Evening Standard Comment: Hobbling London makes us all poorer | Poorest need clarity | In the hands of God

Evening Standard Comment
·3 min read
 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

Hobbling London makes us all poorer

Four weeks ago, through a combination of dodgy graphs, self-serving politics and institutional chaos, London was bounced into lockdown, as our PM warily eyed the growing anger in the North. And London paid the price.

That our city’s case numbers were fine and our hospitals holding up counted for little. We said at the time that a splurge of activity before lockdown would spike infections and health leaders now widely agree with us.

This newspaper has consistently argued that it is not enough that Health Secretary Matt Hancock sets out five criteria for which tier we enter when we don’t know the thresholds within those criteria.

We now have good reason not to trust the politicians in charge and, above all, the public will not follow rules if they are not fully informed on the metrics underpinning their loss of freedom and ability to earn a living.

Tier 2 is better than Tier 3. But this comes after one month of a fiscally disastrous lockdown — which cost the capital £6 billion. Never mind the businesses and jobs that will continue to be lost in the coming months.

Boris Johnson would not be Prime Minister today were it not for his time as mayor. Back then he knew the value our city brought to the country, how we generate nearly a quarter of GDP and act as a magnet for inward investment and global talent. Simply put, without London, there is no levelling up.

Yet today, Mr Johnson leaves our current Mayor in the dark. The middle of a health and economic crisis is not the time to play party politics. But it continues. It is fashionable to bash London as some sort of out-of-touch land of liberal metropolitan elites.

This lazy trope ignores the reality that London is the driver of our economy and we want to work with the whole of the country. To hobble the capital is to make us all poorer. So do not “other” us. Do not hobble us. We are ready to lead the recovery — if you let us.

Poorest need clarity

Our ambitious Chancellor got the headlines he wanted from his Spending Review — the UK has abandoned its policy of spending 0.7 per cent of national income on foreign aid.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this policy — it is certainly a curious move for so-called Global Britain — it did the job. But many Londoners were left worried about what Rishi Sunak did not say. He conspicuously refused to extend the temporary £20-a-week rise in Universal Credit, which is set to expire in April.

For many people, £20 is a lifeline. If he kept quiet so he can be seen to pull another rabbit out the hat next year, that is both cruel and unnecessary. The poorest in society deserve clarity. If he said nothing because he plans to cut it, then it is simply cruel.

In the hands of God

There was no £14.95 pay-per-view in 1986. Any sort of football on TV was a rare treat. World cups were a quadrennial chance to watch the players that fans could otherwise only read about.

That quarter-final between Argentina and England is how many in this country will remember Diego Maradona. First for the “hand of God”, then for perhaps the greatest solo goal in the history of football.

Yet his story, from the slums of Buenos Aires to the apotheosis of global sport, transcended borders. Rest in peace, El Diego.