Boris Johnson has learnt nothing from the North Shropshire by-election

Helen Morgan MP writes  in the Independent -  This week I arrived in parliament as a Liberal Democrat MP. It was the first time I had been to Westminster since winning the by-election in North Shropshire, a constituency held by the Conservative Party since 1832.

The result has been described by many as a shock and “totally unexpected”. Yet when you heard the anger and frustration that I heard on the doorstep each day, the result should have shocked nobody.

I spoke to hundreds of people during the campaign, each with their own story of dismay at a Conservative government which has totally ignored them and their daily concerns. On the doorsteps of Shropshire I heard heartbreaking stories of ambulances taking over 10 hours to provide emergency care, small businesses on the brink after months of uncertainty, and farmers who have been let down by botched trade deals. The anger at Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party was like nothing I’ve ever heard before.

So when I arrived in Westminster after the Christmas recess, I expected to find a prime minister and a government willing to listen to voters in North Shropshire. How wrong I was.

On my first day, I managed to ask Boris Johnson in the House of Commons to set up an inquiry into dangerous ambulance waiting times in rural areas, an issue which dominated the by-election campaign far more than any sleaze story. In Shropshire, we’ve had four ambulance stations closed in recent months and waiting times among the worst in the country.

The response from the prime minister to this life and death situation was truly shocking. He brushed aside my calls for an inquiry. In one fell swoop, Boris Johnson showed he simply hasn’t learnt the lessons from losing the by-election. It is exactly this which makes people’s blood boil in my area.

My second day felt like deja-vu. Upon opening an email from the secretary of state for international trade bragging about the benefits to my region from the new UK-Australia trade deal, there was not a single mention of the rural economy. Perhaps that is because the government’s very own impact assessment of this trade deal admits it will cost British farmers almost £100m.

During the campaign I heard from farmers so furious with this government that they plan on never voting Conservative again. Perhaps if Boris Johnson or the secretary of state for international trade had bothered to speak to farmers in Shropshire, they might have thought twice about promoting a disastrous trade deal.

It raises the question: why won’t Boris Johnson and his Conservative colleagues listen to voters?

There is a growing revolt across the former Conservative heartlands. What we heard in North Shropshire is almost identical to doorstep conversations in the villages of Chesham and Amersham and across the English countryside.

At the next election, there will be endless headlines about the so-called “red wall”. However, the Liberal Democrat victories in North Shropshire and Chesham and Amersham have proven it is the “blue wall” that could prove the downfall of Boris Johnson’s government.


Subversion of Ofcom Recruitment

Boris is at it again; trying to get Paul Dacre, a Tory right-wing dinosaur appointed as the chair of OfCom. But the Good Law project is picking up ther cudgels here, and they have a good record of winning: "'But that’s not stopping ministers, who are now shamelessly pushing to appoint Mr Dacre by adjusting the requirements of the role and re-running the recruitment process with a different interview panel. The ad for the role now includes an amended person specification, from which the requirement for the Chair to work “collegiately” has been removed.

Dacre is being allowed to reapply, even in the face of calls for him to be banned from doing so by a number of Conservative MPs.

It all beggars belief. And unsurprisingly, we think this brazen string-pulling is unlawful.

Lawyers acting for Good Law Project have today written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, stating that this “second competition raises very serious concerns, in particular as to whether it has been held, and designed, in order to favour Mr Dacre’s candidacy”.

Although the Secretary of State is responsible for the appointment of Ofcom’s Chair, Ofcom should be independent of both the Government and the services it regulates. The appointment process must follow the rules of the Governance Code for Public Appointments: whoever is hired should be selected on merit, through an open and fair process."

Sign the petition to prevent Paul Dacre becoming the chair of Ofcom -- Don’t appoint Paul Dacre as chair of Ofcom - Good Law Project

 


Scandal in Parliament

Local Tory MPs Hunt and Argar disgracefully voted to rip up the system of independent scrutiny of MPs, thereby protecting one of their own.Following a public outcry the Government have backed down. Once more these MPs have followed their orders from Boris and not the interests of their voters or the country.

Read more

Can we Save British Farming?

Farmers are facing a triple whammy.

Firstly, forty per cent of our lamb goes to the European Union (EU) along with large exports of wheat and beef.  Even with the thin deal we have with the EU, farmers are now at a commercial disadvantage due to administrative costs. 

