan and Iraq, and on Brexit-related matters. He is a former editor of Parliamentary Brief.

One could be forgiven a sense of déjà vu as we enter the second round of accelerated talks, this time in London. The high hopes of breakthrough at the start of last week’s talks were dashed as they broke up on Thursday last. The same sticking points remain: the legal structure of the agreement, level playing field commitments, including state aid, and of course fisheries. Specific details have not been released, so it is hard to comment on why the progress on getting agreement on underlying principles has failed to materialise.

Though working through the underlying principles of the agreement should help identify where the barriers to agreement lie, a look at the overarching principles of the negotiating positions of the two parties may throw better light on the lack of progress.

Last month, Der Spiegel ran an interview with the Anglophile former German Ambassador in London, Peter Wittig; he provided a revealing glimpse into the EU’s perspective on the negotiations. Asked whether, in effect, the EU should accept a hard Brexit and let the UK go, he says, no:

‘We should continue to endeavour to tie Britain as closely as possible to the European Union. Europe can only survive in the competition between the USA and China if it is strong and united. I always thought it was good that the Federal Government was the voice of pragmatic reason in all these difficult negotiation phases. I advise everyone not to think about the short-term effect, but to keep a strategic eye on where Europe should be in five, ten or 15 years.’

The quote is interesting because it is part of an intra-German conversation from a friend of the UK expressing pragmatic views on the big picture in which Brexit sits. While the UK has been caught up in its own arguments and political storms – and of course running ourselves down – we have lost sight of the impact of Brexit on the EU: it has been considerable.

The EU has lost its only global city, its only global finance centre, its most dynamic services economy, 12 per cent of its consumers – more when weighted for income – and its only universities ranked in the world’s top ten. It has lost a major pillar of good governance (the UK was a consistent upholder of the EU’s rules-based system) and a source of sound counsel.

As the EU looks to develop its common foreign policy and defence co-operation, it does so now from a far weaker base. The UK was one of two EU permanent members of the UN Security Council, one of two nuclear powers.

It had the only blue-water navy capable of working with the US; China has just achieved a two aircraft carrier capability – the UK will soon be there, too. It has a battle-tested professional army and air force. The UK alone had the capability of power projection across the world – albeit with limitations – and the will to do so. The Foreign Office, despite its shortcomings, is still world class and the UK’s influence is, arguably, stronger across the world than any single EU member state.

The EU is diminished, while the fault lines on which it sits become more unstable. To its east, Russia is reviving in confidence as its actions in Ukraine, Syria, and its challenges to the West demonstrate. Turkey has become a regional player, outside of the NATO fold, and looks to a future untied to the EU. The Middle East and North Africa are unstable, and a source of potential and probable mass migration to the EU driven by demographics, economic and political failures and climate change.

The UK looks out across the North Sea to Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands, and across the Channel to Belgium and France; to our west lie the USA and Canada. It is an envious position to be in, though not one deserving of complacency: we still want a secure and stable EU. We are committed to the peace and security of Europe through NATO; in these respects, our interests and obligation in NATO, we are tied in.

One of the problems in the current negotiations is that the EU has re-written history to build up its own role in keeping the peace of the last half century. One of its foundational myths is that it has been the EU that has kept the peace in Europe. It even claims responsibility for the Belfast Agreement.

But its claims to success are absent of evidence. It is the transatlantic partnership that has kept the peace in Europe; it was the Northern Irish, London and Dublin – with US support – who brought about the Belfast Agreement. The EU forgets its role in the break up of Yugoslavia, and the subsequent wars and civil wars ended only with US engagement. Its diplomatic bungle over Kosovo, when it resurrected the July 1914 ultimatum to Serbia, ended likewise – and at great cost in civilian lives. The EU has not kept the peace in Europe.

The EU’s ambitious partnership proposal is overly ambitious, based as it is on inflated ideas of its own story and present capability; the ideas of uniquely shared values and interests ignore that they are shared with the English-speaking world and beyond. When the myth is removed, and the reality of the EU’s position is seen — its risk levels, its lack of investment in NATO and its own level of defence preparedness, and its poor relations with its neighbours — it is hardly an attractive partner; more of a liability.

