EVEN though Britain’s future relationship with the European Union is at stake, the June 23 vote is in danger of becoming a referendum on Boris Johnson’s political credentials – and whether he is the right person to succeed David Cameron.
Having kept the nation guessing over his intentions when the poll was announced just over two weeks ago, the Mayor of London was accused of hypocrisy after his aides attempted to gag those colleagues who don’t back Mr Johnson’s Brexit stance.
Coming so soon after Mr Johnson blamed “the agents of Project Fear” for forcing the resignation of John Longworth as head of the British Chambers of Commerce, this episode is indicative of a febrile campaign which is focusing on the personalities of the key protagonists rather than the policies at stake.
Only Mr Johnson could have responded by quoting Chairman Mao and declaring: “Let a hundred flowers bloom, folks. OK?”
It speaks volumes when respected individuals like Mervyn King, the former Bank of England governor, feel the need to highlight the extent to which the Remain and Leave campaigns are shortchanging the electorate – and, specifically, those undecided voters who would like to be appraised of the facts.
Lord King said voters could be forgiven for believing that the outcome of Britain’s exit from the EU would be either a “land of milk and honey” on one hand or “plagues and locusts” because of a debate which is only likely to become more vindictive as the ongoing battle of wills between Mr Johnson and the Prime Minister becomes more personal and even more of a distraction.
Both would be advised to remember that this will be one of those historic decisions when each and every voter has the same level of influence as their elected representatives.
In short, it is time for both campaigners to start answering the country’s concerns – and to stop the backstabbing which is beginning to make a mockery of this exercise in democracy.
Paying the price: npower staff in the firing line
GIVEN its appalling record and reputation, energy supplier npower deserves little sympathy after a posting a loss of £99m – the firm operates in a competitive market and 355,000 customers have voted with their feet. The one exception is the 2,400 staff who will now lose their jobs. The company’s Yorkshire workforce is not to blame for this crisis. Instead the fault rests squarely with those senior executives, on super-inflated salaries, who did not heed warnings when call handlers started to receive complaints about faulty IT systems and so on.
If they had done so, hundreds of staff at npower’s sites across Yorkshire would not be facing an uncertain future through no fault of their own. Yet, while some regard npower’s difficulties as the energy industry’s equivalent of the banking crisis, its plight is, in fact, indicative of consumers being more aware of their rights and being prepared to shop around for the best deals.
As personal finance expert Martin Lewis said, customers have “stopped bitching and started switching”. This is key. For, given the energy regulator Ofgem’s inability to stand up for the public interest, the best way of holding firms like npower to account is by customers demanding the highest standards of service at all times. Only time will tell whether npower can respond to these market forces after sacrificing the jobs of so many frontline staff in a fairly shabby way in order to preserve those who presided over such mismanagement.
THE QUEEN had 825,000 reasons to be proud when she accompanied her son, and heir to the throne, to a youth project to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Prince’s Trust. This is the incredible number of young people who have been given a leg-up since Prince Charles launched his inspirational charity in 1976 to improve the life chances of the less fortunate.
Without The Prince’s Trust providing mentoring or financial support to help aspiring entrepreneurs, Britain would be a much poorer place.
Unlike so many publicity-seeking politicians, Charles has built up his charity with little fanfare and is clearly energised when he comes across successful people who have been beneficiaries of his organisation’s expertise and goodwill. However this work does depend upon the continued benevolence of donors – and long may this financial support be forthcoming.
For, without The Prince’s Trust and its emphasis on social mobility, the future will be a bleaker one for many, many youngsters. 825,000 reasons to thank Prince Charles