Guest Notes: Only young countries make bold moves, why robo-brickies won't pave the way forward and Canada's Conservatives should find a TV personality of their own

Matthew Elliott
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The British Prime Minister Triggers Article 50
In voting for Brexit, the UK had shown it still has the strength to buck the status quo (Source: Getty)

The Westminster village usually conducts its business behind closed doors.

Even following last week’s terrorist attack, the vast majority of MPs – aside from the incredibly brave Tobias Ellwood – were understandably behind closed doors, away from the public eye, as parliament went into lockdown.

In contrast, a week later, in the same way that other Londoners had decided that the best response was to get on with their lives, the Westminster village was out in full force and very much in the public eye, as parliamentarians and pundits descended into the temporary TV and radio studios on College Green to comment on the triggering of Article 50.

Read more: Queen honours MPs Ellwood and Wallace after Westminster attacks

We were joined by tourists, school parties, protesters and one lone person holding a placard which read: “Before world war 3 trumpet will be blown everyone will fall unconscious and die”. One MP dubbed the protester ‘David Cameron’, in light of the speech he made at the British Museum last year, warning of a third world war in the event of a Leave vote.

I also bumped into Patrick O’Flynn, and I asked him about the tweet I quote on this page. Patrick pointed out that only young countries make bold moves. And in voting for Brexit, the UK had shown it still has the strength to buck the status quo.

Read more: Q&A: Who is going where now Article 50 has been triggered?

Other radical policies adopted by young countries sprung to mind. Estonia adopted the Flat Tax in 1994, soon after shaking off rule by the Soviet Union. Singapore went for unilateral free trade after independence. And Dubai made the bold decision to create the world class Dubai International Financial Centre governed by English law and English courts.

The atmosphere on College Green was very different to the days after the vote last June. There were some jibes, sure, but the bitterness and tension was gone. Even in Westminster, the vast majority now accept the result of the referendum.

Read more: Great Repeal Bill to become Brexit's battleground

The distance between Sunderland and London now seems closer and MPs rather like the fact that power is slowly moving back from Brussels to Westminster. They are starting to realise what responsibilities ­– and respect – they’d lost.

Robo-brickies won't pave the way forward

I’ve also been thinking about robots this week, because I spoke on a panel at the launch of Graeme Leach’s new Institute of Directors report on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It’s been reported that robo-brickies could be arriving on building sites within a matter of months.

The newly launched Sam (Semi-Automated Mason) has begun to replace humans on a handful of sites in America, and is capable of laying up to 3,000 bricks a day compared with the human average of 500.

Read more: Construction industry beats expectations - but housebuilding flounders

When I read this story, I was reminded of an expensive CD player I bought shortly before the arrival of the iPod. I was taken in by the fact it could load up to five CDs at a time, and saw this as a great innovation.

The future for construction is not robo-brickies building houses in muddy fields, it’s off-site manufacturing – building homes in clean factories, delivering them to the site, and putting them up in a matter of hours.

Read more: HSBC and RBS have got into pre-fab housing

Sajid Javid, whose responsibilities includes housing, gets this. And the support for modular homes in the recent housing white paper was a welcome sign that the government has a plan to meet their target of building a million new homes by 2020.

A voice for radio

One of my interviews on Wednesday was with WMAL, the equivalent to the Today programme in Washington DC. I’ve been asked to appear a number of times, and I understand that many of their listeners like a British accent.

After finishing the interview, I stayed on the line to continue listening to the show.

The female presenter said: “With that accent, you’d believe anything that guy said. He could tell his wife he wasn’t the father, and she’d believe him.”

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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