The EU, quite understandably, wants the UK as closely tied in as possible to its defence and foreign policy (and economy). The UK, quite understandably, does not. Present commitments through NATO provide sufficient security to the EU’s members and help balance much, though not all, of their security concerns. The UK will do more, through co-operation bilaterally with members and freely alongside the EU too.

The EU and UK can co-operate to secure shared interests, but ultimately, though the UK wants a stable and secure EU and stability and security for its member states, there are differences in interests. The UK must be free to run its own foreign policy, champion alliances that may take precedence over that with the EU and policies that the EU will oppose — even the freedom to support member state interests against those of the EU institutions. It cannot be tied-in to a punitive governance structure to prevent it exercising such choices.

The overarching principles of the EU and the UK as regards governance of the future relationship are in conflict — we can’t be tied-in and free simultaneously; papering over the differences would breed confusion and likely lead to fresh upsets in the future. The UK cannot afford to accept a single overarching governance structure or claims upon it in the field of the EU’s common foreign policy and defence.

Howard Flight: High streets, air travel, restaurants, the arts. How the virus is transforming our lifestyle.

6 Jul

It is becoming clear that the Covid-l9 crisis will lead to substantial changes in the British lifestyle.

First of all, a significant part of the workforce will be working from home on line. People have learnt from current experience that board and other meetings can be conducted quite satisfactorily on Zoom or Teams.  Employees will not need to travel, at great expense in discomfort with no seats, and can live away from London and the South East, where good houses are cheaper.

The knock on effects of Zoom and Teams are also going to reduce the demand for office space in London and other major cities.  Office space could be converted into residential use – so reducing the cost of residential property.  Much of the massive increase in office space over the last three years may end up to being converted into accommodation.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS)  has found some surprising results from its recent surveys.  The impact of lockdown on people’s lives has been revealed in official figures, showing that more than a quarter are considering changes to their relationships (divorce), job or home.

For the first time, the ONS has focused on aspects of life that are the cause of unhappiness.  Big life changes after recovery from the Coronavarius are being planned by 28 per cent of adults and, of these, 42 per cent want to make a change to their work; 38 per cent are looking to move on from relationships and 35 per cent are inclined to move home.  Family lawyers have already reported an increase in the number of divorce cases exacerbated by financial problems.

Researchers have also found that 40 per cent of adults feel that some parts of their lives have changed for the better. Of those who reported positive lifestyle changes, 56 per cent said they were able to spend more time with their family and close friends.  The ONS also found that nearly half of those aged between 60 and 69 had experienced positive lifestyle changes compared with only 24 per cent of respondents aged over 70. Exactly half said they were enjoying a slower pace of live.

It remains to be seen how many of these intentions will be carried through, albeit that a lot of people will need to change jobs as there  their previous jobs will no longer be available.

There are four related territories which are exposed to massive change for survival: the high street, travel, hospitality and culture.

The high street is still threatened by online shopping in an unfair tax regime.  The Government has permitted the online shopping industry to enjoy substantial tax advantages, undercutting the high street.  It pays no business rates and is maybe registered abroad, so saving on VAT and corporation tax.  What is needed overall is a level tax  playing field.

Travel is probably the biggest area effected by Covid-19.  The total value of cancelled flights amounts to £8 billion for the last four months.  Liability for this will be fought over for a long time to come, where there are now two key  legal principals – in the UK “Acts of God” and, imported from Europe, “Force majeure”.  The industry cannot afford to refund the £8 billion total, and it is governments that have insisted on the closure of air travel.

Restaurants, pubs and hotels have had mixed and an often interlinked experience – overall, a negative one caused by Government lockdown requirements.  Some opening up is now occurring, and local authorities are encouraging and supporting the provision out outside restaurant facilities There is an economic need for restaurants..

