By the time you read this the candidates for PM will be whittled down to under half a dozen if not just three or four.
Dear Future Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,
I don’t know of any Prime Minister who has come into office without some kind of crisis. You’ve got your fair share. At least it can’t get worse (famous last words).
You have inflation, a new experience for your young team to grapple, strikes, covid, a looming recession, a shadow war in Europe, housing problems, food banks, winter looming and an energy crisis, social order issues and a whole lot more.
And you want this job? The pay stinks to what you could get in the private sector. Oh, and the media will print vitriol and hate 24/7 of a level no predecessor has had. Others with such profile left the country – Prince Harry for one.
But you want to stay and it is a great great nation. Your very election and back story will be evidence of what a great nation it is.
So let’s tick off some things. I won’t presume to give you solutions but more a reminder, in a non-partisan way, of what you will need to focus on.
Brexit: Relations with the EU, peace in Northern Ireland. A reset is needed. A collaborative open approach from the hard-line one. Be transparent and open about everyone’s perspective.
Defence: Kit needs upgrading – it always does and the Ukraine war is ours. Make sure the money is spent on buying British, building British, and creating British jobs.
Environment: It’s too easy to forget the long-term in the short term chaos. You can’t take your eye off this.
Inflation: What can you do? The Bank of England can raise rates and people are spending now because they know they’ll be poorer tomorrow anyway. So that doesn’t help. Destroying businesses and bankrupting people is not the way to reduce inflation. Raising taxes is not only unpopular – especially so now, but fuels the problem in the short term. In the short term, before the obvious answer that it will be monetary and fiscal tightening, I’ve always preferred targeted VAT rises on luxuries. People have a right to essentials. Luxuries – tax them. You can easily identify those through VAT and raise the rate on those. If it dampens demand, so be it. And no, one man’s luxuries are not another’s essentials. This is a targeted focussed tax.
Use this to cut fuel duties. Wealth tax on corporate profits – yes. Even as a signal to get them to temper pay rises and escalate hiring salaries. I don’t have the right to be able to afford this year what I could last year. I do expect a right to essentials.
Speaking of essentials, our essential workers, NHS, defence, police, teachers and such like need special provisions to make life cheaper for them, from schemes encouraging companies to offer discounts to tax exemptions. We worked it out during covid. We can work it out again.
Free Trade Agreements – get the excel spreadsheets out, get round a table and get these ticked off. It needs speed and efficiency.
Hospitals – those private, outsourced organisations – keep an eye on them to avoid abuse.
Children, Schools – we have a problem with child care. You don’t have the money to solve this now, but long term benefits of more women in the work place (it is them providing care) is clear. Our schools need upgrading. Again, focus on innovative ways of improving this. I wish I knew what that is. Get the private sector to sponsor schools – they’re rich.
They’ve filled their boots with profits over the past decade. Do it the way an oligarch would – round a table and it’s not the law you need as the answer. Such a quiet voice and a big stick and large carrot.
Social care – you can’t simply privatise or spend. Those can’t be the two options. Innovation takes too long. Good luck.
Size of the state – public spending ballooned and debt payments are soaring due to rising rates. This needs reducing. You know that. Not for ideological reasons, but cost.
At least exports are cheaper and inward investment into the UK cheaper due to the cheap Pound to Dollar.
That’s enough for now. Good luck and godspeed.