OPINION - ‘Next PM must find billions to help struggling households’

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·2-min read
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 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

There are strange quirks to the UK’s unwritten (or so no one writes in, uncodified) constitution. Did you know that in the 1990s and 2000s, a by-election was not considered legitimate unless Michael Crick had doorstepped a terrified local candidate?

Similarly, any major fiscal event – Budget, Spring Statement or in this case Bank of England report – mandates a response by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Its director, Paul Johnson, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he was mystified why the contest between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak had so far focused on tax cuts, rather than helping households facing nigh on £4,000 energy bills.

He said: “The thing that I find remarkable about the Conservative leadership debate is that they don’t seem to be talking about the things that are really going to be in need of public finances. They’re going to have to find many more billions to support households.”

Johnson of course knows why. The contest appears to be divorced from the reality many people in the country are facing because the candidates are pitching their policies not to the public but to the 160,000 or so Tory members who will actually decide their (and our) fate.

But one small mercy of that nightmare Bank of England report is that it assumes no policy change i.e. no further financial support for households, which is politically impossible. Sunak or Truss will have to spend many billions in short-term support to help people through this winter.

The harder part will be what to do next. We were already decently far along the path of decarbonising our electricity supply (though remain heavily reliant on gas as a transition fuel).

Completing this will require expanding the generation of renewable and nuclear energy, upgrading the grid, boosting storage and rolling out proper demand-side management. That is, the hard, tedious work of governing. Certainly harder than blaming the Treasury, the Bank of England or indeed Michael Crick for your recession.

In the comment pages, there’s this rather lovely piece by Paul Flynn on the return of the Joiners Arms on Hackney Road,  sort of anti-Shoreditch House.

And finally, debauchery isn’t dead — David Ellis picks his favourite late-night hangouts for mischief after midnight. I think the hook for this piece was the return of the night tube but this is evergreen content.

Have a lovely weekend.

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