The territory which the Government has now announced a £1.5 billion package for us the performing arts.  The individual performers have had all their bookings cancelled, through to Christmas with no compensation and no future bookings.  It should be remembered that the arts contributes more to Britain’s international earnings, in aggregate, than does the City of London.

The Government seems to be waking up to the importance of Britain’s musical industry.  One of our friends who is an internationally recognised opera singer is trying to set up a major outdoor performance in Hyde Park, similar to the Pavarotti Concert over ten years ago.  This, however, will require the Government to provide the insurance cover against the risk of Covid-l9 infection.  There are three historic precedents where the Government had to put up such cover – and, ironically, made a good profit from so doing.

Maria Miller: Domestic abuse can stretch on for a lifetime. So why do we stop recording it after the age of 74?

6 Jul

Maria Miller is a former Culture Secretary, and is MP for Basingstoke.

We know that domestic abuse can affect anyone, of any gender, any ethnicity, whether you are disabled or non-disabled, and whatever your socio-economic background. Though we know it impacts some more than others – women, disabled people, or the LGBTQ community – age, especially older age, is rarely a consideration for decision makers working to protect and support victims and survivors.

We can see this in the fact that data collection on domestic abuse in the Crime Survey for England and Wales stops at the age of 74. Domestic abuse doesn’t go away with age, and older people can be especially vulnerable to different kinds of abuse, including abuse by a carer or financial abuse. But without any statistics for domestic abuse later life, there is a real possibility that older victims and survivors are missing out on vital help, support and protection.

Age UK tells us that, in 2019, 280,000 people aged between 60 to 74 experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales. Even more shockingly, this number has risen by 40 per cent in the last two years alone. Without the numbers on those over the age of 74, many more older people will be suffering in silence without the specialist support they need.

I am immensely proud of my Party for championing the Domestic Abuse Bill, a landmark piece of legislation which will benefit so many. But I do urge Ministers to make one simple change – to start recording data of victims and survivors over the age of 74. This will give us a clearer picture of domestic abuse in England and Wales. It will mean resources and support will be properly allocated, and no victim or survivor of domestic abuse will be disadvantaged purely because they are in later life.

This small change would mean that people like Hilda are able to access specialist services to help them out of the desperate situation they find themselves in. Hilda is in her 80s and has complex care needs due to Parkinson’s and diabetes. One of her daughters has recently moved in to care for her. This is admirable and something many of us wouldn’t think twice about.

However, Hilda’s family are wary of her daughter’s history of controlling behaviour, and have become concerned about her wellbeing in recent months: they fear she is being neglected and don’t know what to do. Hilda seems upset, but is unable to communicate this, since the daughter she lives with is restricting her contact with the rest of the family and insist that they are interfering when they try to help.

Hilda’s story highlights how complex domestic abuse can be, especially when there are issues around caring in later life. Her story also shows the significant barriers in the way of older people leaving abusive situations: the years of abuse they may have suffered; the long-term health conditions or disabilities they have; or their reliance on their abuser for their care or money.

Hilda’s family were able to contact the local safeguarding adults’ team at her local council, who were able to give advice. But there will be many more people out there, many more Hildas, older victims who don’t feel protected by the law and don’t have family to help. They are unrecorded and unable to access the right care and support to help them leave abusive situations.

It is a positive step for the country to be tackling domestic abuse head-on, and right for the Government to be providing more resources for victims and survivors. As the Domestic Abuse Bill passes through Parliament, I urge Ministers to make this one simple change: record victims and survivors over the age of 74. Domestic Abuse has no age limit, and neither should our understanding of it.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 999. National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247
Age UK Advice Line: 0800 678 1602

Newslinks for Monday 6th July 2020

6 Jul

Sunak 1) £1.5 billion bailout for struggling arts sector

“Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, has thrown a £1.5bn lifeline to Britain’s struggling theatres, music venues and museums, as he prepares to set out plans to avert a Covid-19 unemployment crisis. Mr Sunak accepted the argument made by Britain’s artistic leaders that the need for social distancing for the foreseeable future could devastate the cultural life of the country. The settlement, secured by culture secretary Oliver Dowden after weeks of detailed study of the problems facing the arts sector, includes £880m of grants for the financial year to April 2021. The money, to be shared out between theatres, music venues, heritage sites, museums, galleries and independent cinemas, will be supplemented by £270m of repayable loans.” – FT

