Tomorrow is the last day of the current decade and it remains to be determined if the radical changes proposed by the new version of our almost decade long Government will be achieved. Right now it seems impossible for them not to take place but on the other hand, it is 1285 days since the same Government, albeit with the previous but one leader woke up and realised that their expectations that we would not vote to leave had been misjudged. Certainly we have experienced a range of interesting decisions in the last 17 days since the re-election of Boris Johnson. Perhaps the most recent and highest profile one is the blocking of John Bercow from being appointed to the House of Lords, the first such experience in 230 years for an ex House of Commons Speaker. Of course Mr Bercow will probably be grateful that although he was blocked from getting a seat in the House of Lords that unlike all the other people who were honoured, his personal address did not get published by the Cabinet Office which took place late on Friday night before a member of the public raised a concern at seeing this data.
Another high profile controversial decision was the Christmas holiday taken by Mr Johnson and Ms Symonds 4300 miles away on the Isle of Mustique visiting the Von Bismarck family. Although the island has hosted a large number of holidays for high profile people in the past, this visit took place about a week after Johnson’s own press team had made a very interesting public statement about the World Economic Forum in Davos that will take place in just over three weeks at the end of January. The statement that Ministers (presumably including our Prime Minister) must not attend the WEF could be understood in the light of the need to resolve our departure from the EU by the 31st of January, although one imagines that we will then need to start making new deals with nations outside of the EU and the WEF could be a vital place to meet with other nations at this critical moment. However many people, unlike Boris Johnson have judged WEF at Davos to be an inappropriate event to attend over many years. He on the other hand had stated when he was Mayor of London “For most politicians who want to big up their cities, as I do, it’s an important place to come”. However now he needs to big up our nation perhaps he has identified a different place to go which won’t be attended by Mayors and Business leaders. In any event his team called off the visits to Davos with the statement “Our focus is on delivering for the people, not champagne with billionaires” which is all very well except that is precisely what Johnson and Symonds were doing just a few days ago while on the Isle of Mustique.
The Manifesto that was published by Mr Johnson just over two months ago is now of course what he now needs to deliver on but equally there are many elements that raise questions regarding what their strategy will be. There is no mention of austerity and yet most of us know only too well how ending austerity policy is clearly one of the ways of unleashing our potential as a nation which was the phrase on the front of the manifesto. It is very noticeable that there are only three references to poverty and one of these relates to global poverty which of course is important but not something that can be dealt with easily. The other two references take place in one sentence which is part of a paragraph which began “To help those looking after family members, especially women, we will support the main carer in any household receiving the Universal Credit payment. And we will continue our efforts through the tax and benefits system to reduce poverty, including child poverty.” My own view is that this is very inadequate and it would be interesting if any of the 13 Conservative MPs in Sussex would be willing to explain what will happen regarding provision from agencies such as foodbanks across our region. Indeed foodbanks did not get a single mention in the Conservative manifesto, whereas the Labour Manifesto referred to them four times.
However the radical changes proposed by the Tories are going to be politically very serious if they do take place. One is the decision to realign the boundaries of the current constituencies. Depending on how they do this, we could be faced with a permanent Conservative Government irrespective of how many of us vote in the future. This and the potential loss of Scotland and Northern Ireland from the UK is a matter of great national concern.