It appears as if in the last few days that several people inside the Government and Parliament are seeking to move us forward but sadly the Prime Minister has made several destructive comments. The people I have spotted are focusing on themes such as the rewilding farm proposals since Brexit and the need for improving how to move goods between us and the EU and also the costs through elements such as National Insurance. Sadly, these themes which clearly need a bit more work are being promoted far less than would be possible due to the publicity of the leader of the Government. Last Wednesday when Parliament opened up for a couple of days two of the disturbing items were during the Prime Minister Questions that take place most weeks.
Boris Johnson began by stating that when the Labour Party was in power, they had left with higher unemployment levels than when they arrived. Based on the data that Parliament supplies over the last 50 years, there have been two Labour and two Conservative periods with the current third period. The data did not indicate the start of the first period with Edward Heath but he probably did avoid increasing unemployment. It is clear that both Labour sessions and the Conservative session involving Margaret Thatcher and John Major did all end up with higher unemployment than when they began. However, the overall level of unemployment during the current Conservative Government period and the huge level during the Margaret Thatcher period were both higher than the two Labour Party periods. Along with this misrepresentation that he referred to on several occasions during his session in Parliament last week he also made another incorrect claim twice. He stated
what the Government are doing is supporting people throughout the pandemic: 2.2 million people supported with the warm home discount, worth £140 per week, which we introduced
Now no one would be opposed to the Government providing additional provision for people with the warm home discount scheme. Many people would be thrilled if they were benefiting from more than £140 over the Winter period or even £140 a month. However, to claim nearly £600 a month is so disturbing that he needs to be challenged on this as well. Then finally there has been a very appalling public discussion on his funding for his flat at No 10 Downing Street. That has been the most high-profile theme from our Prime Minister in the last few days. Again, it needs to be dealt with and for three major problems in one short period is very concerning from our current Prime Minister.
The more positive themes that have arisen in the last few days on the other hand do need to be promoted and indeed expanded. One of them is an early call but it involves a debate that will take place on 1st February in the House of Lords. The person who is organising it is Alan Howarth who was a Conservative MP from 1983 till 1995 when he switched to Labour and he remained as an MP until 2005. He is setting out a discussion under the title of “Facilitating imports from the EU”. Perhaps some of his colleagues in the Labour Party and in the Conservative Party could also raise this theme in the House of Commons as it would be fantastic if it could become a priority from our government this year.
There has also been a very public response from Jacob Rees-Mogg on the subject of National Insurance and the call for that to remain reduced for the immediate future. Let us hope that he can achieve this within his government for our communities.
The final theme that I spotted emerged from George Eustice, the Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in a statement he made last Thursday at an Oxford Farming Conference. There was clearly a requirement for our nation to come up with a rewilding policy for Farmers as we left the EU and indeed Michael Gove back in 2018 had claimed that when we left the Common Agricultural Policy that our nation would focus on protecting our nature rather than being extensively producing short term gain. So, the announcement last week is clearly a move in the right direction. We have a number of settings such as Knepp which is a significant estate south of Horsham which has become devoted to a pioneering rewilding project since 2001. They use grazing animals as the drivers of habitat creation and have had extraordinary increases in wildlife with species like turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons and purple emperor butterflies. There is a lot more work to be done to make the EFRA claim a reality and we need our Sussex MPs to promote settings such as Knepp within the Government.