Secondly, Trump massively increased support to American farmers. Because of this and their less stringent rules regarding production, the US can easily undercut British farmers (who will need to maintain high standards in a UK-EU deal) and we could end up importing low standard foodstuffs. 

Thirdly, as if that was not enough, the government plans to phase out agricultural support and this will be reduced to zero by 2028, just seven years away. Anything between 60-80 per cent of a farmer’s profits come now from Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments. 

In future they will receive environmental management payments instead.

In an average year, a 200-300 acre farm would only make a £6-7,000 a year profit without government support.  Many farmers are diversifying to try and make a living. So, they take in lodgers, do bed and breakfast and similar schemes.

It will get to the point that one farmer will need between 1,200 -1,500 acres to make any sort of living from farming alone. At this rate we could end up with mega farms or zero farms.  Anything marginal will go. However, it’s hard to scale up and create bigger farms due to our historic framework of higgledy-piggledy villages and roads.

We might think that the government is throwing farmers a lifeline by letting them do environmental improvement work under the new government Environmental Land Management proposals. However, farmers will not be able to make any money out of it, such is the nature of the scheme.

The future for our farmers looks very bleak indeed.

 


Not all Heroes wear capes

Check out what Lib Dems are doing around the country to make their local area better.

Lib Dem Heroes


Food exports collapse as New Brexit Rules bite


Aiden Reed LCC Issues

Our candidate in Loughborough South West, Aidan Reed, discusses the issues the County Council must address.Link

 

 


Training for the Future

The UK Government, during January 2021, issued a White Paper entitled “Skills for Jobs: Lifelong Learning for Opportunity and Growth” but I have no confidence in the ability of our government to competently manage a topic which is so important for the future of UK residents.    Why do I lack confidence in our government?

 

There are several reasons:

 

  1. Our Prime Minister and his ‘Vote Leave’ Government have minimal practical experience of managing or developing scientific research, construction, teaching, medical care, engineering, national health, businesses, economics, data science, technical education, finance, exporting and other essential skills.
  2. The majority of the Cabinet are career politicians without experience of real-life situations.

 

  • The White Paper refers to “Learning”. We need highly skilled people who can think - not merely learn by rote.

 

I remember several examples of serious mistakes which were made by previous UK governments because they were not in touch with practical reality.

 

They include:

 

At the end of World War 2, the UK government wanted to attract large employers such as Ford and English Electric to Liverpool where many youngsters were unemployed. Therefore, it provided large factory premises at attractive rates. It had not considered the availability of suitable recruits. In Stafford, the home of English Electric, most youngsters had grown up with fathers and uncles who worked on factory floors. In Liverpool, few youngsters knew what pliers were for. Training courses, as in Africa, had to commence with basic skills.

 

During the 1960s, the UK Government introduced a levy/grant system for training of apprentices.

For a few years employers trained more apprentices than they had in previous years. Then the government realised that the fund was seriously overdrawn. They increased the levy and reduced grants. Employers stopped training

 

Tony Blair encouraged schools to send leavers to university by providing extra funds to schools for sixth forms. Traditionally the brightest 5% of school leavers went to university and apprentices were selected from the next 15% in the suitability spectrum. Many of these became highly competent skilled and experienced employees who could be supervisors and trainers. Suddenly they became unavailable as up to 50% of leavers went to university. The recruits for apprentices were not suitable for traditional apprenticeships.

 

The availability of highly skilled staff for Supervision and Training was not a problem for most of the 20th century. As skilled technicians aged, they preferred jobs which were less physically demanding. However, the ongoing reduction in the number of suitable apprentices created a lack of suitable supervisors and trainers. Many have been recruited from abroad. Now many of these have been driven home by Brexit.

 

 

The Boris Johnson Government is in chaos with its education management. Its argument that vulnerable children would have mental problems if they could not go to school ignored the fact that most of them would suffer even if they went to school because their home conditions and facilities were inadequate. It had failed to deliver its promises to provide adequate internet facilities and to ensure that vulnerable children received food and care. It ignored the difficulty that schools would have in ensuring that teachers and pupils could rescue the situation after being given minimal warning.

