Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.
I suspect politics won’t return to normal for many months. But what is normal? Wartime analogies can seem tiresome in situations like this, but the measures which the government is taking, and will take, were not even deployed in the Second World War.
Schools remained open. There was freedom of association. These really are unprecedented times. And we haven’t even reached anywhere near the peak of this crisis. That probably won’t come until May or even June.
The scale of the economic crisis is starting to become apparent. Perfectly viable companies are losing 80 per cent, 90 per cent or even 100 per cent of their income. Even the most successful companies cannot operate without positive cashflow. In our just-in-time economy, most will run out of cash within four weeks.
The Government’s £330 billion package including a major loan scheme is good, but it only goes so far. Expect a lot more announcements. We are heading for a full-scale command and control economy within a very short time – and for a temporary universal basic income scheme.
We’re heading for a quasi-authoritarian state in which civil liberties will inevitably take second place. Government can only do so much, and there will be a massive conflict between those who expect the Government to do everything and those who recognise that this is just not possible.
The media will have choices to make between covering any poor soul who blames the Government for the fact that a close relative has died, and being responsible and recognising that impossible choices are going to have to be made. We will experience the “Why oh why oh why?” and “Something must be done” brigades in full flow. I hope the media give them a wide berth.
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I have never been in favour of a Universal Basic Income, but I think this is something that must be looked at now, on a temporary basis.
Some households are going to be severely affected within a very short time. A payment of say, £1000 to each household in the country would cost in the region of £28 billion. It’s a massive amount of money, but could be recouped over time when things revert back to normal.
I have no idea how easy it would be to administer, but I’d have thought it could be implemented by local authorities who hold all the records of properties in their areas.
OK, it seems ridiculous that people at the top of the income scale should get the money too, but people who don’t actually need the money could be encouraged to donate it to food banks or charities. Ease and speed of administration are the key things here.
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Last week, I wrote about the moment Coronavirus became real to me. It was when someone I knew got it.
That person was Nadine Dorries, who is thankfully well on the road to recovery. Half an hour ago I learned that my dear friend Theo Usherwood, LBC’s Political Editor, is in hospital with pneumonia, and suspected of having Covid-19. I knew he was ill, but not to that extent.
I don’t know if my reaction to learning this was typical or not, but I am feeling very emotional and somewhat tearful. Theo is 35. He’s fit. He’s not in a high risk category. I’m 57 and in a high-risk category and very unfit.
That’s why I took the decision earlier in the week not to travel to London again until all this is over. Since Tuesday, the only time I’ve left the house is to walk the dogs. All I can do is minimise the risk to myself and therefore others by keeping myself to myself.
This means since Tuesday I’ve been broadcasting my radio show from home. LBC and Global Radio have encouraged as many of their staff to work from him, with only broadcast essential staff remaining in our Leicester Square headquarters.
It’s a very odd experience broadcasting from one’s boudoir! I have to do it from that room as it’s the only one in the house with carpet. If I did it in a room with floorboards, it would be very echoey.
I’m doing it all via my laptop and IPDTL technology plus a rather special microphone. I was worried about the broadband dropping out occasionally, but so far, so good.