By Frank Kendrick
We have, as a nation, numerous policy matters of great importance to address, including: the degree to which the excesses of capitalism and globalisation need to be curbed; what degree of redistribution to pursue; how to provide new purpose in the ‘stranded towns’; achieving a step change in the quality of our infrastructure; and deciding the extent of the measures we need to take in order to address climate change.
Instead of pursuing those matters, our Parliament has been completely pre-occupied for at least 3 years with Brexit and now, for a 4th year, with Covid-19. The dramatic economic affect of the latter will mean that the urgent policy matters are made much more difficult to address by high unemployment, recession and a huge increase in Government debt.
Even if it was possible to predict that a global pandemic might one day occur with very damaging consequences, it is a very unfortunate coincidence that it has occurred just after a period in which addressing so many key matters is already so badly over due. It also adds to that list the need to ensure we are better prepared for future pandemics and provides added emphasis to considering whether changes need to be made to the organisation and standing of the NHS, care homes and education.
The initial response to the Virus has had to be to fight the fire. Going forward we face a key question: do the Government and the independent Bank of England have the ingenuity and the subtlety to continue to provide fiscal and monetary support to the economy while using some of that support to pursue the wider policies that are so badly over due?
I hope very much that they do. Is that the right question? And, if so, what is the answer?