‘Save some face, you know you’vebrexit
only got one..’

 

 

In some ways this article follows on from ‘Cheap Slogans and Empty Gestures’ of the 30th April 2020.

Only a few short weeks ago Mr Johnson, the PM, was lauding the angels of the NHS who saved him from Covid-19, ironically two of the nurses singled out were both from overseas. But talk is cheap, and memories short.

The Home Secretarys, Priti Patel, immigration bill is due to have its second read in the House of Commons  on Monday, Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow Home secretary, has written to her urging her to ‘think again’.

‘I believe the government’s plan to rush through this immigration legislation is an insult to our incredible NHS staff and care workers,’ he said. ‘It is, frankly, rank hypocrisy from the government towards EU nationals – over 180,000 in England and Wales alone – who are currently working in our NHS and in the care sector, for ministers to stand and clap for them on a Thursday night, and then tell them that they are not welcome in the UK on a Monday.’

This is the bill that Patel described as ‘historic’. Unusually, I agree with her, it is indeed history in the making as, never in my memory has a British government stooped so low!

‘never in my memory has a British government stooped so low’

Clap for them, then charge them. This is the how the Conservatives treat migrant key workers..

Patel has now suggested the surcharge was ‘under review’. Unfortunately, this seems to be here stock answer whenever points out the evil nature pf her policies, she’ll say they’re being looked at.

The Home Office were more forthcoming saying she had never promised any formal review of the NHS surcharge. Instead, this was just Patel referring to the fact that ‘all government policies are continuously kept under review’.

The reality now is as I wrote previously, meaningless slogan and empty gestures. When the clapping stops, they continue as if nothing has happened.

‘no effort to ease in his new back-to-work message, and was made without consulting teachers, care home managers, or mayors’

The surcharge has tripled in price in less than two years, and is set to rise again, to £624, on 1 October this year. For anyone under the age of 18 it will be £470, meaning for a family of two adults and two children, it will cost £2,188 to use the NHS each year

The government justifies the surcharge, saying it ‘ensures that migrants make a proper financial contribution to the cost of their NHS care’.

This statement is untrue, all these immigrant workers in the NHS pay NI and tax, just like the rest of us. Whats almost worse than the lie, is that the stupid readers of the popular press believe it. Never mind come Thursday they will do their bit, clap, clap.

After the NHS angels did us all disservice, Johnson’s return to work saw paralysis replaced by confusion, obfuscation, and being polite, half-truths. In his 13-minute rambling return address to the nation he made no effort to ease in his new back-to-work message, and was made without consulting teachers, care home managers, or mayors.

 

NB – After Philip had submitted his piece, Mr Johnson was forced to execute what the Guardian described as a rubber-burning U-turn adding that people will ‘never forgive a government that is both uncaring and useless’

 

As a result of this is his approval ratings are tumbling:

 

  • Opinium polls showed a +42 net approval rating for his handling of the virus in March; that has fallen to -3.
  • YouGov’s +51 net approval rating on 27 March has plunged to -2.

 

After Sir Keir landed a few choice blows over the appalling care home death rates at last week’s PMQ’s, his personal rating overtook Johnson’s.

It has been reported that Johnson had warned the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers that they faced an agile opposition and a ‘slippery opponent’.

As the saying goes, ‘it takes one to know one!’ Johnson, the ultimate seat of his pants individual ,together with his crew if lightweight ‘yes men’, regards politics as a game, an amusing pastime if you wish, whereas Labour’s frontbench is occupied by serious, earnest policy heavyweights.

‘It is such an outrageous statement, that you can almost understand why he believes it’

Johnson now has no-place to hide and he’s lost when his usual bluster can’t explain away deaths.

Can there have been many more lightweights than Matt Hancock. Tony Hancock would have done better!

Matt, not Tony, claimed last week that, ‘Right from the start we’ve tried to throw a protective ring around our care homes … we’ve made sure care homes have the resources they need.’

It is such an outrageous statement, that you can almost understand why he believes it. It might be fairer to say, ‘we threw a ring around our care homes, the left them to get on with it the best they could, and hopefully it won’t turn out too badly.’

 

‘I know where you been
And I know what you been doing
Don’t lie to me..’

 

Any reasonable person can accept that no government was fully prepared for the pandemic, and only a few had all the necessary equipment, just in case.

However, we do have the right to expect honesty and transparency, to being consulted, to full information being published, even the odd admission of failures.

‘we do have the right to expect honesty and transparency’

At times like this humility earns voters trust and respect. Instead, we have absurd targets that are missed and lied about, graphs of global comparisons hastily dropped, and promises that all staff and residents of care homes will be tested by early June.

And, in true populist fashion they then hit out, seeking scapegoats for their shortcomings, and feeding stories to the gullible popular press and their readers.

Local authorities and the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish administrations are as ever cast as enemies for not falling into line with the return to work policy that had not been consulted about.

