Politicians have promised a new kind of economy. Can they deliver?by Tom Clark / October 8, 2020 / Leave a comment
A change, they say, is as good as a rest. But can a rest be as good as a change? After the economy was forcibly silenced in the spring and with autumnal hibernation now setting in, Westminster’s more thoughtful minds are asking themselves whether we can use the unavoidable stop to precipitate an overdue rethink.
It makes sense to attempt to seize the day. From effective train nationalisation to an explosion of state-subsidised incomes, all sorts of emergency measures have been required, and a long historical view suggests that at least some initially temporary public policies tend to endure: income tax, to give one example, started out life as a wartime fix under Pitt the Younger.
Away from the pandemic, Brexit Britain will have to do things differently if it is to chart its own way in the world. Meanwhile, there is growing consensus that the UK’s productivity problems and regional imbalances are becoming intolerable.
But the overriding reason to reset old business habits as we restart is shared around the world: sustainability for the climate. While minister Christopher Pincher’s focus is on post-pandemic construction planning and the provision of homes—where many controversies lurk—it is heartening to see his emphasis on a (at least potentially) zero-carbon-compliant housing stock. Meanwhile, Labour’s Kerry McCarthy sets out a green wishlist of the many ways she’d like to see our transport systems change before we stutter back into something approaching ordinary life.
Strikingly, although they are from different parties and writing about different policy fields, both MPs have latched on to the phrase “build back better.” It has a nice ring, although with so much rethinking to be done for new times, I’m not sure how much building “back” there can be. “Building forward better” loses the alliteration, which “rebuilding while rebooting” restores, but at the cost of mangling the metaphor. Brainwaves for a better slogan on a postcard to parliament, please!