POLITICS ACROSS THE POND—MP Andrew Bridgen offers his insight on the major political events that marked this summer in the UK and the USA.

As children and elected members of Parliament (some readers will appreciate what I did there) prepare to return from their Summer break, this week marks the end of what is traditionally described as the silly season for the media, a time where normally due to a dearth of serious news, items which would not normally get across the program or newspaper editors desk are propelled into the public consciousness through a blaze of often unwarranted publicity. But this summer its been different both here and in the USA.  

This has been a Summer like no other and for once in the UK I am not talking about our weather, it was dominated across the globe (and for half the globe it was actually Winter), by the ongoing Covid19 pandemic an issue which has turned life and politics upside down and inside out.

The Covid19 pandemic

While fears of a second wave of the virus spread faster than the virus itself, people should take some comfort from the official figures in my constituency of North West Leicestershire where throughout the epidemic I have been very proud of the way in which my constituents have responded. By observing the Government guidelines and using their judgment and common sense we have achieved the enviable position where we have only 2.9 new cases of infection per 100 000 people, a fraction of the national average. In protecting themselves and their families and friends they have also protected the wider community and by extension reduced the risk to the rest of humanity of a resurgence of the virus. The challenge now is to maintain this self-discipline while simultaneously rebuilding our lives and our economy. 

Education

In the UK most children have now not attended school for the longest continuous period since Parliament passed the 1870 Education Act, which made it mandatory for all children to attend school between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. Despite many a child’s understandable initial delight at school being canceled, it has been a wearing time for both children and parents.

Worryingly all the stats show that it is the children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds that will have suffered the most damage to their life chances, by being deprived of these irreplaceable months of education. Teachers will face a huge challenge to recoup this lost time and to ensure their pupils thrive in a world which, due to Covid19 and its effects of our economy, just got even tougher for our young people.

I was delighted that PM Boris Johnson chose my constituency last week to visit a school and meet the staff and pupils and to encourage concerned parents that it was not only safe but also essential for them to send their offspring back to into education. It is very difficult to see how life can get back to any semblance of normality until our education system is functioning especially for working parents.

The media

The BBC and other MSM outlets have not had a good Summer in the UK. Despite the huge interest and high viewing figures being reported across media platforms from a public hungry for information and guidance, trust in the TV news channels and conventional journalism has hit a new low. With the dead-tree press also suffering a big drop in sales, as people were forced to change the way they got their news due to constraints placed on them during the lockdown. This was a trend before the pandemic and the circumstances people found themselves in recently has put rocket-fuel under it. The BBC management has a history of making bad decisions and to this extent has exceeded itself during the pandemic, accused of repeatedly breaking its impartiality rules ( in my opinion and experience good evidence to support this), reneging on its commitment to fund the universal free TV license for the over 75s, and banning the singing of traditional patriotic songs at this year’s promenade concerts are to name but a few. I fear that the great institution that the BBC was, is in danger of entering a death spiral that it cannot recover from, and the most concerning thing for the BBC should be that apart from those who directly for it, few others even care anymore.

Brexit

2020 was to be the year that Brexit dominated the news, but events initiated in Wuhan, a City in China few had heard of before January, changed all of that. The trade talks with the EU will rubble on until the 11thhour as they were always going to. My bet is that despite the doom-mongers forecasts we will still get a deal, but not until we are in the elevator leaving the building had settled on WTO terms with a few side deals. The shape and depth of any trade deal is very much up the EU themselves but it must treat the UK as the independent sovereign state it now is and not a vassal seeking a bit more devolution of power. The EU has consistently misjudged the UK public’s resolve on this matter and the stakes have never been higher, we will know shortly if they have learned anything over the last 4 years.

The economic fallout of COVID-19 will affect people longer than the pandemic itself

As Governments across the world grapple with the economic fall out of the Covid19 pandemic and how to re-energize their economies and how to pay for the measures they all took to protect their populations from the worst ravages of the economic whirlwind that has engulfed us. The reduced size of our economies would normally instigate spending cuts, but its difficult to see where these cuts could fall, with many Government departments needing extra funding which in the throws of the pandemic will have to be found. This only leaves increased borrowing and tax rises as an option, borrowing has increased and can increase in the short term, but ultimately increased spending has to be covered by taxes and as we know increasing taxes slows economic activity and lowers tax take in real terms, it also encourages avoidance. This debate will be heated this Autumn and the outcome will probably affect our citizens for far longer than the pandemic that initiated it. There will also be international consequences as every major economy has taken a hammering as a result of this, the major concern being if China endeavor to take advantage of this and entrench its creeping economic power. Their treatment of demonstrators in Hong Kong remains a stain on their reputation and any superpower which seeks to subvert democracy should be a major concern for the Western powers.

The elephant in the room, the American presidential elections

While I maintain that I don’t like foreign politicians interfering in other nations elections and democratic processes, I feel forced to comment on the forthcoming US Presidential elections.

The USA is the UK’s major ally and biggest trading partner. Trade talks between our nations are at a crucial stage and whoever becomes the next President will clearly shape any final deal, and we know that Joe Biden is far more enthusiastic about the EU than Donald Trump. Despite being a member of the EU and its precursor EEC for almost half a century, the UK never synchronized it’s an economic cycle with the rest of the bloc, always remaining more aligned with the economic fluctuations of the U.S. economy.

It is difficult to remember the time when the UK was thriving unless the USA was also doing well. Post-Brexit already close links between our countries and our future economic prosperity is only likely to be stronger. Future trade deals with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand will create the world’s biggest trade-block, an alliance of the Anglosphere. This is great news, especially for those of us fortunate enough to live within its secure, democratic, and tolerant influence.

I believe that the Democrats in the US have made a huge mistake, for the sake of political expediency, in wholeheartedly supporting the declared aims and aspirations of the Black Lives Matter campaign. This is a trap the left-wing in the UK (including the BBC management – another mistake !) has also breathlessly and enthusiastically fallen into. As I have written before the BLM movement has also traveled over the pond and influenced political debate in the UK. Whilst, of course, recognizing historic racial inequalities and the need to tackle these, I have been very dubious and critical of the BLM campaign which I believe has been subverted by extremists and has through its irresponsible actions actually increased division between our communities.

Seeing mobs threatening citizens and intimidating them to “take the knee” as a sign of submission to the cause, brings back worrying memories of other totalitarian regimes’ methods, which ultimately did not end well for anyone.

Two lessons the left need to learn quickly are that the vast majority of white people are not racist and genuinely believe in racial equality, and also the majority of racial minorities don’t like seeing lawlessness and violence in their neighborhoods. The Left has fed the monster believing it will deliver them a short-term electoral advantage, but they might find that it eats them instead.

Andrew Bridgen

Andrew Bridgen is a Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire.