Calling Conservatives: New public appointments announced. Non-Executive Directors at NHS England – and more

24 Jun

Eight years ago, the TaxPayers’ Alliance reported that “in the last year, five times more Labour people were appointed to public bodies than Tories”.

It currently reports that almost half of avowedly political appointees last year owed their allegiance to Labour Party, compared to less than a third for the Conservatives.

Despite the selection of some Party members or supporters to fill important posts, over time, the Conservatives have punched beneath their weight when it comes to public appointments.  One of the reasons seems to be that Tories simply don’t apply in the same number as Labour supporters.

To help remedy this, each week we put up links to some of the main public appointments vacancies, so that qualified Conservatives can be aware of the opportunities presented.

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DFID Board – Non-Executive Director

“DFID leads the UK’s work to end extreme poverty, deliver the Global Goals, and tackle global challenges in line with the government’s UK Aid Strategy. We are delivering against the Government’s manifesto to stand up for the right of every girl in the world to have 12 years of quality education, to end the preventable deaths of mothers, new born babies and children by 2030 and to fight climate change, protect the environment and preserve biodiversity. We are helping to lead the international response to prevent and mitigate the impacts of the Coronavirus and we work to save lives when humanitarian emergencies hit. We do this whilst also investing in the systems that help support Global Health Security and improve peoples’ resilience to shocks and supporting countries receiving aid to become self-sufficient.”

Time: Approx. 20 days per annum.

Remuneration: £15,000 per annum.

Closes: 26 June

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Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission – Commissioners

“The Commission operates as an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Northern Ireland Office and is a key part of the architecture of human rights protections in Northern Ireland… Candidates for these roles must be able to make a personal contribution to the work of the Commission and will need to demonstrate: the ability to build productive and respectful relationships with fellow Commissioners, senior stakeholders and diverse communities; knowledge of human rights law, and of the scope and limits of the NIHRCs work in Northern Ireland, and the considerations that influence the environment in which it operates; the ability to analyse information and exercise judgement across a broad spectrum of policy and high level human rights issues; and a reputation for personal integrity, professional conduct and credibility, with an exceptional sense of propriety.”

Time: Approx. 3 days per month.

Remuneration: £7,500 per annum.

Closes: 26 June

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Department for International Trade – Lead Non-Executive Board Member/Non-Executive Board Member

“Both Non-Executive Board Members roles will exercise their role through influence and advice, supporting as well as challenging the executive, and covering such issues as: support, guidance and challenge on the progress and implementation of the Departments Strategy (the single departmental plan); performance (including agreeing key performance indicators), operational issues (including the operational and delivery implications of policy proposals), adherence to relevant standards (e.g. commercial, digital), and on the effective management of the department; [and] the recruitment, appraisal and suitable succession planning of senior executives, as appropriate within the principles set out by the Civil Service Commission.”

Time: Approx. 15-20 days per annum.

Remuneration: £20,000/£15,000 per annum.

Closes: 28 June

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Infrastructure Exports:UK – Board co-Chair

“IE:UK is a joint industry and government partnership, strategically targeting major infrastructure export opportunities around the world. It is supported by DIT’s network of local staff in 116 markets, with the objective of identifying, pursuing, and delivering major strategic infrastructure projects through a consortium-led approach. The objective of IE:UK is to increase UK infrastructure exports and identify gaps in the UK supply chain for FDI to fill. The IE:UK Board is co-chaired by DIT‘s Minister for Exports and a senior industry leader. The Industry sector co-Chair will benefit from working closely with the Minister for Exports and leading UK based infrastructure companies to help shape the direction of UK export policy and support within the infrastructure sector.”

Time: 3-4 meetings a year.

Remuneration: None.

Closes: 29 June

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NHS England – Non-Executive Directors

“The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is looking to make two Non-Executive Director (NED) appointments to NHS England. NHS England leads the National Health Service in England and sets its priorities and direction. It is responsible for arranging the provision of health services and for more than £150 billion of funds. The primary role of Non-Executive Directors is, as a team, to lead in developing the strategy for, and overseeing the work of NHS England by participating fully in the work of the board, both in the context of the board meetings themselves, and more widely. Non-Executive Directors also play a part in representing NHS England externally, alongside the Chief Executive, the Chair and the wider Executive team.”

Time: 2-3 days per month.

Remuneration: £7,883 (£13,137) per annum.

Closes: 02 July

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Migration Advisory Committee – Members

“Do you want to play a key role in helping to shape the future of migration issues and support the interests of UK residents? If so, you can do this by becoming a Member of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). The MAC advises the government on a range of migration policy issues, offering independent evidence-based advice, and its core statement of purpose is to: deliver high quality evidence-based, economics focused, reports and policy advice in accordance with the work plan set by the Government; and help ensure that Government policy and strategy in relation to migration and employment is based on the best possible evidence and analysis.  To date the advice of the Committee has included impacts of migration; annual limits on, and the design of, Tiers 1 and 2 of the Points-Based System; and transitional labour market access for nationals of new EU member states.”

Time: “An initial term of three years.”

Remuneration: £275 per diem.

Closes: 06 July

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Northern Ireland Office – Non-Executive Director

“Non-Executive Directors provide a key role in the strategic and operational leadership of the Northern Ireland Office. They complement the balance of skills and experience of Government Ministers and officials by bringing independent advice, support, constructive challenge and a fresh external perspective to help shape a department’s work. To complement the existing balance of skills on the Northern Ireland Office Departmental Board and to ensure that it can provide expert advice to Ministers on a wide range of issues and challenges, we would particularly welcome applications from people with experience in the business and commercial sector.”

Time: Approx. 10 days per annum.

Remuneration: £7,500 per annum plus expenses.

