Hancock’s Half Page

IF PM IS FDR, WHO NEEDS LABOUR?

JUST JIM 407

THATCHERISM CONSIGNED TO HISTORY.

The prospect of endless Tory governments stretching until the 2040s disturbed my sleep this week.

The government have decided to compare their attempts to drag the economy out of its Covid-19 slump with the measures taken by US President Franklin Roosevelt to end the American depression of the 1930s. This has caused alarm amongst Tory purists because it involves high levels of public spending, a big role for the state and increased taxation.

One can argue that the Johnson administration has been forced to demolish the three pillars of Thatcherism because of the lockdown, but there were signs that the Conservatives would do whatever it took to get a big majority last December, before the virus struck.

The northern red wall was broken down by promises to spend big in the north to level up the economy. It led to the election of a new breed of pragmatic Tory MPs who put fixing things ahead of ideology.

The promises that Johnson made in his “build, build, build” speech this week might fail. In four years’, time we could be looking at mass unemployment with higher taxation trying to fund collapsing public services. In those circumstances the people will probably turn to the Labour Party in desperation.

However if the Tories are successful where does that leave the basic Labour position whereby they, occasionally, win the hearts of voters by being the party that asks you to pay a bit more tax for a fairer Britain?

STARMER ACTS.

Sir Keir Starmer is doing what he can. Despite the problems discussed above, he can at least deal with internal party matters that made Labour unelectable last Christmas.

Full marks to him for sacking Rebecca Long-Bailey. I don’t think the link to anti-Semitism was that strong, but the Salford MP should have been more careful. Let’s be frank, Starmer needs a Shadow Cabinet that unambiguously repudiates Corbynism. Long-Bailey, and a few others, that remain, yearn for the Corbyn period when the ultra-left were tolerated, anti-Semitism was not dealt with and policies adopted that guaranteed defeat.

The hard left prefers Labour wallowing in impotent opposition with “pure” policies on everything compared to the messy compromises needed to build a party capable of convincing middle Britain to vote for them. In their tweets, some supporters of Long-Bailey call for the setting up of a socialist party. Quite right. Go and do that and get out of the Labour Party which only wins from the left of centre.

FOOTBALL SUCCESS, ECONOMIC SLUMP.

Congratulations to Liverpool on winning the Premiership, let’s hope that Everton, in their new stadium, will be challenging them soon for the title.

It is interesting to reflect how historically the clubs are generally successful when the city is on its knees! In the seventies and eighties when Liverpool and Everton were winning the old Division 1, the city experienced decline, riots and Militant. Liverpool won their last title in 1990 just as recovery was underway.

Let’s hope that a string of Liverpool Premiership titles will not be paralleled by economic decline again.

4 YEARS ON: NO EU EXTENSION NEEDED.

The people of the UK need to assume full responsibility for the decision they took four years ago as soon as possible. That is why I, an arch Remainer, fully support the government’s decision not to seek an extension to the EU transition period.

Being subject to EU rules and levies without a seat at the table is intolerable. We are either all in for an ever closer union or we are out.

A case has been put that because of Covid-19, we should avoid inflicting further damage to the UK economy. I would argue that it is better to roll up the effects of the double whammy into one stramash, so that business avoids starting to recover from the lockdown only to be hit by the effects of leaving the EU later.

That may seem brutal to those who would argue that spreading the blow to business would be better. I would say that we all must live with the decision we took in 2016 be that bosses in the boardroom or Brexiteers on the streets.

Anyway, Leavers would have us believe there may be no ill effects from leaving the EU. Global Britain awaited. Non-EU countries around the world would be ready with trade deals soon after we left on Jan 31st. Although many Leavers hanker after the old imperial relationships with Australia and New Zealand, even they must recognise that trade with them will be tiny compared with our former EU partners. However, Boris and Michael Gove had the big boys in mind, China, and the USA.

So how are things going with China? Covid19 has started a massive rethink on globalisation. Moves are afoot to end our reliance on companies thousands of miles away for vital goods, be they medicines or steel. But there’s always our links with China’s hi-tech industries, except that Boris Johnson is under intense pressure from his backbenchers over his 5G with Huawei.

Meanwhile out trade talks with the USA seem to have gone distinctly sour. Trade Secretary Liz Truss said this week that the Americans talk a good game but unfairly keep UK products out of their markets. She cited a US ban on lamb and 25% levy on steel and cars. The Americans also seem to be far more focused on settling old scores over a spat with Airbus which could yet see new 25% tariffs on whiskey and cashmere.

The Daily Mail, which led the Leave charge is now mounting a vociferous campaign to protect our farmers from cheap, hormone treated American food. You couldn’t make it up.

So where will we be on Dec 31st when we finally sever our ties with the EU? I’m pretty certain there will be a deal. It will only be settled after we have passed several final deadlines. By the way it always astonishes me that however important the talks, the summer holidays are always sacrosanct. Both parties have already wasted five months in posturing, so why can’t they work all summer long to sort it out?

The virus recession will make it almost impossible to identify the extra damage that will be inflicted on the UK economy by our leaving the EU. We face difficult years ahead without the solidarity of the EU, dependent on a volatile global economy.