Another of their favoured regular enemies, Sadiq Khan, was blamed for TfL almost going bankrupt and needing a £1.6bn bailout last week, resulting in higher public transport fares in London, with comments about how this proved he couldn’t be trusted with money.

The truth story is that in 2015, George Osborne, the then chancellor, and the then mayor of London (Boris Johnson) agreed that TfL would no longer would receive £700m a year from the Treasury to keep its transport services running: instead, although it would be allowed to keep a decent sum from devolved business rates, it would be expected to pay its own way.

The result, in the words of the current mayor, was that London has ‘the only transport system in western Europe that gets no government grant’.

Whilst this may look like a little local difficulty, the affair highlights the Tory party’s inability to comprehend the difference between public services and private goods, more worryingly it signals how the government might approach the question of public sector deficits across the country in months to come.

‘the Tory party’s inability to comprehend the difference between public services and private goods’

This is shaping up to be the most unfit government in living memory to cope with this great crisis.

Honourable exception goes to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, however he has only done the easy bit giving money away, his real test is still will be funding it.

There is some interesting data that puts into context the cost of the UK’s furlough scheme which costs C. £14 bn a month, £168 bn over a year. In comparison:

 

  • the cost of replacing our nuclear Trident deterrent is £205 bn
  • we have already spent £100bn on the HS2 railway to no-where
  • the £500bn spent bailing out the banks in 2008

 

Looks quite cheap when you put into context, doesn’t it.

Alas, there is still much more required, and the government is coming under pressure to provide back-to-work support for young people amid evidence that the under-25s have been hardest hit by the pandemic and the economic fallout.

A report published by the Resolution Foundation said younger and older workers were the most likely to have lost their jobs or had their incomes reduced:

 

  • 23% of employees aged 18-24 had been furloughed
  • a further 9% had lost their jobs completely.
  • 35% were earning less than they did at the start of the crisis

 

By comparison, among the least affected age group – those aged between 35 and 44 – 15% had been furloughed or lost their jobs.

 

‘Well, Billy rapped all night about his suicide
How he’d kick it in the head when he was twenty-five..’

 

In addition to young workers, the Resolution Foundation also reported that 30% of those in the lowest income bracket had been affected by the pandemic, compared with only 10% of those in the top fifth of earners.

Its survey of more than 6,000 workers found that the government’s furloughing scheme was shielding many of the UK’s low-paid workers from losing their jobs altogether.

‘shielding many of the UK’s low-paid workers from losing their jobs altogether’

Even so, the impact of the lockdown on those sectors where low pay is most common, such as retail and hospitality, meant 5% of those in the bottom fifth of earners had been laid off alongside the 25% who were not working but were receiving the Treasury’s wage subsidies.

Excluding the self-employed, the survey showed that workers with insecure working patterns were most likely to be made redundant or furloughed, including 31% of employees working variable hours, and 28% of those on zero-hours contracts. Only 14% of those not in atypical employment have been affected.

The report also found a lower than expected take-up for the separate government scheme for the self-employed, which offers grants of up to £7,500 for three months.

Almost a third of the self-employed (29%) believed they were ineligible because of the terms of the scheme, while a further 16% said they had not been affected by the crisis.

This, unfortunately, only endorses what has happened post the 2008 crisis; the low paid are progressively worse off, and despite what older people might want to believe, youth is being left behind.

‘the low paid are progressively worse off…youth is being left behind’

The economic picture is bleak, and without wishing to upset all the investors out there, the stock market ceases to make any sense, continuing to deliver unrealistic performance.

Markets are simply arbitraging government policy and the support offered by central banks, to do whatever it takes.

When Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, says he’s ‘not out of ammunition by a long-shot’, markets see it as a buy signal. Don’t worry, markets can keep going up as the central banks have got our backs. Bad news, pahh, keep buying!

The Chancellor, at least, is being open and honest about the economic crisis in terms of jobs and growth: ‘a severe recession, the likes of which we haven’t seen’. So much for the hyped V-Shaped recovery, try L instead, maybe U if we are lucky.

‘the stock market ceases to make any sense, continuing to deliver unrealistic performance’

Like many I had hoped that we would learn the lessons of 2008, that the loss of life would far outweigh the loss of money.

Now, I feel we are fooling ourselves, memories are short, and the government, whatever its shortcomings has an 80-seat majority, and 4 ½ years left in office.

The pandemic has exposed our failing healthcare systems; the disparity between the perception of immigrants as a drain and the reality of them as pillars of our communities; the gulf between races and classes; the incompetence of our politicians; the fatal consequences of diminishing public services.

Even establishment bastions turned against the current political order:

 

  • The Financial Times wrote that ‘radical reforms – reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades – will need to be put on the table’
  • Emily Maitlis looked straight at the BBC Newsnight camera and slated the inequalities of the pandemic.