Closes: 10 July

Newslinks for Wednesday 24th June 2020

24 Jun

Coronavirus 1) Johnson announces that lockdown will be lifted on July 4th

“Boris Johnson hailed the beginning of the end of Britain’s “national hibernation” on Tuesday as he announced the biggest return of freedoms since lockdown began. The Prime Minister said families and friends will be able to mingle indoors and even go on holiday together from July 4, when pubs and restaurants will also reopen and the two metre rule will be reduced to one metre. But Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, warned that many of new social distancing measures will have to remain in place “until this time next year” because a coronavirus vaccine is still a long way off. Mr Johnson announced that domestic tourism will be up and running again with hotels, guest houses and campsites allowed to open on July 4, along with hairdressers, cinemas and almost every type of tourist attraction. However gyms, swimming pools, nightclubs, indoor sports facilities and concert venues were among the losers which still have no date for reopening.” – Daily Telegraph

>Today:

>Yesterday:

Coronavirus 2) Warnings of a second wave

“Health leaders are calling for an urgent review to determine whether the UK is properly prepared for the “real risk” of a second wave of coronavirus. In an open letter published in the British Medical Journal, ministers were warned that urgent action would be needed to prevent further loss of life. The presidents of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons, Nursing, Physicians, and GPs all signed the letter….Both the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and the chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty stressed Mr Johnson’s plan was not “risk-free”.” – BBC

Coronavirus 3) Pledge to fully reopen schools in September faces union resistance

“All children returning to school in September is “pure fantasy”, headteachers have said, warning that there will not be enough space in classrooms even with the new “one metre plus” rule. Unions told ministers that reducing social distancing from two metres to “one-metre plus” is not a “magic bullet”, urging them to come up with a strategy to reopen schools that is “based in reality”. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, on Tuesday announced that the public will be expected to observe “one-metre plus” from July 4. Mr Johnson told the Commons that formal childcare will restart over the summer, and that primary and secondary schools will reopen in September with “full attendance”. He added: “And those children who can already go to school should do so because it is safe.” However, he offered no new guidance on schools, which remain closed to most pupils despite the change from the two-metre rule.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Opening the pubs but not schools just doesn’t add up – David Blunkett, The Sun
  • SAGE has “concerns” – The Times
  • Welsh schools reopening – BBC

>Today: Ed McGuinness on Local Government: We need more innovation to reopen schools

Coronavirus 4) Swimmers and cricketers object to continued ban

“Ministers were challenged to explain last night why pubs were safer than chlorinated swimming pools as sporting bodies left out of the lockdown-easing lashed out at the government. Many sporting activities, such as recreational cricket, football and rugby remain banned. Swimming pools, gyms and sports centres will not reopen on July 4. Leaders of those sports questioned the rationale behind the continuing restrictions when many other indoor leisure activities were allowed to restart. Michael Vaughan, the former England cricket captain, said the decision to maintain the restrictions was “utter nonsense” and suggested amateur cricket should defy the lockdown.” – The Times

  • The shops that won’t be reopening – BBC

Coronavirus 5) Daily press conference scrapped

“The daily Downing Street press conference on coronavirus has been stopped, the government has announced. Boris Johnson led the final regular briefing, flanked by chief advisers Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance. From now on televised briefings will be given on an “ad hoc” basis to “coincide with significant announcements,” Downing Street said. It comes as the PM announced an easing of the lockdown in England. There have been 92 briefings, and two national addresses by the prime minister. Leading the final briefing, Mr Johnson thanked Prof Whitty and Sir Patrick for their “heroic work in presenting information to the public so clearly and so powerfully”.” – BBC

>Yesterday: WATCH: The Prime Minister fronts the last of the daily series of press conferences

Coronavirus 6): “Disturbing surge” in US cases

“America’s top infectious disease expert has told lawmakers that the US is seeing a “disturbing surge” in coronavirus infections in some states. A panel of health officials, including Dr Anthony Fauci, said the next few days will be crucial to stem the new outbreaks. Cases are climbing rapidly across a number of US states. The four top experts also testified they were never told by President Donald Trump to “slow down” testing. Their comments come after Mr Trump told a weekend rally in Oklahoma that he had asked his team to do less testing to help keep official case counts down. “To my knowledge, none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing,” Dr Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified to a congressional committee investigating the US response to the pandemic.” – BBC

Coronavirus 7) Funding to rehouse rough sleepers when hotels reopen

“An extra £85m has been announced by the Treasury to provide emergency accommodation for 5,400 rough sleepers who have been placed in hotels in England for the duration of the pandemic, avoiding them having to return to the streets when the hotels reopen to the public this summer. The extra money will allow councils to rehouse rough sleepers in student accommodation and to find alternative spaces elsewhere until more permanent housing is found. Dame Louise Casey, the chair of the Covid-19 rough sleeping taskforce, said she was extremely relieved the extra money had been allocated, allowing charities and councils longer to work to find long-term housing for those rough sleepers who have been staying in Ibis, Holiday Inn and Travelodge hotels at the government’s expense since the end of March.” – The Guardian

  • Finding a long-term solution is harder – Robert Wright, Financial Times

Coronavirus 8) Call for Scotland to ditch the two metre rule too

“One third of hotels in Scotland say they will not reopen in mid-July when the country’s tourism and hospitality sector is earmarked to resume trading as a result of the two metre distancing rule. Many hospitality firms even warn they will be economically unsustainable if the restriction remains in place in Scotland, according to a survey conducted by industry bosses north of the border.” – The Scotsman

Coronavirus 9) Cameron: A new international body is needed

“You don’t know what is coming; you need to constantly scan the horizon. That’s why after the Ebola crisis I also established a specialist unit in the Cabinet Office to survey the world continuously for viruses heading our way. I believe our energy should now go into forming something at an international level that can do a similar job, and do it fast. In this interconnected, digital world we don’t need some massive new agency. But, given the gaps we can see in the current provision, we know that such an organisation needs to be open, global, science-led, independent, non-political and totally focused on the job in hand: working out where and when and how the next dangerous virus could hit us.” – David Cameron, The Times

Other coronavirus comment:

