This week in policy 4th - 8th October
This week has been a heavy one. There is still no shortage of shortages; the pigs are taking over at the animal farm, and the situation seems to be snowballing; gas prices are blowing up; we still haven’t fixed the Northern Ireland Protocol; the Bank of England expects inflation to last longer than previously estimated; everyone has ‘the cold’; Facebook, Instagram AND WhatsApp went down all in one go in what seemed to be social suicide, but it got a big thumbs up from Twitter; the nights are starting to draw in, and Andy Murray lost his wedding ring! The one piece of good news we have is that Andy found his wedding ring again the very next day. Phew.
This week, the Conservatives held their Party Conference in Manchester, sneakily close to where the Red Wall seats are. Or were.
Throughout the conference, many issues were discussed, including levelling up, which is now gaining a tiny bit of substance; tax rises, which, as Boris claims, would have the backing of Thatcher (if you say so, Boris); immigration, which he says should be controlled, and labour shortages, which he wasted no time in blaming businesses for. How rude.
His central message was the promise of a ‘high wage, high skill, low tax economy’, despite the fact that he just justified tax rises with a divine thumbs up from Maggie.
His only clear policy promise was a fund of up to £3,000 to send maths and science teachers to schools who need them the most.
In true Boris style, his speeches were mainly just jokes, intentionally I should add, as he spoke about building back beavers in relation to the health of our rivers, and in his reference to Michael Gove as Jon Bon Govi following a night of dancing in a local club.
This little piggy didn’t go to market
The country is still massively feeling the pressure of labour shortages.
The HGV driver shortage is continuing to cause significant disruption to our supply chains, and is responsible for the lack of petrol in pumps across the country.
Though not quite as responsible as the government after they told everyone not to panic, promptly resulting in the flock of jeeps outside the local garage.
Despite Boris deploying military vehicles to help refuel petrol stations, there are still dry pumps, and queues of cars running on empty trying to get their fill. It seems the tankers tanked it slightly.
Speaking of making a pig’s ear of things, the butcher shortage has really hit the abattoirs hard.
Farmers claim there are at least 120,000 surplus pigs, most of which have so far been slaughtered as a way to avoid breaking regulations on how much space can be allotted per animal.
When Boris was asked about this on Times Radio on Tuesday, he argued that as our population eats plenty of pork, the animals would have been killed anyway. He then asked them if they had a bacon sandwich. Silly sausage, everyone knows it’s called a bacon sarnie.
To exacerbate the staffing crisis further, our own data has revealed that due to the increase in National Insurance contributions and dividend pay-outs, three in ten businesses are likely to employ fewer people. The government must support companies struggling with staff and skills shortages, instead of making it harder for business leaders to hire a workforce.
IoD: 3 in 10 firms will employ fewer people as a result of National Insurance increases
Gas prices have risen to almost 10 times what they were at the start of the year. But on Wednesday, things started to calm down as Russia stepped in. That’s not a phrase you hear every day. We are unsure if we should be Putin too much faith in this move, however, after Vladimir commented he would increase supply from Russia to Europe, the price of gas per therm decreased rapidly in the space of just hours.
But, despite this very brief reprieve, with wholesale gas prices continuing to escalate, analysts have predicted that household energy bills could rise by at least 30% over the next year.
In September, 9 energy firms collapsed, and more than 1.7million households were affected as a result.
The National Grid has said that while the power cut risk may be higher, the lights will stay on this winter. At the IoD, the lights would definitely go off as a result of a power cut, but maybe we’re missing a trick.
Article 16, problem 16 million
Back making the headlines again, our favourite stalemate situation, Cold War-esque catch 22, deadlock drama, the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Lord Frost, Brexit Minister, has threatened to resort to Article 16, a measure which should only be used if there is proof the Protocol is harming the UK economically, societally, or environmentally.
He said in his speech at the Conservative Party Conference that “Brussels has failed to grasp the scale of the changes needed to fix a deal that has bedevilled post-Brexit relations with the EU.” He went on to emphasise that there is “no use tinkering around the edges, we need significant change”.
In return, Lord Frost’s EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic said he is open to creative solutions, but as long as they fit the framework of the existing deal.
If triggered, Article 16 would renew negotiations, and potentially lead to legal and trade sanctions. Frost claims the only reason he hasn’t pulled that trigger yet is he is trying to find a solution. He’s had since July 2020, so hopefully he’ll come up with something soon.
Next week, Parliament is still in recess, but we are absolutely not. This month is Black History Month, as well as Breast Cancer Awareness month, and we are proud to be working on a number of activities to support and raise awareness for these campaigns throughout October.
Chief Economist Kitty Ussher will be responding to the latest ONS Labour Market data on Tuesday, and GDP figures for the month of August on Wednesday.
On Wednesday Kitty will be meeting with BEIS on the implications of proposed changes to the law around flexible working.