 

The government has failed to deal with the shortage of experienced and trained hospital staff, the large increase in unemployment, students who used to be supported by the Erasmus scheme, lack of re-training for people made redundant, the Brexit departure of EU highly skilled staff and inadequate Covid testing for students and teachers.

 

Our ancestors protected us and cared for us during two World Wars and the aftermath. We must do the same for our children and future generations. Liberal Democrats must provide the leadership which seems to be lacking elsewhere.

 

 

Source information from:

            Imperial College

            The Economist

            BBC

            London School of Economics

            The Guardian

            My memory


Our Children’s future and the Liberal Democrats - A Personal View by Jim Murcott

I am lucky because I and my family have been extremely fortunate to have been born in the twentieth century, to have been born in western Europe, and to have been able to enjoy the economic and other benefits of living in the European Union.

My hope, for most of my life, has been for Europe, North America and like-minded countries to work together for the benefit of the human race and to lead the world in maintaining liberal and democratic standards. The results have not been perfect, but there have been wonderful benefits during the last 40 years - no wars between EU states, increased security by co-operation and shared funding, huge improvements in living standards, free-movement of staff, Erasmus support for students, etc. Now, after the last minute and incomplete Brexit trade deal, it will need a huge effort by the British people to maintain the quality of life provided by our ancestors.

Millions of Europeans (along with many others across the world) died during two world wars and more millions suffered great hardship during the following years. Those of us who were born during the last century benefitted hugely from the magnificent sacrifices of our ancestors and the efforts of those who inspired and built the EU. Surely, we have a moral duty to pass those benefits onto future generations. They should not be frittered away by a selfish and/or incompetent group of politicians. They were elected to serve the people - not just themselves and their outdated beliefs.

We need to elect parliamentarians who have practical experience of managing or developing scientific research, construction, teaching, medical care, engineering, national health, businesses, economics, data science, technical education, finance, exporting and other essential skills. We need a Government Cabinet which is not dominated by incompetent journalists, traditionalists and career politicians who owe their positions to egoistical leaders. Government is much more than the manipulation of words and the wasteful use of taxpayers’ money.  It should not expect that it will be rescued by the General Public and the workers and managers of organisations which generate the wealth of the UK and provide the essential services. (Dealing with the effects of a major Trade Deal with only a few days notice of essential actions over Christmas and New Year, or completely re-organising schooling with 24 hours notice, or operating a complex business when necessary decisions have been delayed or reversed).

The residents of the UK are facing many challenges - such as care for an ageing population, education for those who have suffered this century, the possible break-up of the UK, the departure of skilled and essential immigrant and non-immigrant workers, the maintenance of a wonderful health service, etc. However, four massive challenges have to be overcome in order for the others to be dealt with. They are the Coronavirus Pandemic, Brexit & the Economy, Climate Change & Education.

In trying to tackle these challenges the UK electorate will soon see that they have been misled by the members of an incompetent and indecisive government who believe that they have been appointed so that they will be remembered for posterity. They are more likely to be despised because they followed false dogma and caused our country to become a laughingstock. Any Cabinet leading us at this time must include people who have real experience of making responsible and rational decisions. The government repeatedly say that they are “following the science”.  Yes, they are - but many weeks after they should have acted to save lives and jobs.

We can see the ongoing self-destruction of the Labour Party and the current destruction of the Conservative Party by Johnson ‘The Ditherer’. This destruction is already in progress according to a new poll which is the first detailed survey of the public’s perception of Johnson’s handling of the recently concluded Brexit talks and the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 22,000 people were surveyed in the Focaldata poll in December and results published by the Sunday Times. The poll found the ruling Conservatives would lose 81 seats, wiping out their 80-seat majority. The Scottish National Party was also predicted to win 57 of the 59 seats in Scotland. Installing Liberal Democrat MPs instead, would bring a responsible stabilising influence in any future government.

Our forebears protected us and cared for us during two World Wars and in the aftermath. We must do the same for our children and future generations. Liberal Democrats can provide the leadership which is lacking elsewhere.

Source information from:

  • Imperial College
  • The Economist
  • BBC
  • London School of Economics
  • The Guardian

No-deal Brexit + Covid-19 = Economic Horror for UK? - Update

There has been lot of talk since I wrote my original article in October - but not a lot which will be much help to those of us who live in the UK. Perhaps the loss of Dominic Cummings and the approval of a Covid-19 vaccine will be a benefit. However, the lack of progress with the “oven-ready” Brexit trade deal, the ongoing problems with “Track and Trace”, the absence of capacity to use the promised vaccines, the lack of post 31 December information to enable businesses to plan for 2021 together with the departure of several of Boris Johnson’s advisers could be disastrous for ordinary people in the UK.