  • Liberation is at hand – Leader, The Sun
  • The return of hospitality may yet save the summer – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Who wants to live in this new normal? – Allison Pearson, Daily Telegraph
  • Whatever lies ahead, a national lockdown cannot be repeated – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • Give me back the ‘old normal’ before lockdown took away our freedoms – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph
  • Business didn’t get us into this mess, but with the right reforms it can get us out of it – Sajid Javid, City AM

Patel promises to implement Windrush recommendations in full…

“The recommendations of a review into the Windrush scandal will be implemented in full, Home Secretary Priti Patel has said. The report criticised the Home Office after those who came to the UK from Commonwealth countries were wrongly told they were in Britain illegally. Mrs Patel also acknowledged that compensation payments to those who had suffered had been “far too slow”. Labour accused the government of being ‘too slow to right the wrongs’.” – BBC

…and vows to end deportation delays

“Priti Patel is planning to crack down on abuses in the asylum system as part of an overhaul of immigration rules intended to make it easier to remove illegal migrants and offenders who have completed their prison sentences. The home secretary wants to stop asylum applicants stringing out claims with last-minute appeals. She also wants to see prompt removal of criminals sentenced to 12 months or more, but has admitted that this will be a big challenge.” – The Times

MPs reject debates on harassment cases

“MPs have voted down controversial proposals introduced by the leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, that would have allowed them to debate complaints about serious bullying and harassment. In an open letter seen by the Guardian, past and present parliamentary staff, union leaders, MPs and women’s groups had accused Rees-Mogg of undermining a new independent system designed to prevent bullying and sexual harassment in parliament, by allowing MPs to debate serious sanctions made by a new independent expert panel (IEP). But on Tuesday evening, an amendment tabled by Labour MP Chris Bryant, which ruled out debating complaints against MPs in the chamber, passed by five votes – to the delight of parliamentary staffers and campaigners.” – The Guardian

Jenrick had house extension approved despite objections

“The housing secretary had an extension to his £2.6 million Westminster townhouse approved by Conservative councillors despite officials objecting to the scheme three times, The Times can reveal. Robert Jenrick, 38, and his wife, 47, purchased the five-bedroom house in October 2013, a few weeks before he was selected as the Conservative candidate in Newark. The couple submitted plans to turn a first-floor roof terrace into an extra room as part of renovations costing £830,000, but the scheme was twice rejected by a planning officer who concluded it would damage the character and appearance of the building and conservation area.” – The Times

  • Commons bid to force him to release documents about his decision to green-light Tory donor’s £1billion property development – Daily Mail

>Today: Profile: Robert Jenrick, who rose without trace until he hit two bumps in the road

Those on low incomes more likely to vote Conservative than Labour

“More poorer Brits voted Tory than Labour for the first time to help deliver Boris Johnson’s 2019 election landslide. A study of the December poll has shown the Conservatives established a 15-point lead over the Opposition among those on low incomes. It even revealed the Tories were more popular with those struggling to make ends meet than they were among wealthier voters. A report for the anti-poverty Joseph Rowntree Foundation says:  “The Tories are no longer the party of the rich, while Labour is no longer the party of the poor”. It examined the British Election Study and found 45.4 per cent of low-income voters backed the Tories, with 30.6 per cent backing Labour.” – The Sun

Shrimsley: Tories should not be distracted by culture wars

“Against a serious opposition, it is competence not cultural clashes that will decide the government’s fate. Identity politics might take you to power, but competence keeps you there. In the weeks since he fell ill with Covid-19, Mr Johnson has squandered the public’s goodwill. Since the furore over his chief aide Dominic Cummings’s lockdown breach, he has alienated his own MPs with all-too visible contempt. A bunker mentality infuses his operation and his cabinet comprises too many ciphers.” – Robert Shrimsley, Financial Times

  • “Racist” plane banner isn’t a crime – Daily Mail
  • MP’s assistant who tried to save Reading victims – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Columnist Daniel Hannan: The police. Not institutionally racist, but institutionally woke.

News in brief

  • The limits of Covid death statistics – Ross Clark, The Spectator
  • Was the two-metre rule one big lie? – Timandra Harkness, Unherd
  • Would a second term for Trump endanger the United States? – Daniel Johnson, The Article
  • Getting people back to work – John Redwood
  • White Saviour Syndrome won’t save black lives – John Lloyd, CapX

Friends of Cummings: “A hard rain is coming.”

24 Jun

Readouts from Dominic Cummings’ Zoom meeting with other SpAds have a way of becoming public.  One made its way to ConservativeHome yesterday which was then posted as a Twitter thread.

The sum of it is that Cummings is against centralistion, not for it; that his goal is to make the centre smaller, empower departments and change civil service fundamentals; that “anybody who has read what I’ve said about management over the years will know it’s ludicrous to suggest the solution to Whitehall’s problems is a bigger centre and more centralisation”, and that the centre is already too big, incoherent and adds to the problems with departments.

A smaller and more elite centre is needed; big changes are coming to Number Ten and the Cabinet Office, and many officials now accepted the need for radical changes. Anything to the contrary is “more media inventions”.

The briefing ended with the words: “a hard rain is coming”.

Cue a mass of protests to this site claiming that the readout was simply friends of Cummings throwing up chaff, and that none of it should be believed for a moment.

SpAds were told last July that they are to report to Cummings; their contracts were changed to ensure so formally; SpAds that he didn’t care for have been removed; big decisions go through him, and so can’t always be taken quickly – hence the foul-up over Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free meals for children over the summer; Sonia Khan was removed; so were Sajid Javid’s main SpAds, hence the former Chancellor’s resignation; Number Ten and the Treasury have been joined at the top, and so on.

Who’s right?

For what it’s worth, here’s a view from people inside government who work with him, admire him – but also maintain a critical detachment.

“Dom is a decentraliser,” we were told.  “But he’s resistant to decentralising to people who he thinks aren’t up to the job.  And there are departments of which he’s institutionally suspicious, such as Justice.”

“If he thinks you know your stuff and are capable then he’ll leave you alone – one topical example being Munira Mirza, who he rates.”