Sunak 2) Plans being drawn up for stamp duty “holiday”

“Rishi Sunak has drawn up proposals to exempt most homebuyers from paying any stamp duty under plans to kick-start Britain’s economic recovery. The chancellor will reveal plans this week to lift the threshold at which people start paying stamp duty from £125,000 to as much as £500,000. The increase in the threshold, which is expected to be implemented in the autumn budget, is a temporary measure intended to stimulate the housing market. Mr Sunak will announce the plans on Wednesday as part of several measures to support the economy, including a temporary VAT cut for pubs, restaurants and cafés to help to protect 2.4 million jobs in the hospitality sector.” – The Times

  • £1,000 cash bonuses for companies to train young jobseekers – Daily Telegraph
  • Report co-authored by Neil O’Brien calls for “sweeping tax reform” – Shropshire Star
>Today:

Nick Timothy: Britain’s cosy establishment is the product of a dysfunctional political system

“Working in the Home Office after the riots in 2011, I took a phone call from one of David Cameron’s senior staffers. I was told it would be very helpful if Theresa May, then Home Secretary, could call certain named business leaders, as they were concerned about recovering the cost of damage to property they owned. Recognising the names as prominent Conservative supporters, I refused, and said the Home Secretary would deal with all businesses equally, irrespective of their political support. On another occasion, Conservative Campaign Headquarters hosted a lunch for party donors, and Mrs May was due to be the guest speaker. Perhaps a day before the event, we were sent a list of the donors who planned to attend.” – Daily Telegraph

Johnson claps for NHS on its 72nd birthday

“BORIS Johnson has joined millions of Brits to clap and cheer our NHS heroes today on the health service’s 72nd birthday. The PM stood beaming on the steps of No10 as he paid tribute to frontline workers and volunteers to commemorate their work fighting the coronavirus crisis. While a Spitfire with the message “Thank U NHS” painted on its underside took to the sky before flying over several NHS hospitals in the east of the country, finishing over Cambridge. Second World War veteran and NHS fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore joined the applause from his home in a video he shared on Twitter. The 100-year-old, who raised millions for the NHS, said: “Happy 72nd birthday NHS. Thank you for all that you do for us.” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also clapped on her doorstep, saying in a tweet: “Happy 72nd Birthday, NHS. Thank you for everything.”‘ – The Sun

  • NHS chief warns PM to fix social care crisis within a year – The Sun

Comment:

Raab imposes sanctions on Russia and Saudis over human rights

“Dominic Raab, UK foreign secretary, will on Monday name the first foreign citizens to face visa bans and asset freezes for alleged human rights abuses under Britain’s new post-Brexit sanctions regime, with Russians and Saudis among those expected to be targeted. Mr Raab, a former human rights lawyer, has pushed for a tough sanctions regime in spite of misgivings among some in the Foreign Office over its likely impact on bilateral relations with some strategic allies with poor human rights records, including Saudi Arabia. Government officials have been working on targeting individuals in Russia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea under Britain’s version of the 2012 US Magnitsky Act, named after the Russian lawyer who died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after alleging officials were involved in tax fraud.” – FT

Security 1) UK expected to phase Huawei out of 5G networks

“Boris Johnson is this month expected to draw up plans to phase out Huawei from Britain’s 5G phone networks, after warnings that US sanctions have undermined the Chinese telecoms equipment maker’s ability to supply the UK market. An official security inquiry has raised “very, very serious” questions about whether Huawei can continue with its limited role as a supplier of 5G networks after the US announced sanctions in May, according to government officials. The sanctions were aimed at cutting off the company’s access to semiconductors made with US equipment, raising fears in London that Huawei would be forced to use alternative technology with new security risks.” – FT

