Reshuffle, Reset, but just more of the same…

23 Nov 2023

On Monday, former Prime Minister David Cameron became Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton.  This enables him to become Foreign Secretary in the current Government.

In the reshuffle of Government ministers bringing back David Cameron is an interesting move.  It could either be that no-one in the existing set of Conservative MPs was considered good enough to be fulfil this great office of state, or that somehow the failed former Prime Minister is the best person that the government could find.

Either of these options isn’t good.  Times have moved on since David Cameron left office, and his actions after holding office haven’t been without scandal.  Lobbying the government for the failed Greensill finance firm perhaps wasn’t the wisest move.

This reshuffle has been the latest of several contradictory resets that Rishi Sunak has used to try and regain some popularity in the polls.  Everything I have seen suggest that it isn’t working very well.

I am sure that in the autumn financial statement we will see some tax cuts and other election give-aways.  However, most people will still be facing a rising cost-of-living crisis, increasing fuel bills, a crumbling NHS and polluted rivers and seas. I fear whatever taxes are cut won’t be enough to make a real difference.  The rate of inflation may have halved, but prices are still going up – just a little bit more slowly.

To make a real difference would need a different type of reset, something more fundamental.  Perhaps a change to how we view investing in the future.  Over the last few years, the Government has been offering random, one-off pots of money with short term deadlines – often labelled as levelling up.  What we really need is long-term investment.  That could be investing in more affordable homes, or public services, or people’s health, or skills.  And of course, investing significantly in changing and de-carbonising our whole economy.

One such investment in health could be a change to the national Dentist contract.  Today’s arrangement means that dentists cannot afford to treat NHS patients, which means that far too many children (and adults) don’t get the treatment that they need.  I was told this week that the most common reason for children having general anaesthetic in hospitals is to have teeth removed.  Regular trips to an NHS dentist would have prevented very many of these costly, emergency operations to extract teeth.  Sadly, the government’s view of costs doesn’t help to understand that prevention is better, safer and cheaper than fixing things after they have broken.

Government needs to work on longer term horizons to make sure that we escape the costly short-term view seeking just short-term results.  It isn’t about “long term decisions”, but it is about longer-term views, and investment for a brighter future.   Sadly, our system makes it all too easy to not see beyond the next electoral cycle.

At some time in the next year, we will be making a choice about who is to be our local MP and about the next government.  When I speak to local electors I hear many reasons why they may vote for one person or another, for one party or another.  Our current prime minister thinks that he can increase his appeal by his series of resets.  I think he is showing that he is simply delivering more of the same, failing ideas.  It is time for a change.

Martin Wrigley
Martin Wrigley