What can certainly be said is that so far, for better or worse, institutional change in Whitehall has been less sweeping than originally briefed: DfId has been swallowed up by the Foreign Office, and that’s about it.

Clearly, changes to the sprawling Cabinet Office, which is not held to have performed well during Coronavirus, are coming, as we wrote recently.

If there were more Ministers that Cummings rated, perhaps there would be more decentralistion.  But he’s on record as taking a low view of most of them: “PJ Masks will do a greater job than all of them put together.”  Which gives us the chance to republish our illustration of Cummings as the Splat Monster.

Profile: Robert Jenrick, who rose without trace until he hit two bumps in the road

24 Jun

Until the age of 38, which he attained on 9th January this year, Robert Jenrick had ascended the political ladder at remarkable speed while remaining unknown to the wider public.

Nor can one yet say that as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government he has become a household name, often though he appeared at the Downing Street press conferences on Covid-19.

For there is nothing distinctive in Jenrick’s manner: he does not lodge himself in the memory.

Labour is trying to change that. It wants people to remember him, if not by name, then as the Tory minister who “auctioned off the planning system to a billionaire donor at a Conservative Party fundraising dinner”, as Steve Reed, Jenrick’s Labour opposite number, recently put it.

And this afternoon in the Commons, Labour will press for the release of all documents to do with that affair.

The fundraising dinner took place last November. Jenrick found himself sitting next to Richard Desmond, former proprietor of The Daily Express, who is seeking permission for a one billion pound redevelopment of that paper’s disused Westferry Printworks in the Isle of Dogs, to include over 1500 flats.

Jenrick had already called in the scheme, and in January this year he approved it, on the day before Desmond would have become liable to pay Tower Hamlets Council a Community Infrastructure Levy of about £40 million on the scheme.

The council opened legal proceedings against Jenrick, who in May conceded that the timing of his decision “would lead the fair-minded and informed observer to conclude that there was a real possibility” of bias.

The Planning Court said the Housing Secretary had accepted the decision “was unlawful by reason of apparent bias and should be quashed”, which it proceeded to do.

Another minister will now decide whether to approve Desmond’s development, and Labour is doing all it can to exploit Jenrick’s embarrassment, as would the Conservatives if the positions were reversed.

When taking the decision to approve Desmond’s plan, Jenrick not only rejected the advice of the local council and planning inspector, which is usual enough, but is reported to have rejected the advice of his own chief planning officer, which is highly unusual.

Desmond paid £12,000 to attend the dinner, of which Jenrick recently said in the Commons:

“My department knew about my attendance at the event before I went to it. It knew about the fact that I had inadvertently sat next to the applicant. I did not know who I was going to be seated by until I sat at the table. I discussed and took advice from my officials within the department at all times.”

There is something hapless about the word “inadvertently”. A Tory MP told ConHome with considerable annoyance that Jenrick “should never have been sitting next to Desmond”, but blamed the organisers of the dinner, not Jenrick, for this, and described the Housing Secretary as “well-respected”.

Another senior Tory backbencher said of Jenrick:

“He is a decent man, a solicitor by training, highly diligent, and I would trust him over Mr Desmond any day.”

But a third backbencher, a former minister, said Jenrick is known as “Generic”

“because there’s nothing there. If he walked across a sieve he’d probably completely disappear. He’s a suit. What does he believe? He’s an example of the new kind of Cabinet Minister who forms up with a pair of shiny shoes, takes his orders from Dominic Cummings and goes and delivers them.

“He’s arrived from nowhere and as for all politicians who do that when he hits a bump he goes off the road.”

Jenrick has actually hit two bumps. In March, he repeatedly emphasised, in his role as one of the Government’s leading spokesmen on the pandemic, that people “should stay at home whenever possible”, but at the start of April he was found to have travelled to his house in Herefordshire:

“Under-fire minister Robert Jenrick has claimed the £1.1 million Grade I listed country mansion he drove 150 miles to during the coronavirus lockdown is his family home – but his official website says the opposite, MailOnline can reveal today.

“The Housing Secretary is also facing calls to quit unless he can offer a ‘very good explanation’ about a 40 mile trip to drop supplies at his parents’ house in Shropshire last weekend when neighbours said they were already delivering essentials.

“Mr Jenrick, a key player in the Government’s response to the pandemic that has claimed 7,978 lives in Britain, has repeatedly told the public to stay at home and not make unnecessary journeys to stop the spread of coronavirus, including travelling to any second homes.”

On the same day that report appeared, 9th April, Boris Johnson came out of intensive care at St Thomas’s Hospital, and three days later he delivered his heartfelt message of thanks to the NHS for saving his life.

Compared to that, the questionable conduct of an unknown Cabinet minister looked unimportant. It made nothing like the impact of the revelation on 22nd May of Dominic Cummings’ family trip during lockdown to County Durham.

Cummings presents a wonderful target. He is blamed by Remainers for steering the Leave campaign to victory, is close to the Prime Minister and loves riling the media. Piers Morgan and Alastair Campbell were among those who led the demands for Cummings to be sacked, and Tory MPs found their inboxes flooded by emails from members of the public who were furious that there seemed to be one rule for the ruling class, represented by Cummings, and another for everyone else.

Nobody regards Jenrick as an evil genius, and he has never intentionally riled the media. He has instead followed the more conventional course of giving the media nothing much to report, and most people have probably already forgotten about his travels during lockdown.

Jenrick was born in Wolverhampton in 1982, grew up in Herefordshire and Shropshire, and was educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School, a fee-paying establishment, followed by St John’s College, Cambridge, where he took a First in History, after which he spent a year studying Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

He proceeded to qualify, in 2008, as a solicitor, to work for two American law firms in Moscow and in London, and on the international business side of Christie’s Auction House.

In the same year, he gained selection as the Conservative candidate for Newcastle-under-Lyme, in Staffordshire, where in the general election of 2010 the Conservative vote rose by almost 5,000, but he was still 1500 votes short of taking the seat, which only went Tory last December.