  • Bar Huawei from our 5G, advises ex-security chief John Sawers – The Times
  • Proposed plan to cut Huawei out by 2029 is too slow, Tory rebels warn Johnson – Daily Telegraph
  • Hongkongers could offer £40 billion boost to UK economy – The Times
>Today:
>Yesterday:

Security 2) Royal marines and 20,000 troops cut to make way for space and cyber war

“Defence chiefs have drawn up plans to cut 20,000 troops from the military and reduce the size of the Royal Marines, replacing the MoD’s firepower with cyber warfare and space technology. Mandarins have suggested the scrapping of RAF air bases and a fleet of Hercules planes and Puma helicopters in a bid to save money, The Sunday Times reported. The Treasury has asked departments to make savings of 5 per cent or more as part of a wider review of Government spending, while Boris Johnson has appointed a history professor to personally oversee any cuts to UK defence capability. Draft plans suggest a significant chunk of the Royal Marines’ capability could be axed, including its artillery, engineers and landing craft. Money would instead be invested in new cyber and space warfare technology.” – Daily Telegraph

Hancock 1) Health Secretary warns of more lockdowns after “sardine Saturday”…

“Matt Hancock warned of more local lockdowns yesterday after social distancing was widely flouted when pubs reopened across the country. Thousands of people ignored the one-metre distancing rules as they packed into nightlife districts such as Soho in London and the centres of other big cities. While there were isolated incidents of violence, the widespread disorder predicted by some police did not materialise. Fears of a second wave of coronavirus were heightened, however, by images of crowded streets with drinkers hugging each other without wearing masks.” – The Times

  • Fears of widespread disorder unfounded as English pubs reopen – The Guardian
  • Lockdown easing in England threatens cautious approach of devolved nations – FT
  • Spain locks down more towns in Galicia and A Mariña after outbreaks – The Times
  • Young people at the heart of America’s Coronavirus infection explosion – The Times
  • Covid-19 may not have originated in China – Daily Telegraph

Hancock 2) … and threatens to lockdown Leicester factories for breaking Covid-19 rules

“The Government has “significant concerns” about clothing factories in Leicester opening behind closed doors and won’t hesitate to shut them down if they break the rules, Matt Hancock has said. The Health Secretary said the Government was monitoring concerns about employment practices at the factories, amid reports one paid its staff less than the minimum wage and not enforcing social distancing. “We have the authority to shut down businesses if they don’t follow the guidance,” he said. “We’re not just asking nicely.” The Health Secretary added businesses could face “very significant fines” if employment laws and Government workplace safety guidance were found to have been breached.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Leicester sweatshops face criminal inquiry on “slaves” – The Times
>Yesterday:

Coronavirus 1) Covid-19 survivors to get personal recovery plans

“The NHS is rolling out a personalised recovery programme for tens of thousands of patients suffering from the long-term effects of coronavirus. Your Covid Recovery is for people who are experiencing breathing difficulties, muscle damage from being on a ventilator or mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Patients will be given a face-to-face consultation with a rehabilitation team, which usually includes physiotherapists, nurses and mental health specialists. After their initial assessment, they will be given a personalised 12-week package of online aftercare.” – The Times

  • Scientists investigate cases of post-Covid-19 fatigue – The Guardian
  • Winter flu jab scheme will need to be biggest yet, warns NHS chief – The Times

Coronavirus 2) Extra 35,000 deaths from cancer expected next year

“Thirty-five thousand more people could die of cancer next year because of the impact of coronavirus, expert modelling has suggested. Research by Health Data Research UK, the national institute for health data science, warned that the overwhelming focus on Covid-19 was likely to cause 18,000 excess cancer deaths. It said that this could almost double to 35,000 in the worst-case scenario. It said that urgent referrals for cancer care had dropped and that treatments had been delayed or cancelled.” – The Times

