If you are not moving forward, you are going backwards – an age-old adage applied to everything from staying ahead of the competition in business to sharks, some of which must keep swimming to breathe.

But it is also true in politics.

Governments are elected to solve problems or give people hope, to “Get Brexit Done”, “Build Back Better”, or even “Make America Great Again”. 

But behind the slogans, the UK is suffering from a policy drought, and at a time when policy solutions are needed more than ever.

It’s fair to say that the Prime Minister and the wider Government have been distracted lately, with police investigations, potential rebellions and leadership manoeuvres all sucking the energy out of the policy machine, but it would be wrong to pinpoint this malaise on the last few months.

Since 2016, when the Brexit referendum result sent shockwaves through British politics, the climate has been defined by instability, factionalism and Politics (with a capital ‘P’), but not policy.

These conditions have given rise to ‘zombie governments’ led by two unlikely Prime Ministers in Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

Whilst the latter may have always dreamt about being ‘World King’, that ambition does not appear to have been led by a similarly clear vision of what he might do once in such a position of power and, despite a commanding majority, there has been little policy of note even before this latest scandal.

Similarly, Theresa May, a Prime Minister more by luck than any grand plan, was hamstrung by a lack of vision for how she wanted to shape the country and further undermined by the party politics that would eventually lead to her downfall.

Whilst the policy machine has stuttered, the problems in the country have been mounting, many of which are now being exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The long term implications of Brexit, an NHS with 100,000 vacancies that is running in no small part on the goodwill of its remaining staff, a cost of living crisis, an energy crisis, rising social inequalities and structural shifts to the economy and ways of working are all enormous challenges and ones that can’t be ignored. And there are many more.

The recent Levelling Up White Paper, supposedly the flagship policy of the current government and a clear priority for the country, was released with a grand vision but its missions turned out to be copied and pasted from the Industrial Strategy of the May Government and much of the preamble was lifted straight from Wikipedia. Behind those embarrassments, there was little actual policy and even less money to help tackle the challenges it identified.

With public finances strained the choices ahead are hard, but not impossible. There are opportunities 

Since 2009 on the back of the financial crisis, the Bank of England introduced a policy of ‘quantitative easing’ (QE), effectively printing money to buy Government Bonds to drive demand and keep interest rates low. 

Since then a total the Bank of England has bought more than £875 billion of UK Government bonds, a policy that was originally designed to stop the banks from collapsing and has since seemingly contributed to the ever-widening wealth gaps in this country and others.

As QE proves, solutions can be found when they are needed. To tackle the mounting challenges we need bold, creative ideas – policy zealots, innovative financiers and people ready to challenge the status quo and reform our society and economy for the twenty-first century.

On the back of a global pandemic and a historic change in the UK’s global relationships, what better time to try some bold and innovative thinking, unleash the creativity and ambition that is suppressed and use our newfound position to truly explore what “Global Britain” means rather than pursuing trade deals that replicate what we have just walked away from? 

Sadly, it is hard to see where those people or such thinking is – certainly they are not on either of the main parties frontbenches, and it is hard to see where they are in the backbenches, in the think tanks or the broader political environment.

If we are not to lose another 6 years, or longer, to this policy drought we all have to hope that someone steps forward soon.

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