The DRD Snapshot - 1 October 2021
1 Oct 2021
THE WEEK THAT WAS
Labour (un)faithful: The Labour faithful gathered in Brighton this week for its annual conference, and leader Keir Starmer took the opportunity to purge his opponents. One may be forgiven for thinking that his opponents would be the Tories – but the Labour Party has a special ability to fight amongst itself. Sir Keir’s team spent the first few days masterminding changes to the rules on electing a leader in order to limit the possibility of a Corbyn-type figure coming to the top of the party again. To the rest of the country, this probably looked like the sensible ones gaining control. For the far-left, however, it was treachery and even when the leader was speaking about his dying mother and the good work of the NHS, his detractors thought it sensible to heckle. Which really just proves his point – that some of the Party (un)faithful are really doing more to harm the party than help it.
Can Phil McCann fill my can?: An appropriately named BBC correspondent gave the British public a chuckle reporting outside a petrol station this week, papering over an otherwise troubling supply chain fuel shortage. Whether the forecourts will have fuel soon or not appears to be anyone’s guess, with fuel companies such as BP saying today that the situation is “stabilising”, whereas retail industry bodies such as the Petrol Retailers Association argue there has been no improvement in supplies. Strangely though, fuel is not in short supply – but those who drive it around the country are. Tightened immigration laws and new tax changes have made it harder for EU nationals to move in and out of the country for work. Non-UK resident HGV-drivers or supply chain workers have faced time-consuming red tape and disincentives to work in the UK. Meanwhile, Covid-19 restrictions, lockdowns and stay at home orders have poured fuel on the fire, if you’ll pardon the pun. What have we learnt from all this? Whatever your view of Brexit, it’s clear that losing a pool of European labour which is vital to the functioning of critical UK industry was never going to offer stability. Our labour and fuel shortage in the UK was our own making. An own goal if ever we saw one!
The end of the magic money tree: Yesterday marked the end of the furlough scheme established at the beginning of the pandemic. The Chancellor said he was “immensely proud” of the near £70bn scheme, but now was the right time to close it, despite calls for further support from some badly hit companies. It has been estimated that roughly one million workers were expected to be on the scheme at the end of September, according to research by the Resolution Foundation and that more than 700,000 people may lose jobs, hours or earnings. It’s safe to say that when it comes to the suggested negative outcomes of abruptly ending such a big support scheme, the Government have firmly lodged their heads in the sand. The past 18 months have had the greatest impact on the most vulnerable, and the next few months are unlikely to be any better. At least those at MI6 who spent 18 months on furlough are back in action… .
THE WEEK TO COME
Tory time: Conference season turns to the Tories next week, who will be meeting in Manchester. The Prime Minister’s job couldn’t be more distinct from Keir Starmer’s: while the latter spent his time in Brighton trying to get the country to know him better, for Boris it’s more a case of too-much-information. Instead, the Prime Minister will be focused on fleshing out his domestic policy agenda: having spent the majority of his premiership on Covid and Brexit, it’s time to push on with Levelling Up, decarbonising the economy and fixing the country’s productivity problems. Those are difficult issues to shoehorn into Boris language: the Tories have a unique campaigning style to governing, where all policy initiatives are viewed through the prism of what progress can be made by the time of the next election. Unlike Labour, the Tories know who their real enemies are – and Manchester will be the next step in taking the fight to them.
Wanted: £20: Next week sees the end of the Universal Credit £20 uplift that was put in place during the pandemic. Shockingly, it has been warned that a loss of £80 a month will have a massive impact on some of the most vulnerable people in the country. Citizens Advice has warned that a third of people on Universal Credit will end up in debt when the extra payment is removed. It said the average shortfall would be between £51 and £55 a month. Another charity, the Health Foundation, has warned that the cut could lead to poorer mental health and wellbeing for thousands of families. Even the involvement of Marcus Rashford has done little to put the Government off of its plans. The targeted Household Support Fund, announced on Thursday, as an additional support to the most vulnerable has been met with much anger as many commentators believe it doesn’t go far enough.
Experiencing the Expo: A year in the making. A modern majlis of architecturally striking pavilions was revealed to the world on Friday at the Al Wasl Plaza, as 90 countries showcase their culture and innovations to a global audience. The opening ceremony saw lavish fireworks and a flawless Andrea Bocelli performance, welcome governments and businesses to the sustainability focused 2020 World Expo, which opened in the Southern Suburbs of Dubai. The Expo serves as a tool for economic, cultural and social improvement, as a hub for countries to collaborate on shared objectives such as economic growth and climate change. The world’s most high-stakes souk is forecasted to boost the UAE’s gross domestic product by 1.5%, according to EY, as countries haggle over international trade and investment opportunities. This is just as well as the delayed-Expo cost the Gulf state an estimated $6.8 billion to host. The UAE aims to attract 25 million visitors to the event, which lasts for six months. The economic impact of the event will condition whether it is viewed as a success, however, criticism will persist related to the UAE’s human rights record, as the European Parliament urged member states not to take part.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
∑ The Indefinite Article: In Northern Ireland, there’s often little unity among Unionists. The fact was underscored this week by former leader Arlene Foster, who has turned down an invitation to the party’s 50th birthday bash, still smarting from the coup which dramatically toppled her. But one thing they can all agree on is the Northern Ireland Protocol. DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson had recently dialled up the rhetoric, threatening to pull the party out of Stormont’s power sharing executive unless the Protocol is binned. Risky stuff, considering the polls show that Unionism could be in for a pasting in the event of an early election. However, on Tuesday (Ulster Day, symbolically) the four main unionist parties issued a “joint declaration,” demanding an end to a border in the Irish Sea. They stopped short of suggesting alternatives. Given the fractured state of Unionism, some see this outbreak of co-operation brokered by Donaldson as a shrewd move to shore up support at the polls. Meanwhile, HMG continues to spar with the EU on the Protocol, with rumours swirling that it could be preparing to invoke Article 16. Helpful rumours… if you want everybody to stop talking about petrol.
Can Boris show the way forward in difficult times?
Following on from last week’s preview of the Labour Party Conference, DRD Partner Pete Bowyer takes a look at what might be in store for the Conservatives in Manchester next week
The Conservative Party conference kicks off in Manchester on Sunday hard on the heels of Labour’s earlier this week in Brighton. There, Keir Starmer had three jobs to do. First, he had to marginalise the hard left through internal party reforms. Second, he had to introduce his own personal story to the nation at his first ever in-person conference as leader. And finally, he had to start to sketch out a plan for government to show that his party was once again more serious about power than protest.
To read more click here.
THUMBS UP / DOWN
WORTH A READ
The Spectator – Will China’s ‘digital yuan’ reinvent money as we know it?
New Statesman – Labour has become two parties. Can anybody make it one again?
Politico – Britain’s civil service merry-go-round
The Times – Britain can’t take any more tax rises, says Rees-Mogg
The Economist – Andy Burnham wants to help rescue the Tories’ signature policy
STAT OF THE WEEK
Labour faces another uphill battle to increase the name recognition of its Shadow Cabinet…
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