It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks in British politics, with revelations, lies and resignations about illegal Conservative parties; Plan B cracked out to curb soaring Covid rates with a major, and in my view, irresponsible Tory rebellion; and today, news that the Tories lost the North Shropshire by-election, a seat they’ve held since 1832 with a 2019 majority of 23,000. It feels Boris Johnson’s incompetence and lack of good character are destabilising the country and economy, just when we need to see true leadership.
Foremost in my in-tray is fighting to secure adequate support to businesses hit by endless cancellations and dropped confidence as Omicron spreads rapidly. In a Downing Street press conference, the public were advised to limit non-essential social contact before Christmas, and work from home, but not a single measure to mitigate the economic impact of these hits at the most critical time of the year for many companies.
Businesses large and small have been in contact with me crying out for help. Where was Rishi Sunak? As it turns out, on his jollies in California, to my outrage. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and I wrote to Sunak to demand he comes home and does his job at this time of crisis, and I spoke to BBC News this morning to demand immediate measures to support businesses with cash flow, from rates relief to flexibility on loan terms, and better sick pay. They must take action today.
Even when Rishi did grace the UK with his presence, he missed a critical meeting with the hospitality sector, which was already taking place several days after it was required. An absolutely risible effort from our Chancellor. No economic leadership from him and no national leadership from the Prime Minister – Britain deserves better.
Meanwhile I spoke in the House of Commons about the Subsidy Control Bill. Oddly and unbelievably, the Conservative government introduced a new subsidy regime with no ambition or idea how they want to use it. They have no industrial strategy to support businesses and no plan for jobs and growth. We need better than their high tax, low growth economy. This Bill is a missed opportunity. Labour wanted to take advantage of these new powers with amendments to help deliver our net zero targets, reduce regional inequality and improve transparency on where public money goes. The Conservatives backed none of them. Not good enough.