Cash crisis leaves 13 universities on the brink of collapse

“As many as 13 universities could go bust as higher education faces losing a quarter of its annual income in the coronavirus crisis, a report says. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimated that universities would lose £11 billion as foreign student numbers fell and income from conferences dried up due to social distancing. The institute warned that pension deficits would rise steeply as investments dropped in value, putting universities under pressure to fund the shortfall. The think tank advised against propping up institutions, however. The government has already stepped in with support, bringing forward £2.6 billion of tuition fee payments to ease cash-flow problems. But universities are asking for up to £3.2 billion more help.” – The Times

  • Less prestigious universities most likely to face insolvency – FT
  • The Government is trying to shrink the university sector, says Jo Johnson – The Times
Comment:

Taxpayer may prop up train firms until 2022

“Train companies face being propped up by the taxpayer for up to two years amid warnings that passenger numbers may fail to return to pre-Covid levels. Emergency contracts between the government and train operators are set to be extended into 2022 to prevent companies going bust or walking away. Rail industry sources told The Times that it was feared that a fifth of passengers would fail to return “for the foreseeable future”, even after the end of the coronavirus crisis because of changes to working patterns. It is believed that many who have worked at home will not return to a daily commute.” – The Times

Labour wants wealth tax if the economy fails to recover

“Labour has called for the government to introduce a wealth tax if the economy fails to recover because “those with the broadest shoulders should be making more of a contribution”. Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor, said it was fair that the “very best-off people” should help to pay for the cost of the coronavirus crisis if the economic recovery stalled. The Conservatives accused Labour of advocating a “tax raid on ordinary families” and targeting people’s homes and savings. Ms Dodds declined to say how Labour’s plan for a wealth tax would work, but did not deny that it could involve a tax on assets.” – The Times

Sturgeon urged to condemn “abhorrent” border protests urging English to stay out of Scotland

“Nicola Sturgeon is under pressure to condemn “disgraceful” border protests where nationalists in hazmat suits urged English visitors to stay away from Scotland. Jackson Carlaw, the Scottish Conservative leader, said he was concerned that the scenes on Saturday would deter people from coming to Scotland and cause further damage to the country’s tourism sector, which has been devastated by coronavirus. A handful of nationalists turned up at the border over the weekend, urging motorists to “stay out”. Waving saltires and SNP flags, they displayed a banner stating ‘keep Scotland Covid free’.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

News in brief:

This is the most socially liberal Conservative government in history

6 Jul

On Saturday, David Gauke ended his column on this site by mentioning two groups of people on the centre-right: small state free marketeers and One Nation social liberals.  It would be easy to assume that both groups automatically cohere.  But they don’t.

Here’s why.  Those who support free markets will also believe in a small state.  And the same holds the other way round.  However, backing for One Nation and for social liberalism isn’t similarly, automatically aligned (not that David was suggesting that it is).  As a glance back at recent history shows.

One Nation Toryism has been associated with two main causes during the past 50 years.  The first was Keynesianism.  The left of the Conservative Party, with which the One Nation tradition is broadly associated, was hostile to monetarism.

Geoffrey Howe’s 1981 Budget marked the apex of the Tory struggle between the two schools, was a monetarist work from beginning to end, and paved the way for a decade of privatisation, supply-side economic reform, and Thatcherism.

The second has been Europeanism – that’s to say, support for European Community and European Union membership.  Its peak moment was the Single European Act of 1986.  Its trough was the 2016 EU referendum.  The climb back may not come for a long time, if ever.

You may think that there’s no necessary connection between a concern for the unity of the nation, with a particular focus on the disadvantaged, and a school of economics that had run out of answers to the problem of inflation.  But the fact remains that most One Nation conservatives were Keynesians of some kind.

Edward Heath, Peter Walker, Jim Prior, Ian Gilmour, Francis Pym, and the high priest of the school, Harold Macmillan, elevated to the Lords during the mid-1980s: all were suspicious at least and hostile at most to the monetarist experiment.

You may also believe that it is a contradiction in terms for One Nation Tories to believe in supernational government, at least as far as the UK is concerned.  But that wing of the party was almost entirely united in endorsing UK membership of the EU.