 

Costings for Brexit Trade Deals and the Economic Cost of a No-Deal Brexit

The Governor of the Bank of England has estimated that the pandemic will cause persistent scarring over the long term, with total economic output about 1.75% lower than would otherwise have been the case by the end of 2023. No-deal Brexit would not cause as much short-term damage as inflicted by the pandemic earlier this year. However, the LSE modelling has estimated a reduction in GDP worth 8% over a decade compared with remaining in the EU. On the Andrew Marr Show, George Eustace (a Cabinet Minister) said that modelling organisations have estimated that Brexit could increase costs by about 2%. He also said that positive benefits would be available, but he failed to provide any specific details of what these could be. The Government does not appear to have published any useful forecasting data, but an unknown person has leaked a Cabinet Office briefing on the possible impacts of the last stage of Brexit. It details “reasonable ‘worst case’ scenarios” across 20 different areas of national life from oil and healthcare to travel & policing and depicts a country struggling to overcome difficulties posed by one crisis, yet bracing for a second, as all departments are told to prepare for a 'no deal’ departure.

 

  1. Global & British food supply chains will be disrupted by “circumstances occurring concurrently at the end of the year’, the paper warns. Stockpiles built up at the end of 2019 were diminished during the pandemic and cannot easily be replenished.
  2. There will not be overall food shortages, but problems could reduce availability of some fresh supplies and push up prices.
  3. Low-income groups will be most at risk of food insecurity if there is a no-deal Brexit, including single parents, children in large families and those with disabilities.
  4. It warns that economic chaos could raise the risks of a breakdown in public order and a national mental health crisis, while reducing the “financial levers” available for the government to respond to other risks.
  5. There may also be an increase in “community tensions” &public disorder. The briefing notes that police tracked increases in Brexit-related hate crime in March 2019 and the end of that year – two other periods of intensive political & public focus on leaving the EU.

 

The fallout during Spring 2020 from Covid-19 took Britain’s economy into the deepest recession on record, with a 20% drop in gross domestic product in the second quarter. The Bank of England estimates that the pandemic will cause the total economic output to be about 1.75% lower than would otherwise have been the case by the end of 2023. No-deal Brexit would not cause as much damage in the short-term as inflicted by the pandemic earlier this year. Rishi Sunak said that Covid-19 posed a much greater threat to the economy than a no-deal scenario and that a deal was preferable but that the UK would prosper in any eventuality. He also said that, in 2021, unemployment would be greater than 7% (2.6 million people). However, the LSE modelling estimated a reduction in GDP worth 8% over a decade compared with remaining in the EU. My expectation is still that the combined long-term effect on GDP is likely to be nearly 10% (i.e., 8% for a no deal Brexit and 1.7% for Covid-19). That would result in millions of people being unemployed and a massive drop in living standards especially for the poorer members of society.

 

Johnson is steadily losing his top advisers. Several senior government roles have been taken by people who have had limited recent and little relevant experience. Following the departure of Dominic Cummings in November 2020, Edward Lister has been acting as the temporary Chief of Staff. Dan Rosenfield will become the new permanent Chief of Staff from January 2021. Following the departure of Mark Sedwill as Cabinet Secretary, Head of the Civil Service and National Security Adviser, Simon Case became Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service on 09 September. David Frost’s appointment as National Security Adviser was announced in June as well as continuing as Chief Brexit Negotiator. As well as Dominic Cummings and Mark Sedwill, he got rid of Lee Cain during November and Edward Lister is leaving in January. His cabinet meetings are known to lack worthwhile discussions and he lacks useful “hands-on” management experience to make best use of the skills that are available. This leads to decisions being made according to his “whack-a-mole” strategy. Johnson could invite a few experienced scientists, medical experts, engineers, IT specialists and managers of small and large businesses to join the Cabinet but would any of them agree to work for him given his history.

Source information from:
          Imperial College
          The Economist
          BBC
          London School of Economics
          The Guardian
 
 

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