This week began with schools and many offices returning to work, alternate weeks seems to be in vogue to accommodate social distancing. London is still relatively empty with very little traffic in the capital.
At Boris Johnson’s first Prime Minister’s Question since the recess, the PM was pinned down by opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer about the exams fiasco, Johnson evaded the questioning and accused Starmer of supporting the IRA through his support for Jeremy Corbyn. Starmer blew a gasket and asked Johnson to take back the remark as he has been Director of Public Prosecution in Northern Ireland for five years, and had prosecuted serious terrorists (services for which he was knighted in 2014), unusually the Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle had to politely ask the PM to return to the question.
Although everyone is used to the theatrics of PMQ’s this was an uncomfortable session, the overconfident PM resorted to irrelevant jibes and Starmer had the morally superior conversation stopper. As a QC Starmer is an ace at cross examination and apparently Johnson had not swotted up on countering techniques, consequently the press headlines did not make easy reading for the PM and No10.
Brexit is causing businesses a headache regarding food labelling for 2021. Logistics, freight and customs groups are so concerned about delivering a functioning supply chain they have collectively requested a meeting with the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for transport. The government plan for emergency temporary lorry parks has port operators concerned they are no longer in charge of development. On Friday speculation was confirmed that former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is going to join Liz Truss in a new Board of Trade, comprised of key figures from politics, academia and industry, with Abbott as an advisor.
Parliament passed the Fisheries Bill with the objective of preserving the sustainability of British fisheries, how this is enforceable against EU and foreign supertrawlers overfishing UK waters is up to the Home Office, who are still struggling to control immigration.
Following the sugar tax the government is on a mission against obesity, diabetics are being offered soup and shake diets and there is a campaign for portion self-control.
The government and Policy Exchange have shared an idea to roll out the EU citizens identity number scheme to UK citizens, this is an idea in progress.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is now officially integrated with Development with a few changes at the top, The Rt Hon Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park is the Minister for Pacific and the Environment at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and it looks like Goldsmith will now attend cabinet meetings. Anne Marie Trevelyan is anticipated to reappear as Defence Minister in the next reshuffle. Simon Case, who has accumulated an eclectic political biography, has replaced Mark Sedwill as head of the Civil Service, reporting to the Cabinet Office, now occupied by Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove.
Battling against £2 trillion UK debt Rishi Sunak is trying not to rip up the Tory manifesto economic pledges on tax, and to keep the Conservatives the party of competent finance. Sunak introduced a job kickstart scheme for young people creating 6 month job placements for those at risk of longterm unemployment, with 100% funding only for employers offering 30+ job placements.
Folks are still waiting for the Boris Johnson they voted for; with government fears of an autumnal revival of Covid-19, frequent policy U-turns, Brexit uncertainty, the unstable economy, rising unemployment, an opposition under new management, a critical press, rebellious back benchers and civil servants feeling threatened with change, there can only be challenges ahead for Johnson.