The main event in parliament this week was the chancellor’s budget statement on Wednesday. The country was crying out for a budget to put the country on the road to recovery and right the wrongs of the last decade by rebuilding our economic foundations. Instead we got a budget that just papered over the cracks.
Of course, Rishi Sunak and the Conservative government already have a shocking record of economic mismanagement. Analysis by the Office for Budget Responsibility has shown that the UK economy was hit harder because we had longer and stricter covid restrictions than other countries, because the government failed to get the covid virus under control. Delays in introducing support for businesses, the self-employed and families made things worse.
So this was the chancellor’s chance to get a grip. But we were badly let down. There was no plan for the NHS recovery, or for social care, and no mention of schools or teachers – yet they, and other key workers who are getting us through the crisis, face a pay freeze this year. Instead, we got the same old Tories with the wrong priorities: stamp duty cuts for second home owners and a cut to the incomes of the lowest paid, just as unemployment kicks in.
Labour would have done things differently. A Labour budget would have put the NHS and social care centre stage. It would have had a plan to rebuild the foundations of our economy for the long term, with a focus on supporting new jobs across the entire UK, supporting our high streets, protecting family finances, and backing key workers who have worked so hard. I’m disappointed that we didn’t get that budget from the chancellor this week.
On a happier note, yesterday was World Book Day – a day to celebrate the pleasure of reading, and to settle down with a good book. I’ve really enjoyed looking at posts on social media about what my constituents are reading, including some of my very young constituents enjoying wonderful children’s books. It’s also been great to see many dressing up as characters in their favourite books.
And while we’re on the subject of children and reading, you may have heard Sandi Toksvig on radio this week, talking about a campaign to ‘Turn on the Subtitles’. This campaign helps improve children’s reading by turning on the subtitles on children’s programmes by default. I met the campaigners a few month ago to hear more about the idea, and this week they’ve launched some fabulous videos to explain how it works. They’ve got some famous supporters for the idea – if you’d like to know more, have a watch of this!