Last week’s intervention by the Prime Minister in the Coronavirus Crisis, advising everyone to “wash their hands” was timely and important. Less timely was his delay in calling an emergency meeting of COBRA, by comparison with the Foot and Mouth Crisis when COBRA met daily at 7am and then Ministers were despatched to the media to inform and reassure. Now it seems Ministers are largely banned from the airwaves.
The washing of hands is becoming a metaphor for Government policy. When last weeks court judgement went against a third runway at Heathrow the Government announced they would not be appealing. That is despite lobbying from regional organisations such as the North East Chamber of Commerce who say Heathrow and Connectivity are crucial to the North East’s economy. Whatever the pros and cons of a third runway the future of Heathrow cannot be left to chance or the whim of London MP’s with a constituency interest.
The Minister in charge of negotiations with the EU Michael Gove set out a list of Government conditions for any future deal with the EU. He certainly left the impression that he was willing to wash his hands of any deal and walk away. That’s bad news for North Shields fishermen who need to sell their prawns in Europe without tariffs or delay. And terrible news for our region which will see the economy shrink by 6.4%, on the Government’s own analysis, if there’s no deal.
Which may all prove tricky for the new Chancellor as he prepares to deliver his first budget next week.