• Development Intelligence

The longer term political take on Coronavirus

First off: be thankful. No, we really mean this. Be very thankful. Every morning get up and adopt your best downward dog or however you communicate to your God and thank her/him that Coronavirus has come now. In March 2020. And not this time last year. Imagine, just imagine for a brief moment, the significance of that previous short sentence:

  • The Maybot at the helm.

  • A fractious cabinet.

  • Parliament trying to run the Government response.

  • The ‘Gawkward Squad’ trying to run Parliament’s attempts to run the Government.

  • Gina Miller JR’ing everything.

  • And the inevitable ‘unity government’ with Corbyn and McDonnell sitting in the Cabinet.

If that is not a bullet dodged, then what exactly is? That sweet smell of a Government with an 80-seat majority. Better than freshly cut grass. So what are some of the longer term Coronavirus impacts?

Brexit – It’s inevitably going to be delayed. Quite apart from both Monsieur Barnier and David Frost, the UK Government’s chief negotiator, currently suffering from Covid-19, as well as no doubt several others in each side’s negotiating teams, the fact remains that the timetable was always tight and has now been blown apart. Six months delay? A year? Right now, who knows? But there will be a delay for sure.

Economy – Q1 2020 had looked so promising. Investors were progressively feeling better about UK plc and were week by week becoming more active. But in March that has all changed. 2020 is going to be a horror show. But, but, but… A good read is the Oxford Economics report released a week ago. Analysed here by Kate Andrews, the new economics correspondent at The Spectator, it essentially predicts a short sharp recession followed but a big bounce back. Pray, children, pray.

Indyref2 – Both the SNP and the Tories are off the hook for the next 12 months, a relief for both of them frankly. The SNP leadership always needs to sabre rattle to ensure its ardent followers keep faith with them, but the ‘rationals’ didn’t want a referendum anytime soon because they feared they would lose it. Losing the referendum twice would potentially mortally damage their dream, viz the Quebec example. The ‘mad Nats’, well they want one tomorrow afternoon in all circumstances, but then they probably also think that the result will be delivered by a saltire draped unicorn too. In any event, in the backwash from the Salmond trial, the two wings of the SNP are beginning to tear chunks out of each other. Unity is fracturing; an open split could be coming. But the UK Government really didn’t want the Indeyref2 distraction either during the whole Brexit negotiation era. Longer term, all this new absolutely humongous debt added to an oil price bumping along the floor, delivering unprofitable North Sea oil, probably kills any credibility to any financial argument for normal people anyway.

Public attitude to ‘government’ and especially ‘Tory government’ – This is possibly the greatest test of any government since WW2. Arguably even more so than the 2008 GFC. After the expenses scandal and the bitter factional madness of Brexit, politicians of all shades probably can’t get much lower in public esteem. Thus this is a key moment. If the Tories and the Government have a good Coronavirus war, then it may well be that some public faith in the political class saving us in times of dire need, returns. It certainly seems so right now, with Boris and the Tories up at historic Thatcher levels in the polls. But the hard yards, a steeply rising death rate and overflowing A&Es, haven’t really started yet. If the Government and the Tories have a really bad time, all those newly unemployed, could we see the electorate turn its back on politicians for ever?

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