Wednesday 21 July 2021 12:55 pm

Editorial: Boris Johnson's Government desperately needs a reset to avoid giving credence to Cummings' claims

City A.M. believes in London, its people, and its businesses.

Had you considered so doing before, it now seems unlikely Dominic Cummings would make the cut for a “dream dinner party” list. Your other guests wouldn’t get a word in edge-ways.

In his hour-long interview aired on the BBC last night, the Prime Minister’s former adviser was half score-settling and half self-justification, delivering a vicious tell-all with the even-handedness of a jilted ex. 

But for all of the tales of woe and bloated self-importance, one thing will stick: his former boss Boris Johnson’s Government has the feel of a wobbly shopping trolley, careering along the aisle from miscue to mishap.

This Government needs a reset. It is more than 18 months since an election that was supposed to define British politics for a generation, and yet – even though a pandemic threw so much off course – it appears the Tories have instead borrowed more from the past than rewritten the future. 

Consider the past month: a Health Secretary caught breaking his own social distancing rules (that’s a euphemism) who, if even for a moment, was inexplicably set to keep his job. A Prime Minister and Chancellor who, having been pinged by an app causing chaos across the country, attempted to do the exact opposite of what is expected of the rest of the country, by enrolling in a bespoke test-to-skip-isolation scheme. That they thought there was even the slightest change they could get away with it exposes a deep disdain for the public they serve. 

To top it off, the Prime Minister’s so-called landmark speech on levelling up left his audience – the electorate – none the wiser on what his flagship slogan actually means. 

Amid a pandemic, as we write the first chapter in our Brexit story, the Government must do better than a tribute act of Major-era Tory sleaze and New Labour’s Ministerial cock-ups. 

A reshuffle of the top team is long overdue. The Conservative party is not without intellectual heft; too much of it, however, is left outside the Cabinet. Some new energy from people who actually want to do something may reinvigorate this slipping ship of state.

The City has long since given up on following the twists and turns a few stops westward on the District Line, on the grounds that whilst the grown-ups over here are trying to build businesses fit for the future there is little point in paying attention to what increasingly looks like playground in-fighting. 

But whither the result of the Hill Review into the listings regime? Where are the outputs from the Kalifa Fintech Review? Has anybody over there thought to begin tackling the chronic staff shortage or start measuring how many talented people have left the country during the pandemic? Where are the ideas that will get businesses investing? Where’s the growth coming from?

Mr Sunak, at least, has gone to significant lengths to include the City in efforts to revitalise the country and vowed to implement the Hill Review. Thus far, however, it has not materialised.

Further afield, Government policy is in an equally chaotic state of disarray. Plans to tackle social care have amounted to dusting off Gordon Brown’s proposal to hike national insurance, a policy the Conservative party has consistently campaigned against since the early 2000s. Meanwhile, substantive plans on how to reform the care sector from within, rather than finding more money to throw at the problem, are missing in action. A much anticipated announcement was delayed once again after the Health Secretary tested positive for coronavirus. 

In the Home Office, Priti Patel is planning to jail migrants who attempt to land on our shores illegally under patchy new legislation which will take some months to implement and cost as much as £412million. Even former Prime Minister Theresa May thinks the plans are batty, claiming the new laws give the impression that Ms Patel believes “one piece of legislation will deal with the problem forever.”

As Parliament heads into the summer recess, Mr Johnson would do well to use it as his own circuit-breaker. Otherwise the Government runs the risk of looking out of touch, out of control, and out of ideas. Some energy, and some focus, is sorely needed.

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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