It is to be hoped that the EU’s recovery plan will show the 27 the need for political as well as economic union, and that one day we will be able to take our place in such an institution.

BIG CHANGES FOR LANCASHIRE?

FIFTEEN INTO ONE DOESN’T GO

The success of the elected mayors in Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region may finally have ended the squabbling in Lancashire over an elected mayor with a combined authority.

Detailed proposals are being prepared for each of the fifteen, yes fifteen, councils that run Lancashire. The danger still lurks that parochialism will raise its head again to block agreement. In the past if it wasn’t East Lancashire wanting to go its own way, then Wyre or Fylde were unhappy. One must hope that now that the 15 leaders have agreed the deal, there is a real prospect of Lancashire asserting its interests alongside Manchester and Liverpool.

The government have always insisted that an elected mayor was essential for a devolution deal even in more rural areas. The question then is what structure there will be beneath the mayor to run the county. It would surely be impossible to ask the mayor to work with fifteen councils. Apart from anything else they vary greatly in size and powers. Twelve are district councils with limited roles whereas Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen are all purpose unitary councils. That leaves Lancashire County Council running major services from Lancaster to Skelmersdale.

A Combined Authority for the whole council might have three councils beneath it based on North, East and South Lancashire.

So, in the east Blackburn and Burnley might be grouped together (interesting) along with Pendle, Hyndburn, and Rossendale.

The north would include Blackpool and Preston along with the more rural hinterland of Fylde, Wyre, Lancaster, and Ribble Valley.

West Lancashire, Chorley and South Ribble would compose a southern authority.

WHY CHANGE?

So big changes could be on the way. They are always expensive and disruptive but essential to avoid the charge that the elected mayor will be another tier of bureaucracy. Sitting above every citizen would be just one tier of local government with an elected mayor answerable to all.

Apart from giving Lancashire a voice comparable to other devolved areas, the elected mayor attracts a £30m pot of government cash every year for thirty years. The mayor would control big areas of policy including inward investment, transport, housing, and education. It will be interesting to see if, post Covid-19, Lancashire might also get a health deal like Greater Manchester’s.

WHO WILL IT BE?

Unlike the Labour strongholds of the Liverpool City and Greater Manchester sub regions, Lancashire is a more diverse county politically. So, a Conservative could be elected. Never discount a further twist to the colourful career of Geoff Driver although age is against him. Keep an eye on his cabinet member for economic development Michael Green.

On the Labour side Simon Blackburn, the leader of Blackpool Council could be a contender.

The government intended that these posts should attract independent candidates with a business background. I know somebody who ticks those boxes and has past experience of political office in Lancashire as the county’s deputy leader. He is the MD of Downtown Frank Mckenna.

COME ON CHESHIRE!

These moves in Lancashire will put the pressure on Warrington and the two Cheshire councils to get their act together and back a Combined Authority.

CHALLENGES FOR BUSINESS AND BLACK LIVES MATTER.

Blocking out the past won’t help with the future for our black community. As a person who loves history, I am worried that pulling down statues and changing street names will hide the crime of our slaving past. Plaques should be put up to explain the dark past of these men. They will be in the public realm for everyone to see. Not everyone visits museums.

In any case there are signs that the campaign to obliterate the past is getting out of control. Just as the violence against the police did no favours to the memory of George Floyd, nor do the extreme demands of Black Lives Matter. In Liverpool, there is a move against the Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone because, its claimed, he benefitted from his father’s wealth from the West Indies. William Gladstone fought for Home Rule for Ireland, expanded the franchise, and opposed Turkish cruelty against the Bulgarians.

On that latter point, only 20% of the world is ruled by white Caucasians. 80% of the world population is governed by Asian and African leaders who have not always had brilliant track records in the fields of corruption and human rights.

History is complicated. It should be studied not buried and meanwhile we should move on from protest to the underlying issue of why BAME representation in boardrooms and higher paid jobs is so poor.

Black people represent less than 1pc of business leaders running the largest UK companies. Overall, the ethnic minority figure is actually going down from 9% in 2018 to 7% last year.

Beyond business the picture is the same. Take our top thirteen sporting organisations like the FA, UK Sport and UK Athletics. There are only three black members on the governing bodies. You’ll find a different picture when it comes to the people cleaning the boardrooms.

It is a vicious circle. Black youngsters don’t see their peers in senior positions, and this feeds back into motivation at school. White people don’t encounter black people as their bosses and this feeds into underlying racist attitudes.

Some points need to be made on the other side of the argument. It is wrong to equate our police with their American opposite numbers. The Stephen Lawrence case was far from the last of its kind but generally our police are far more accountable than is the case in America. They are generally restrained, even when provoked, and have been criticised when they don’t intervene as was the case in Bristol on Sunday. Some members of Black Lives Matters want no police. Such policies are silly and discredit their otherwise laudable aims.

Finally, it is a fact that the black ethnic community has the highest population of loan parents. Absent black fathers is a subject that many liberals don’t want to discuss, but it surely must be damaging as youngsters grow up not to have a father around.

So, let’s have an honest debate on both sides and then business and our institutions need to move rapidly to improve BAME representation and get out of the comfort zone of appointing “people like us”.