During one week of the 2010 campaign, he contributed a diary to ConHome which included this passage:

“Unexpectedly this afternoon, a legal contact calls. He’s an environmental lawyer in Washington D.C. who is co-ordinating efforts in the U.S. to develop the first Green Investment Bank with the Obama administration. I put him in touch with the Shadow Environment team, some of whom it turns out will be in D.C. tomorrow and may be able to meet up. This follows on from bringing together the Environment team with Better Place, an Israeli company developing an electric car system that will soon be on the streets of Tel Aviv and San Francisco. Better Place’s CEO, Shai Agassi, is one of the most impressive men I’ve met: he is pragmatic and not a climate crusader and he puts privately-funded technological advancement at the heart of tackling climate change.”

We see Jenrick at the age of 28 proud of his ability to network, and remarkably at ease as he does so.

In 2013, Better Place went bankrupt, and Jenrick was adopted as the Conservative candidate in Newark, where it was expected that the scandal-afflicted Tory MP, Patrick Mercer, would stand down at the general election in 2015.

Mercer instead stood down in April 2014, precipitating a by-election in Newark where the Conservatives needed to beat off a strong challenge from UKIP in order to look like credible contenders for 2015.

Tory MPs were ordered to visit Newark three times during the campaign, Cabinet ministers were expected to put in five appearances, members of the House of Lords could be found delivering leaflets, and the party’s depleted reserves of activists were incentivised by the prospect of fighting alongside the officer class.

Jenrick found himself at the centre of a national campaign. Roger Helmer, the UKIP candidate, accused him of owning three homes, none of them anywhere near Newark.

The formidable Simon Walters, political editor of The Mail on Sunday, arrived to see what he could make of Jenrick:

Mr Jenrick presents himself as a ‘father, local man, son of a secretary and small businessman and state primary school-educated’ candidate.

But that is not quite the whole story.

In fact, he and American wife Michal own not one, but two, £2 million homes in London and a £1 million country pile built by an 18th Century slave-trader.

Their Newark ‘home’ is a rented house obtained when he was picked as a candidate six months ago.

And his Party CV omits to say he went to a £13,000-a-year private secondary school.

Together with his director’s  job at Christie’s auction house, it is just the type of posh Tory boy image Cameron and co can’t shrug off.

Mr Jenrick, who looks even younger than his 32 years, sticks rigidly to his Tory HQ autocue when asked about national issues.

During our interview at a cafeteria in Tuxford, near Newark, he is finally stirred when I ask whether, in his keenness to come across as a regular guy, he has misled voters.

To win the candidacy, he promised he would move his family lock, stock and barrel to Newark. A 250-mile round-trip  to Westminster if he becomes  MP – quite a commute for a  self-proclaimed family man  with two young daughters.

How many nights has the family actually spent in their Newark ‘home?’

‘Er, it has grown over time.’  He won’t say.

His election leaflets are also silent about the couple’s £2 million flat in Marylebone, London. It went up in value by £300,000 last year, more than twice the average price of a home in Newark.

Last October, the couple splashed out an extra £2.5 million on a house in fashionable Vincent Square, Westminster, less than a mile from Parliament, which they plan to move into soon.

On top of that they bought Grade I listed Eye Manor in Herefordshire for £1.1 million  in 2009.

Mr Jenrick says he is ‘almost sure’ they will sell it and move to Newark if he becomes MP.

It is to be hoped this interview is not the first Mrs Jenrick, a top commercial lawyer whose professional name is Michal Berkner, eight years Mr Jenrick’s senior, has heard of that.

The Conservatives won the Newark by-election by 7,403 votes from UKIP, and Jenrick’s majority has since risen to 21,816. Some vexation is nevertheless expressed in Newark that Jenrick has yet to sell Eye Manor, and appears to prefer going there with his wife and their three daughters.

As one constituent said, “It’s perfectly clear who wears the trousers and it isn’t him. She indulges his little hobby of being an MP.”

But if one were fortunate enough to own Eye Manor, parting with it might feel unbearable. Here is Marcus Binney, singing its praises in The Times before the Jenricks bought it:

For its size, Eye Manor, near Leominster in Herefordshire, has the most gorgeous series of Charles II interiors in England. Here is plasterwork as overflowing in richly sculpted fruit and flowers as carvings by the great Grinling Gibbons. It gets better: over the past 20 years the late owner, Margery Montcrieff, laid out an intricate, inventive and enchanting formal garden that almost vies with Sissinghurst in Kent. 

One of the sympathetic things about Jenrick is his love of history. When ConHome spoke to him during the Newark by-election, he “seemed reassuringly dull”, but

When asked who his political hero is, he became more animated, and vouchsafed that he is writing a book about the English Civil War, in which Newark played a prominent role: it was a royalist stronghold which was three times besieged unsuccessfully by the parliamentarians. The first siege was raised by no less a figure than Prince Rupert, the most dashing royalist of them all.

And Prince Rupert turns out to be Mr Jenrick’s hero. Beneath that somewhat impassive exterior perhaps there beats the heart of a true cavalier.

At Westminster, Jenrick remarked in his maiden speech that “there are, after all, no final victories in politics; all achievements, however hard won, can be and are undone.”

After the 2015 general election he became in rapid succession PPS to Esther McVey, Michael Gove, Liz Truss and Amber Rudd, before in January 2018 being appointed Exchequer Secretary by Theresa May.

He was climbing the ladder, and in the summer of 2019 he, Rishi Sunak and Oliver Dowden questioned Johnson for an hour at Jenrick’s house in Vincent Square, and at a well-judged moment put their names to a joint piece for The Times Red Box which appeared under the reasonably clear headline:

“The Tories are in deep trouble. Only Boris Johnson can save us.”

All three authors are now in the Cabinet. Jenrick has been lined up to carry out the radical reform of the planning system on which Johnson and Cummings are intent.

Will he still be in office to carry out this work? Johnson and Cummings have shown they do not like being pushed around by the newspapers, which are crawling over every planning decision in which Jenrick has been involved.

