Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.
The Government’s daily press briefings have come under a lot of criticism this week – sometimes justifiably, sometimes not.
The communications strategy seems to be following that of the general election: repeat the same phrases until the whole country has learned them off by heart. Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives. Repeat. Whatever the question from the journalist is, just repeat that phrase as often as possible.
It does my head in; it probably does yours in too, but it has been effective in persuading the general public to do what they’ve been asked to.
At least the Westminster press conferences have some degree of interaction between the journalists and the three government spokespeople. In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon allows a single question. Then the journalist’s microphone is muted and no follow up question is allowed.
Sturgeon’s great asset is her ability to think on her feet, so it’s a mystery as to why she won’t allow any follow ups. Yet the media let her off the hook for it, in a way they certainly didn’t when, during the initial few days of the daily press conferences, journalists weren’t allowed a follow up in London either.
That soon changed, and quite right too. The Scottish media is incredibly supine to the SNP administration, and its failure to protest about it tells us all we need to know.
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The Office for Budget Responsibility published a post-Coronavirus economic scenario which scared the bejesus out of most people.
It was only a scenario, they said, not a prediction. Why publish it ,then? Nonetheless, it did go some way to illustrate that, whatever else people can disagree on, we can all agree that we won’t be returning to a normal economic situation any time soon.
And by ‘soon’, I mean for the decade or even two. The public finances will be shot to pieces, but how are they put back on an even keel? The public is in no mood for a return to the austerity policies of the last ten years, so what is the alternative?
People will argue that extra borrowing doesn’t matter given interest rates are at as near nought per cent as you can get. Maybe, but the natural laws of economics don’t change. Rising levels of borrowing and debt lead to economic uncertainty.
The challenge for the Chancellor is not only how to reduce borrowing, but also how to meet the increasing demands from public services. The tax burden has been on the rise for some time. The rate of that increase is bound to rise.
Expect a lot of hidden tax rises which will hit middle earners hardest. Putting taxes up for the low paid is politically unacceptable, but I would expect to see a revamping of income tax bands, as well as a big increase in property taxes.
In theory, older people should now be taxed more but, for a government which won its electoral mandate on the backs of the votes of older generations, this may be one step too far.
The main priority will surely be to rebuild an enterprise economy and encourage entrepreneurs to start new businesses. The recovery will be built from the bottom up. Big business will look after its own interests, as it always does, but it is the SMEs which will be the job creators.
Everything possible must be done to encourage them. Get rid of the IR35 reforms. Abandon the plans to abolish the entrepreneurs relief. Get rid of any barrier to people starting up businesses. Do that, and economic activity will follow as sure as night follows day.
We need a revolution in economic thinking. It will not be business as usual. It can’t be. But have we got the politicians and economic thinkers who are up to the task? I bloody well hope so.
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I’m tempted to start a weekly award in this column for The Wanker of the Week.
The undoubted winner this week would be Channel 4 News’s Alex Thomson. He’s a journalist who I have always admired, but this week he’s lost the plot.
Firstly, he questioned whether Boris Johnson should be allowed to recuperate at Chequers because it’s his “second home”. He’s the f*cking Prime Minister, you absolute bellend. And he nearly died.
He then followed it up by suggesting in as many words in a question at the daily Government briefing that the government is deliberately following a strategy of killing as many old people as possible.
Quite how Matt Hancock didn’t throw something at the screen is remarkable. Given that a huge amount of Tory support came from the over 65s at the last election you’d have to be pretty dumb as a politician to want to kill off the main base of your own support.