This piece was kindly published by Brexit-Watch.org under the title “Are we witnessing a populist reflex from the Government”?
Call me cynical and I’ll nod along. Since time immemorial governments facing electoral “challenges” have shamelessly dangled carrots in front of voters to shore up support.
Boris Johnson, with the exception of perhaps Net Zero, is an ideological butterfly and not shy of a sharp elbowed approach to dealing with those who fly too close to his sun.
It is clearly coincidence that Rishi Sunak, replete with green card and familial tax mitigation and Boris have a “challenging” relationship.
This article canters through 6 “favourable” positions through government announcements, an “unexpected” foreign visit and the Energy Security Strategy that are absolutely not designed to shore up support for the Tories in the forthcoming local elections
Channel 4 to be sold
Unlike the BBC, Channel 4, whilst publicly owned, is funded entirely through advertising revenue, with all output produced by independent content providers.
Even the most myopic observer would struggle to disagree with the assertion that the station’s news and current affairs coverage is rarely favourable to the Tories and certainly not Brexit.
Those who wish to defund the BBC but know that their existing funding is guaranteed until 2027, (which includes me) may be swayed by the disposal of the smaller publicly owned broadcaster.
Whilst proceeds will be relatively modest, (£600M to £1.5Bn), the sale should be agreed in 2023 and concluded before the next General Election.
If ITV ends up owning Channel 4, it is reasonable to assume that it will certainly not lurch to the right any time soon.
Female biological sex trumps gender
After previously vacillating when asked “what is a woman”, Boris has shifted his position to support safe spaces for biological women and opining that sporting competitors should only compete against others of the same biological sex.
Coming within a week of the official launch of the bi-partisan “Respect my sex if you want my X” campaign, the timing is “apposite” not least given the knots the Labour Party front bench has tied itself in over this issue.
Offshore processing of immigrants in Rwanda
Despite open dissent about the feasibility of sending immigrants arriving without pre-approval to Rwanda for processing from the Refugees Minister, this did not stop the announcement that plans to do so were advanced.
The matter was meant to be discussed in Cabinet the following day and an announcement made thereafter but at the time of writing, several days later, it remains unannounced. One might only speculate as to why.
After leaving the decision on concreting over the 2 wells drilled by Cuadrilla near Blackpool to the last minute before giving it a further year’s extension, whilst a moratorium on fracking remains in place, the government has commissioned a report into the feasibility of extracting shale gas, predominantly from the Bowland Basin.
It is believed that there is between 50 and 100 years supply of gas in the Bowland Basin alone and onshore gas extraction even received a mention in the Energy Security Strategy.
Whilst it would be unkind to call this a U turn, I would have been beyond surprised if the wells were not ordered to be filled had Putin not invaded Ukraine.
It is not unkind however to remind those struggling with energy bills that in the US, fracking has helped facilitate energy bills of around 1/6 of what UK counterparts are paying following the latest energy price cap increase (noting another £800 average increase is all but baked in for October 2022).
After years of nuclear power (a technology that Britain pioneered in the 1950s), declining as a proportion of the UK’s energy mix, 7 power stations to be decommissioned by 2028 and only 1 under construction, the government has “pivoted” to accepting that nuclear is the base load source of predictable energy, around which the renewables sector can augment.
From just 7GW (17%) of power in the current energy mix, this will be expanded to 24GW (25%) by 2050, with the expectation that our energy requirements will double in that time.
Along with “low carbon” gas and offshore wind, nuclear’s renaissance is under way.
Johnson/Zelenskyy meeting in Kyiv
One area where even his biggest detractors have given credit to Boris Johnson is in his handling of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Whilst there has been criticism of the UK’s speed of visa processing for those accepted under the “Homes for Ukraine” scheme, the military training, provisions of weapons and financial aid provided to Ukraine, along with relentless verbal attacks on Vladimir Putin has positioned the UK as Ukraine’s leading ally.
The timing of the meeting was certainly convenient and may further boost the Tories “Ukraine bounce” in the opinion polls.
Has the Prime Minister taken his eye off the ball on the integrity of its own domestic borders though?
Given the ongoing impasse with the EU over sclerotic bilateral trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a result of the Northern Ireland Protocol, (which effectively annexes the country), Unionists would consider triggering Article 16 of the Protocol to be every bit as important a piece of border defence as Ukraine’s.
It will be interesting to see in the weeks approaching the local elections if there are further announcements about mitigating:
- Soaring energy bills;
- Inflation/cost of living;
- Growing public dissatisfaction with the NHS;
- Brexit dividend being squandered through inaction;
It will also be worth looking back in 6 months time to see how many of this week’s “announcements” turned into government policy.
© justchrisdavies 2022