The government returns to Westminster on Tuesday, even though only a limited number of MPs return to the House of Commons chamber it does not mean the government will get a free pass on its recent backtracks and U-turns .
Regarding the wearing of masks and getting children back to school, the descriptions of chaotic and shambolic decision making have led MPs and others to ask if the government is making up policy on the hoof. The Prime Minister has been lambasted for being on holiday, for not speaking out in time about the exams results, then blaming a “mutant algorithm” and allowing another permanent secretary to take the rap instead of the appropriate minister.
Johnson’s new fast-track planning policy is also destined to cause controversy as plans involve removing executive power from Tory Councils.
To support the building industry, jobs and the economy the government will impose targets for land development and Councils will identify sufficient land to meet the building requirement; some folks involved in housing and planning consider the new regulations undemocratic. It seems an algorithm will be used to calculate what homes are needed, where and at what price, after the “mutant algorithm” this might be a risky strategy.
With the Furlough Scheme and Mortgage holidays due to wrap up at the end of October, recent and predicted job losses take centre stage. The supportive Furlough Scheme insulated employers and employees from redundancies, but employment still fell by 730,000 during April-July. Recently Marks & Spencer, Heathrow and Gatwick Airports and several airlines, The Mini car plant and Jaguar, Airbus and Rolls Royce, the BBC and several Banks, not to mention scores of retailers and restaurants have found it necessary to cut circa 150,000 and still counting jobs.
An official Home Office self-congratulatory video that called migrant’s immigration lawyers “activist lawyers” caused offense in the legal community.
The Law Society condemned both the video, the terminology and the intimidatory nature of the video. In a guarded admission of error and fault the Home Office accepted “activist lawyers” was an inappropriate phrase to have been used on a government channel and that the post should not be repeated from Home Office or civil servant accounts, at the time of writing the video had not been removed.
Johnson appointed a loyal cabinet, not all of them with a provenance one would expect for Cabinet Ministers; during Johnson’s absence it seems there has been a general lack of leadership, critical issues appear to have been delegated with poor oversight and accountability.
No one is pretending governing in a pandemic is simple but clear messaging in a pandemic is essential, ownership and accountability of decisions good and bad is important. Backbenchers have been on the boil since May, they have been feeling disenfranchised and as early as April were reluctant to step up and defend cabinet decisions for fear of looking stupid when the inevitable U-turn occurred, challenges are expected in the Commons chamber in September.
It is also possible that the autumn will see the return of a resurgent ERG (European Research Group), because negotiations with the EU make scant progress as the 31st December final Brexit looms.
Johnson’s key aide Dominic Cumming’s father law, Sir Humphrey Wakefield, reportedly sparked a curious rumour that Johnson will be retiring after 6 months; folks are expecting renewed leadership from the Prime Minister fearing that otherwise the leadership would fall to the unelected.