The coronavirus crisis is set to cost British manufacturers some £35.7bn in 2020 alone. According to Make UK, the pandemic will stunt manufacturing growth until 2022 at the earliest.
But a major contraction of British manufacturing output is a development the government can ill-afford if it is to secure the UK’s economic recovery. Britain’s manufacturers are white-hot engines of wealth creation. They employ less than 10 per cent of the workforce yet account for around half of the country’s exports and 65 per cent of the UK’s private sector R&D spending.
Whitehall currently awards either directly or indirectly almost a quarter of large public contracts to suppliers based outside of the UK. Post-Brexit the government will have much greater freedom to award contracts to British firms free from EU procurement red tape.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has vowed to spend a record £600bn on infrastructure over the next five years. Ensuring our manufacturers are given the opportunity to help deliver this will be key to ensuring Britain can thrive in the post-Covid-19 world.
David Millar, managing director, Heap & Partners Ltd; Sarah Champion MP, Labour member of parliament for Rotherham; Paula Barker MP, Labour member of parliament for Liverpool, Wavertree; Lord Dolar Popat, Conservative; Jim Shannon MP, Democratic Unionist Party, Strangford; Tim Stokes, managing director, Tension Control Bolts Ltd; Lord Swinfen, Conservative; Lord Horam of Grimsargh, Conservative; Guy Williams, managing director, Aerotool Ltd; Richard Ellis group managing director, KTH Engineer Group Ltd; Colin Findlay, managing director, Severn Glocon Group; Baroness Meacher, crossbench; Baroness Harris of Richmond, Liberal Democrat; Valery Beroskin, director, Beroskin Group; Gareth Turner, managing director, Well Services Group; James Blackhall, managing director, Blackhall Engineering Limited; James Gedye, CEO & founder, Ecotile Flooring Ltd
For those who have been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable during this pandemic, life is not yet back to normal. These people are still only allowed to meet up to six others from two households outdoors, and even then still have to maintain strict social distancing of two metres. These people are starting to emerge from their homes where they have been hidden away from this virus for four months. They are just starting to take their first tentative steps outside and into a world that for so long they have been told is just too dangerous for them.
Can you imagine how that must feel? To be told constantly for four months that the outside world could potentially kill you if you step outside your front door. It feels scary and isolating – a physical feeling from your throat right down to your stomach. You feel conflicted: envious of others able to resume their lives but are reluctant to get involved because the risk just isn’t clear and your home feels safe. Your anxiety allows you to believe that they’re all having much more fun without you and that you’ve been forgotten about, for good.
Whilst social distancing has become less important when most people head out for that much longed-for pint, for the shielded it’s more important than ever. People have had time to get used to this virus and how to live with it; restrictions were slowly lifted and people slowly adapted accordingly, step by step. The shielded haven’t seen these gradual changes – the last time they left their homes was when the supermarket shelves were bare and the nation was at the point of mass panic. They are only now starting to get out and about and mingle with people for whom living with the threat of a virus has become normal life.
Except it’s not normal life. People are meant to be socially distancing, but they’re not. People are meant to be considerate of others when walking on the pavement or in a park, but they’re not. The one way systems in supermarkets are gone and some shops don’t have queueing systems anymore.
Please think about what you can do to help this group of physically and mentally vulnerable people so that they can feel confident entering back into this world. Show kindness and understanding and be there. Show encouragement but understand that even a walk in the park might be too much for them right now. Keep trying; show them they’ve not been forgotten about. Share your own experiences but don’t patronise them or belittle their very real and genuine fears. Let them talk and don’t judge. Help with shopping without having to be asked or call by just to say hi through the window or in the garden. Wear a mask and keep a safe distance. Send a quick text to check in and let them know you’re thinking of them.
Don’t let their anxiety and fear about the outside world let them believe that people have left them behind, that they’re not important and their friends have moved on. Don’t allow them to become even more isolated because they have no reason to leave their home, even though they are now able to do so. If you don’t know anyone who has been shielding, just remember when you’re out and about that the person you brushed past on the pavement because you were in a hurry, or the person who took a few steps back from you in the queue, may have gone out that day for the first time in months... just like you only a few short weeks ago.
The good news for Brexiteers must be the recent unveiling of the government’s latest concrete plans with regard to our exit from the EU. The bad news is that those concrete plans literally translate to concreting and tarmacking a significant percentage of Kent’s countryside, as a soon-to-be required lorry park.
As vast swathes of flora and fauna disappear beneath industrial strength aggregate, I wonder if Joni Mitchell’s lyrics from the 1960s will yet again find some resonance: “Don’t it always seem to go/ that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone/ they paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.”
The symbolism should not be lost on any of us, for this surely represents an abject lesson in how to sacrifice our effective relationship with the EU at the same time as trashing any semblance of pretence with regard to implementing any meaningful “green initiatives”. Bravo – and we the taxpayers are paying for this folly.
I’m sure I echo the thoughts of many in the UK at the moment. Yet again, the over-75s are paying.
The very group who pay their taxes, have worked for the majority of their lives, contributed during times of war, owe little and are less likely to abuse the services of our wonderful NHS and welfare system, are paying for the mistakes of their politicians and failed policies.
I come from a family of NHS, state education and military workers who work, pay tax and are more than happy for the over-75s, who demand little, to at least have a well-earned, non-means tested TV licence.
Believing in the science
One of the great achievements of the Enlightenment was the separation of church and state while one of the most disturbing developments in high-tech societies is the call for science and state to be as close as possible. But scientists by nature and training must be doubters not dogmatists and their failure to remain true to their roots has wrecked climate science and is now threatening epidemiology.
During the corona pandemic, any disastrous policy decision was excused by the great leader saying he or she was “following the science”. This “belief in science” is playing the role of the dominant religion of our time so it’s important to understand the ways in which science has successfully inherited religious beliefs and in which respects science should be careful not to take on the heritage of religion.
In contrast to religion, science owes its success to its openness to doubt, to criticism, to self-correction and to making sober and objectively verifiable statements. But this power mustn’t lead to the mistaken belief that it has the miraculous gift of mastering the future. Epidemiological models must not become crystal balls in which political leaders try to track their nation’s corona travails in the years ahead.
Rev John Cameron
A gift horse
The “Millionaires for Humanity” wealth tax letter deserves huge praise for its bold and positive message.
The more so as many signatories already donate time and money generously. The urgency of the present moment may soon wane, so governments globally should embrace the offer now, and not look the gift-horse in the mouth. While borrowing costs are so low governments have a unique window to gently taper in a new tax, so as not to scare off the bigger prize here: the very many “ultra-wealthy” who haven’t signed the letter.