So perhaps he will hang on. He will need, however, to learn the art of sometimes saying no to people, including developers such as Desmond.

Luke Evans: What social media says about the Government and the virus. And what my constituents actually said when I asked them.

24 Jun

Dr Luke Evans is a member of the Health Select Committee, and is MP for Bosworth.

Like any other Member of Parliament Fridays are, for me – at least when the House is sitting – constituency day.

Most MPs will tell you it’s the best part of the job. Arguably, it is the bit that counts most. You get to hear about the lives of people in your hometown, the issues that matter to them and, hopefully, you are able to make a difference both in the casework that you do on their behalf and raising important causes in parliament.

Last Friday was my first constituency day since lockdown started – the first time I have been able to go out and speak with ‘real’ people face to face. It’s an experience which never fails to surprise.

I’ve written before about the difficulties facing Twycross Zoo in my constituency and, since it had opened its gates to the public for the first time last Monday, it seemed somehow fitting that my first visit should be to the same place that was one of my last before the Coronavirus crisis started.

What struck me? It was amazing to hear of staff returning, see families enjoying a day out, and witness first hand how many of the primates are enjoying human interaction once more (a serious point, the keepers were surprised that some seemed “depressed” by the lack of interaction – does that sound familiar too? Perhaps I digress).

My afternoon was allocated to a tour of recently reopened shops in Hinckley, the largest town in my constituency. During the week, I had raised the issue of supporting Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) as a potential vehicle to help increase footfall and reduce shop vacancies on the high street, to which I was pleased to hear the Government agree.

It seemed a perfect opportunity, then, to join the Hinckley BID, which arranges visits to shops and local businesses, to see how they are faring.

I thought that they would be inclined to paint a fair picture, especially when it transpired I would be being joined by a local Liberal Democrat borough councillor. The reason for this? I could avoid my own team hand-picking businesses which by their very nature might have been more supportive of the government: in other words, I wanted to hear how things on the ground really were rather than how I might hope them to be.

I’ve long subscribed to the concept that ‘the map is not the territory’ – there are always filters, some conscious and others less so, that affect our perceptions of reality.

It’s very easy to look at social media and see the distortion and anti-Government rage, and easily misinterpret that as the territory. I’ll be honest: I was more than a little worried about what I would hear when I spoke with independent retailers, whose entire livelihoods had been placed at real risk as a result of virus that is – at the end of the day – no one’s fault.

Of course, as I should know only too well by now, social media isn’t the real world, and the comments I met with were in no way representative of what Twitter or Facebook tell me that it is like.

I heard shopkeepers telling me of brisk trade; again and again independent retailers talked about cautious optimism for the sector – “shop local” seems to be resonating clearly.

And above all? A real gratitude that a Government, which by no means has been perfect, has supported them through the darkest of times; a Government responding to the greatest threat of our generation had given them the hope that they can return. The Chancellor’s promise to do whatever it takes had stuck with them, and had really meant something.

At a time when hope could have very easily been lost, that’s a really powerful thing to have done and won’t be forgotten any time soon.

Members of the public stopped me on the high street to talk about support they had and wanted to give to the local economy, a true sense of coming together to make the best of an international crisis.

I was taken aback. Of course, I fully appreciate that those comments are just a differently interpreted map of the same territory.

The only way we can make that map more accurate, of course, is by adding data and it seems to me that, in the bubble, we’ve become fixated on only adding the datasets that we can see on our mobile phones, and not talking to people.

As MPs we need to make sure that we place equally as much value on a conversation with our constituents as we do on 280 characters. Sometimes we all lose sight of that fact.

Daniel Hannan: The police. Not institutionally racist, but institutionally woke.

24 Jun

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

The police have had an unusually bad lockdown. They began by being bossy and officious, ticking people off for buying luxury items or walking too slowly in parks or even (in one incident in Rotherham that was caught on camera) for being in their own garden. But when Black Lives Matter took to the streets, they promptly forgot all about the restrictions. Far from ordering protesters to disperse, they looked on as mobs carried out flagrant acts of vandalism.

In Bristol, a superintendent refused to prevent criminal damage to the Colston statue because “we know that it has been an historical figure that has caused the black community quite a lot of angst over the last couple of years.” (Perhaps so – but it was hardly his call to make, was it?)

In London, officers were pulled out of Parliament Square, allowing vandals to fall on the statues there – including that of Abraham Lincoln, commemorated for having freed America’s slaves. Last weekend, we reached a new low, as a Met officer, in effect, pleaded with people to break the law in a considerate manner.

“First and foremost we want people to be safe, and would encourage you to stay at home,” said Commander Alex Murray. “However, if you feel compelled to come and have your voice heard, we would say please remain socially distant, we don’t want people to get ill; and, more than that, please do not engage in any violence.”

Demonstrations, of course, were banned – a fact the Met clung to obsessively when protesters were complaining about the lockdown. But, when a different set of protesters started to demonstrate about the atrocity in Minneapolis, police chiefs were reduced to asking people who felt “compelled” to break the law to do so non-violently. It was hard not to think of Chief Wiggum from The Simpsons: “Can’t you people take the law into your own hands?”

The problem of the PC PC – the politically correct police constable – goes back to the Blair years, and there can be something quite funny about heavy-handed attempts by rozzers to be woke. But there is nothing funny about the consequences. In 2011, the Met refused to impede a crowd engaging in mass looting in Tottenham, because the pillage had theoretically begun as an anti-racist protest. Images of officers standing by while people smashed their way into shops flashed around the country and, the next day, there was looting across British cities.

To call the police institutionally racist, these days, is wide of the mark. Yes, there are individual racists in uniform: with more than 120,000 police officers in the UK, some bad behaviour is statistically inevitable. But, far from being institutionally racist – that is, being an institution where racism is a norm – the police, these days, are institutionally woke, in the sense that their leaders elevate race relations above what ought to be their core functions, such as protecting property, securing public order and enforcing the law impartially.

