The DRD Snapshot - 03 September 2021
9 Mar 2021
Summer Storms: “Lounging on the beach”, “asleep at the wheel”, “toast”, “weakest link” and “The Sea was actually closed” – just some of the phrases associated with UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab over the past weeks. Raab received criticism for not predicting the speed at which Kabul would fall to the Taliban in August, which happened whilst he was on holiday with his family in Crete. On Wednesday, a fiery and defiant Raab appeared before a Select Committee to answer questions on this latest foreign policy blunder. As of today, it remains unclear how many British citizens remain in Afghanistan, Afghan guards at the British Embassy in Kabul did not make it out from Kabul airport and portraits of Queen Elizabeth had to be destroyed in the Embassy. As Raab heads out to the region imminently, on his return his next Select Committee appearance on his handling of Afghanistan is likely to be just as dicey.
Moving from South Central Asia back to London, Sharon Graham was announced as Unite the Union’s first female general secretary gaining 37.7% of the vote and 4,800 votes more than the second placed candidate. It’s expected that leftwinger Graham will establish a more distant relationship with the Labour party than that of predecessor Len McCluskey. Elsewhere, the Department of Work & Pensions has been carved out as this week’s villain, announcing that a £20-per-week pandemic boost to Universal Credit will come to an end on October 6th. The government line is that as the economy opens up the focus needs to shift to getting people back to work, but MPs are due to oppose the decision and appeal to the PM to make the increase permanent.
THE WEEK TO COME
The Wild Westminster : Parliament returns next week in the wake of a chaotic summer, both domestically and internationally. One in four young adults in the UK have still not received a first dose of the covid-19 vaccine, figures show. Scientists are concerned what this could mean coupled with children going back to school and the potential rise in cases that could follow. Meanwhile, the Government are acting like the pandemic is done and dusted and all that’s left to do is get on with raising National Insurance and potentially criminalising laughing gas. Which is no laughing matter. Before we know it, it’ll be party conference season and we’ll be overwhelmed by bad speeches, power stances and hopefully a few P45s. Personally delivered, of course.
Green Giant? This week, Defra published more amendments to the long-awaited Environment Bill, which seeks to carve out a post-Brexit environmental policy framework for the UK. Not before time, some might say. Despite Environment Secretary George Eustice boasting that the bill sits at the “vanguard” of the government’s green policy, it has been knocking around parliament since 2019, leaving campaigners in apoplexy. At its heart is a new watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protections (OEP), which the politicians (after saying “build back greener” a lot) say will provide an accountability which will “lead the world in protecting our environment.” Many critics believe that is something of an overstatement. The Bill will also ostensibly dovetail with a new Planning Bill, which Defra promises will fill any gaps on protecting our flora and fauna from the big, bad property developers. Considering this (as-yet-unpublished) Planning Bill also promises to speed up the rate of housing development, it will be very interesting to see how.
Bone-rattling: This week Peter Bone’s Private Member’s Bill on voter registration returns to the Commons for a Second Reading. The Bill would prohibit persons from being registered to vote in Parliamentary elections at more than one address. This Bill appears to be creating a bit of a fuss over nothing, with less than 20 cases of voter fraud being reported in the UK last year. When we consider the MP for Wellingborough’s other past Private Member’s Bills including changing the size and number of constituencies and the BBC Privatisation Bill they all point to the same question over and over again, “Why do you care?” Mr Bone loves to make a large noise about issues most people don’t care about, all in the name of democracy. We can’t hate him for it though, who doesn’t love a cranky old man?
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
Off-putting for Ofcom? The government is once again struggling to appoint a chair of the regulator, Ofcom. The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, had ordered a re-run of the recruitment process in May after the government’s preferred candidate, Paul Dacre, failed the final round of the interview stage. Dacre, the former Daily Mail editor and a controversial figure, failed the process as he did not meet the stated criteria of the independent selection board. However, progress in the rerun has stalled once again, as the government are struggling to find individuals to sit on the new interviewing panel. According to the Guardian, fears are that any involvement might tarnish their reputations, by taking part in a process that has already been predetermined by the government. Questions are now being raised over whether this is a genuine process or simply a second attempt to achieve the government’s desired outcome. The regulator has already been without a permanent chair for over 12 months and fears are that these new delays will mean that the re-run might drag on until late next year.
Foreign misadventures: the impact of the Afghan crisis on domestic politics
As Parliament returns from its long recess, DRD Partner Pete Bowyer looks at how the political fortunes of the Prime Minister have changed over the Summer and asks whether foreign misadventures really count for anything domestically anymore?
If a week is a long time in politics, then a whole Summer must seem like an eternity. Just ask Boris Johnson. When the darling buds of May were only beginning to sprout forth, all seemed rosy in the garden for the Conservatives. In those halcyon days, the Tories were riding high in the polls, putting Labour to the sword in the local elections and adding more ‘Red Wall’ seats to their collection. Johnson was Lord of all he surveyed.
To read more click here.
THUMBS UP / DOWN
WORTH A READ
The Spectator – What can we learn about Afghanistan from Alastair Campbell?
New Statesman – Emmanuel Macron has been exposed as a false liberal idol
The Economist – The extraordinary power of the NHS brand
STAT OF THE WEEK
As we look towards the return of Parliament next week, disapproval of Johnson’s Government grows… .
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