We give you Ken Clarke, Michael Heseltine, Chris Patten, Douglas Hurd, Nicholas Soames and Damian Green, more or less off the top of our heads.  There is the odd outrider among the younger generation, such as Richard Fuller.  But almost all the One Nation branch of the Conservative Party voted Remain four years ago.

There is no such unity of purpose among One Nation Tories when it comes to social liberalism – unless that is defined to be broad support for the changed social attitudes of the past quarter century or so.  Support for which would now reach across not just nearly all One Nation Conservatives but most of the Party as a whole.

If social conservatism means a sympathy for stronger families, preserving custom and tradition, an instinct for the place of faith in society and a concern for community, then some of its supporters can certainly be found on the One Nation wing of the party.

Let’s take same sex marriage as a litmus test.  Tory MPs who voted against it included: Tony Baldry, Robert Buckland, David Burrowes, Alan Haselhurst, David Lidington, Nicky Morgan, Andrew Selous and Robert Walter.  All of these were or are party centre-lefters.

You don’t like that vote, now seven years old, as an indicator?  Then consider the discreetly-operating Social Justice Caucus of Conservative Parliamentarians.  The MP who heads it up is Iain Duncan Smith – not a man usually associated with the Left of the Conservative Party.

But many of its leading members have been of a different outlook.  Burrowes, who wrote recently on this site that the Government should show more compassion to refugees, is very much a One Nation Tory by inclination.  So is Andrew Selous, who has written on ConservativeHome about the limits of markets.

Or consider a prominent new MP who is the epitome of a One Nation conservative – Danny Kruger.  Here he is on this site earlier this year, proclaiming that “our focus is on neither the individual nor the state, but on what lies between them”.  He was prominent in the recent revolt against the Government’s liberalising divorce reforms.

That might almost be a definition of the One Nation conservatism of the One Nation group founded post-war by Angus Maude.  (For further details, start with Alastair Lexden.)  Other members included Iain Macleod, Robert Carr, Cub Alport, Gilbert Longden and Enoch Powell.

We apologise to those who find these intra-Tory distinctions tedious or even meaningless.  They have a point.  Is it useful or even correct, for example, to place Duncan Smith, social justice warrior that he is, on the right of the Conservative Party?

Tory MPs in particular tend to dislike these categories, especially in our experience if they are categorised as being on the party’s centre-left, perhaps because politicians like to leave themselves a little wriggle room.  But they are unavoidable in politics.  Parties have their left and right wings, and one must strive to make sense of them.

In any event, we think we have provided enough evidence to prove our point: that there is no necessary connection between One Nation conservatism and social liberalism.  For those who find it slight, we add another: talking of social liberalism, this is surely the most social liberal Conservative government in history.

For evidence, we give you: those divorce law changes, which remove fault from our legal framework and make divorce automatic if a party to a marriage says it has broken down.  The decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland – leaving that part of the United Kingdom with some of the most permissive laws in the world.

Immigration?  Boris Johnson has just committed to a pathway to citizenship for three million Hong Kongers.  The rainbow flag flies above government buildings; it decorated the Prime Minister’s Twitter account for a month.  To be sure, it is taking a more restrictive position on trans.

But the trans debate is sui generis.  Unlike these other subjects, it divides the left – hence the antipathy between “trans and terfs” – that’s to say, trans rights activists and trans-exclusionary radical feminists.  The poster woman for the latter is J.K.Rowling, whose politics are certainly not centre-right.

Essentially, the trans argument is an intra-liberal one.  Few Conservatives, with the exception of the authors of our fortnightly Radical column, have yet taken much of an interest in it.  In any event, Liz Truss is writing to Conservative MPs about the Government’s committment “to end the vile practice of so-called conversion therapy”.

Whatever you think of all these changes and policies, they add up to a body of socially liberal change bigger than that of any Tory government to date.  Which is as one would expect from one led by Boris Johnson – social liberal as he is to his fingertips. He may be clad in the right, white and blue of Brexit, but he is brandishing the rainbow flag.

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

6 Jul

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.

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

6 Jul

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.

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

6 Jul

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.