To be fair, the police are operating within a society which has taken to applying a different test when it comes to self-proclaimed anti-racism. This is most obvious in the tone of our broadcasters. When BLM thugs turned violent, the BBC produced the ludicrous headline, “27 police officers injured during largely peaceful anti-racism protests in London”. The following week, when a different set of thugs turned violent, it had the more conventional headline, “London protests: more than 100 arrests after violent clashes with police.”

Our state broadcaster is faithfully representing the double-standard of our intellectual elites. Epidemiologists who back the lockdown in all other circumstances say it’s fine to violate its terms as long as you are demonstrating for BLM. Conservationists who normally insist on protecting monuments declare that it is fine to remove statues. Academic institutions that are meant to defend intellectual rigour concede that, if someone’s feelings are hurt, accuracy no longer matters.

These are the political waters in which our coppers are swimming. The Met is answerable to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who condemns the ludicrous statue defenders while refusing to condemn BLM violence – a failure which, in normal times, would disqualify him from office.

But these are not normal times. As sometimes happens when there is a plague (or at least the perceived threat of a plague) we are gripped by a form of end-of-days cultism, which brooks no dissent. Intimidated by the self-righteousness of campaigners, few politicians dare to step into the path of the mob. MPs from all parties feel the need to qualify their condemnations of violence with vague support for the demonstrators’ aims. Several of them literally bend the knee.

To the best of my knowledge, not a single Police and Crime Commissioner has spoken out, either against the excessively heavy-handed way in which the lockdown is enforced for everyone else, or against the refusal even to pretend to enforce it on the protesters.

Police, protesters, politicians, pundits – all are caught up in the general madness. Indeed, everyone seems to be going through a millenarian spasm. Everyone, that is, except the general population, which remains as level-headed as ever.

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

24 Jun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan Bourne: Why Tyrie’s attempt to make the Competition Authority more like Which? magazine was wrong

24 Jun

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

Shelves lay barren, yet the price stickers read “Buy 1 Get 1 50% Off.” Hand sanitiser was like gold dust here in Washington DC in March. Demand surged after the Covid-19 hand hygiene advice. Unsurprisingly, stores rapidly emptied of existing stock.

More surprising was the shortages’ duration. Prices usually rise with prolonged elevated demand, encouraging new supply and making consumers rethink “unnecessary” purchases or hoarding. Markets ultimately clear – providing more at higher prices.

But no adjustment came. Big chains worried about reputational risks of raising prices in a pandemic. DC’s emergency “anti-price gouging law,” meanwhile, meant small outlets opted not to bother selling at higher prices, lest they be punished for charging “more than normal.” So prices remained notionally low, but sanitiser was unavailable.

Economists oppose anti-price gouging laws for this reason. Price controls denying market realities harm economic welfare. It might seem in consumers’ interests to keep prices low by government decree to prevent “rip-offs.” But if consumers are unable to get products they’re willing to pay more for, they can be worse off collectively than with market pricing.

I remember thinking at the time that I’d never heard of such bad pricing laws in the U.K. Just two days’ later, Andrew Tyrie’s Competition and Markets Authority warned it would use existing powers to “consider any evidence that companies may have broken competition or consumer protection law, for example by charging excessive prices” during the pandemic [my emphasis].

Last week, the CMA confirmed it is investigating four pharmacies and local convenience stores for “suspected charging of excessive and unfair prices for hand sanitiser.” Under current law, the CMA must prove these retailers have abused a dominant market position.

Given none of these businesses seem likely to much affect market realities, this is really an attempt to stop price gouging by spooking retailers. The CMA wants to make an example of them to show it is “pro-consumer,” focusing on local outlets in all likelihood because consumers had fewer options to shop elsewhere, especially those without internet accdess, giving some semblance of credibility to the idea of dominance.

This absurd use of resources is befitting of Tyrie’s legacy as CMA chairman. The former Treasury Select Committee chair resigned last week, frustrated that his demand for ever-more expansive CMA powers from government went unanswered.

But, importantly, Tyrie aimed to shift the emphasis of the CMA’s role away from its bread-and-butter role of helping to regulate economic competition (such as breaking up BAA for airport competition, or blocking the merger of Asda and Sainsbury), towards beefing up its consumer protection role as well.  He synthesised by pledging that the CMA should champion the “consumer interest.”

A Social Market Foundation speech last May outlined his vision. An address on the limits of competition law quickly descended into an analysis of public perceptions about capitalism, with a sort of call to arms that the CMA should bend the knee to “what most concerns ordinary consumers,” lest it be swept away by populism.

Tyrie acknowledged he was potentially exiting his lane, but didn’t care. Competition experts – who see the most important CMA role as protecting consumer welfare through effective competition law – bemoaned his “grandstanding,” in private.

Despite his denial, Tyrie’s vision was clearly strongly influenced by a new U.S. anti-monopoly movement that says big is bad, more competitors in a market is good, and consumers face constant threats of exploitation. Economists challenge all such claims empirically. But Tyrie puts huge weight on sentiment. Consumers “feel” they are being ripped off. Even where they pay nothing, for social media, they feel terrified about data harvesting. “We are all vulnerable now,” he concluded.

Such generalisations bode ill as a guide even to the CMA’s primary role. Amazon is regarded as one of the most reputable brands in the country, as is Google. Digital advertising has lowered advertising costs for social media’s true customers, so advertising spending has plunged as a share of GDP.

Platform users meanwhile have the option of free services that economic studies find generate big benefits to them. Even on the supposed “big is bad” opposition to tech acquisitions such as Whatsapp by Facebook and YouTube by Google, opponents ignore the many more acquisitions that don’t work or consumer welfare gains from better products when they do.

But that’s the point: Tyrie wasn’t primarily animated by the idea the competitive process protected consumers’ welfare. No, what he envisaged in championing the “consumer interest” was a more populist body with huge discretionary powers marauding around stamping out practices unfavorable to some consumers, or which consumers disliked in other more subjective ways than conventional consumer welfare analysis considers.