 

Right-wing governments in Britain and the US scrambled to pay people to stay at home. Surely, all these things point to a revolution.

The new world was beckoning; ‘Nature is healing’ is now a meme. the air is cleaning itself.

The ‘Thursday clap’ offered hope that the old hierarchies that defined ‘skilled’ and ‘unskilled’ were dissolving.

Many of us hoped for the introduction of low-carbon jobs to replace those lost, of a universal basic income.

‘Neither hope or expectation are a strategy’

Neither hope or expectation are a strategy; the expectation that once ideas are discussed and become popular leads to them becoming policy and bringing about change is wrong. History shows us that, during a period of economic upheaval, this is unlikely.

After the 2008 financial crisis rather than reengineering our economies we calculated who should be saved and who is dispensable.

The in the US was that banks were recapitalised, the economy stabilised, and 10 million Americans lost their homes. The ‘factor’ that mattered was how many people could be lost without disrupting the economy for everyone else.

That questions now are, how many deaths can we afford before the economy suffers? And who are we happy to sacrifice, so that the rest of us can thrive?

‘who are we happy to sacrifice, so that the rest of us can thrive?’

In the UK, the answer to that second question is the working classes and manual workers, they are the guinea pigs testing the first stage of easing.

They are expendable as, if infections surge, it will hit them first.

If the loss of life is at a level deemed acceptable by big business and government, the focus will shift to moving on while minimising the need for change, leaving the old order in the ascendency.

The pandemic will be passed off as an unprecedented crisis, an unforeseen event, a once-in-a-lifetime shock, meaning that any deep-rooted reform is unnecessary.

‘a hypocritical purveyor of senseless half-truths, and deeply uncaring’

They will tell us that failures in the care sector are ‘challenges’; the NHS, rather than being underfunded and weakened, has been a success because it has not been overwhelmed, and they will ignore the error that shipping out infected patients from hospitals to care homes further spread the virus.

In governments eyes the status quo is all important, the fact that we will have a broken economy, a depleted public sector, an underpaid and under protected class of workers, and a migrant population treated as second-class citizens isn’t on their ‘to do’ list.

Polices to help the vulnerable launched at the start of the pandemic are being quietly forgotten.

 

  • A pledge to review the NHS surcharge for foreign doctors has come to nothing.
  • A popular programme to house homeless people in England in hotels was quietly scrapped last week.
  • The homeless returning to the streets will be joined by others sent there by the economic downturn.

 

Not only is the government incompetent, it is also a hypocritical purveyor of senseless half-truths, and deeply uncaring.

I fully expect that the current backlash over the NHS surcharge will likely see it will be reviewed, which will then be trumpeted as a triumph, we listened to the people.

This is the governments problem, they don’t get it, anyone with a shred of decency would not have levied this in the first instance, ultimately, we are all dispensable victims.

If ever there was a time for rebellion it is now

 

‘And resentment rides high
But emotions won’t grow
And we’re changing our ways
Taking different roads…’

 

A hard hitting piece from Philip this week, and one that covers a huge amount of ground, whilst returning to the themes of a government failing to act in good time, and with sufficient resolve.

His broadside re the NHS Surcharge ‘crossed in the post’ with Boris’ hasty volte face, but by then the damage was done, and the government will struggle to shuck off the perceived hypocrisy of its Thursday night applause and mean-spiritedness.

The theme of inequality returns, and in many ways with an even more bleak conclusion in that young people appear set to be hit the hardest hit in terms of their employment and future job prospects; an interesting strand is the unrealistic valuation of global stockmarkets surfing on the waves of central bank support determined to ‘do whatever it takes’.

Four tracks this week; always apposite, and always entertaining. With the bank holiday there will be no hard entries this week, and please remember to request electronic proof of receipt.

Twenty four points on offer this week, and for the first time in a while I can proudly claim to have soared to the middle with a solid 14.

First up ‘almost bang up to date with this song, from a first album packed with great tunes’ – two apiece for The Killers and ‘Smile Like you Mean it’.

Next, and example of Philip’s encyclopedic knowledge and fiendish mind – 5 pts for the group and 5 for the song, as well as a stellar smart-arse rating if you got ‘a hugely influential US band from the early 70s’ – Big Star and ‘Don’t lie to me’. Uh huh.

Penultimately ‘just classic, a song that found fame as a cover’ – 3 pts for identifying David Bowie as the writer, three for Mott the Hoople as the artist, and three for the cracking ‘All the Young Dudes’.

Last, but by no means, ‘this band’s most famous song. It was written about a doomed love affair’ – two a piece for Joy Division and the anthem ‘Love Will Tear us Apart’ – take it as an early Bank Holiday present. Enjoy.

 

 

 

Philip Gilbert 2Philip Gilbert is a city-based corporate financier, and former investment banker.

Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s

 

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