This distinction between “consumer welfare” and “consumer interest” is crucial. Consumer welfare can be assessed and debated using facts about the structure of the market, pricing, and evidence on innovation. Consumer interests are defined by slipperier concepts of “fairness.” Someone caring about consumer welfare might consider higher prices an unfortunate reality in a pandemic market when demand rises; someone animated by the “consumer interest” might see it as unfair to some vulnerable consumers.]

A “consumer interest” champion looks at higher prices some loyal customers pay for utilities, and sees an unfair penalty. Those interested in overall consumer welfare muse that teaser rates for new customers encourage switching, pressuring companies to remain efficient to the benefit of consumer welfare. A competitive market allows companies to compete on pricing strategies too.

A consumer interest lens, then, could sometimes actually harm competition, by eliminating businesses’ opportunities to profit where reputational constraints bind on large firms or where consumer welfare-enhancing pricing strategies exist. The CMA’s ham-fisted intervention on Covid-19 prices almost certainly prolonged shortages of numerous household products, and encouraged supermarkets to remove pro-poor discount deals instead.

Now whether Tyrie is a symptom of a within-CMA attitude shift or its cause, I’m not sure. But his tenure overall accelerated a worrying push towards such discretion. On the audit market, the CMA bypassed the standard market investigations reference process designed to investigate new anti-competitive practices.

His proposals for new CMA powers, meanwhile, would have stripped protections from companies and heightened the risk of wrongful punishments. In short, he wanted the CMA to be an aggressive consumer champion and decision-maker simultaneously – “too much prosecution, judge, and jury” according to some experts.

Tyrie now promises to push his agenda strongly in the Lords. But with so much important competition activity coming the CMA’s way post-Brexit, this “consumer interest” shift couldn’t come at a worse time.

Thankfully, the Government has resisted Tyrie’s demand for power – hence his resignation. It should now select a new chair intent on returning the competition regulator to its primary role, rather than becoming the governmental arm of Which? magazine.

Ed McGuinness: We need more innovation to reopen schools

24 Jun

Ed McGuinness is a former Chairman of Islington Conservative Federation and stood for Hornsey & Wood Green at the general election.

Education is the silver bullet. In the formative years it gives children the skills to interact properly with their peers; as adolescents it delivers the abilities to contribute meaningfully to society; and as young adults it can deliver advanced knowledge to bring about innovation and societal progression. Education is progressive by its very nature; you cannot build the space shuttle before learning your times tables or even learning how to interact socially; the reason why the formative years are so aptly named.

The Government has set criteria for schooling following the much publicised “bubble” principle. Whereby, guided by the science, school class sizes are reduced to a maximum of 15. With average class sizes in England being at 27 this means, on the face of it, there would not be enough teachers or real estate to educate children. But we should not accept this as fait accompli.

For the individual, a Swedish study, found that absence does have a significant effect on average grades in the short term. Whilst studies have yet to prove long term effects conclusively, the penalty, in the labour market, for absences is most profound in those aged 25-30 – precisely the age that most young adults in the UK are beginning the high growth phase of their career.

For society, education not only produces skilled individuals, but also has secondary effects. Education provides a safe environment for children to learn how to interact successfully. Crucially it allows parents of children to be as economically active as possible, whilst school provides a form of secondary childcare. Caring for children at home, whilst attempting to tutor them and be productive at work must lead to a trade-off, most likely in the latter.

With social injustice also so prevalent in the recent news it would also be amiss to ignore the impact that an education vacuum has on the disadvantage gap in England which closed by around ten per cent between 2011 and 2019 – a phenomenal effort from Government and teaching staff. We are now in danger of undoing all that good work. 60 per cent of private schools and 37 per cent of state schools in the most affluent areas versus only 23 per cent of state schools in more deprived areas had the advantage of extra resources beforehand, including online learning portals, which gave them a structural head start. Whilst data is still scarce, in the first week of home schooling (beginning 23 March) pupils from middle class homes were twice as likely to be taking part in daily live or recorded lessons as those from working class households (30 per cent compared to 16 per cent) and with around 50 per cent participation from private schools. The bottom line is that the loss of in-person learning or, at least, supervision could lead to a significant widening of the disadvantage gap once again.

However, we remain fixed by the “bubble” principle. Whilst the Department of Education provides the grand strategy, there are ways councils can step up and take the initiative. A shining example is Wandsworth. Consistently able to deliver value for money for residents, Wandsworth Council has continued its impressive, pragmatic approach to education in its nine-point plan. Three points stand out as innovative.

Firstly, making parks and outside spaces free of charge for schools to use will encourage outdoor learning during the most appropriate months of the year. This new environment also lowers the already low risk to children and teachers of the virus. Making unused council building space available to schools will allow those whose real estate is already tight to expand into a greater space further enhancing safety and allowing greater flexibility to staff and students. Finally, by providing free mental health services to teachers during this period, the council can promote a happier and healthier educational environment. We should remember it is our teachers, heroic even in normal times, who will be facing the additional pressure of explaining complex issues to children, having to enforce unnatural social distancing at times and who genuinely care about the educational welfare of their pupils not being fulfilled to the highest extent.

Whilst not all councils will have the resources of Wandsworth, or necessarily the same micro issues as a London Borough, the broader point is that innovative solutions are needed from all local authorities who are empowered to provide a conducive educational environment.

At the beginning of this crisis, the Government, both centrally and locally, was rightly focussed on its impact on the lives of the public. We saw the huge national effort which has led to a significant increase in NHS capacity, the procurement of much needed ventilators, economic measures which have run into the hundreds of billions of pounds, and a relentless focus on trying to control the spread of the virus. Now it is time to think of the longer term impact. The economic recovery will take many months to get back to pre-crisis levels and years to realign into a more immune position. The educational impact on this nation will last quite possibly for almost a century.

Previous monikers for generations have included “the greatest” and “the silent”. We must innovate if we are to prevent “the lost generation” entering the lexicon of the future.