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By Jim Hancock

By Jim Hancock

Never mind tax cuts… what about reform?

Why is the Tory leadership race dominated by an arms race on tax cuts? Jim argues that the candidates should be talking about reform of our collapsing public services. He also celebrates the opening of the Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot.

The Tory leadership race is being dominated by who can promise the quickest and most drastic tax cuts. The former Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is taking the most responsible approach. He’s seen the books and knows the constant demand for more spending on our crumbling public services.

We can argue about the merits of cutting tax. The argument is that more money in people’s pockets will generate growth, boost the economy, allowing us to have the public services we all need.

But money isn’t the real answer for a Britain where the outgoing Prime Minister leaves behind a country where you can’t get an ambulance, passport, or a GP appointment. The National Health Service is the best example of this. It is rightly a national treasure and because of that, politicians are frightened of saying it needs root and branch reform. Health, social care, and GPs need to be integrated so they all work together, not in isolated silos. The passport office needs to be properly managed. Can you imagine Sainsbury’s running out of key products? The government need to have a clear policy of getting people back in the workplace. Working from home and flexi hours are making it impossible for the public to contact the right people. And what about net zero? Has the climate emergency gone away?

Are you hearing any discussion of these matters amongst the Tory leadership candidates? Most of them are obsessed with tax cuts and it is just a question of how fast and how much.

They presumably think this will be a winner in 2024. I think the voters will be demanding a government with different priorities and it is time for Labour to start being clearer and bolder with its vision.

Meanwhile it looks as if Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt will be the ones to face the Tory membership who seem to be thirsting for a big break from the Johnson regime.

It must go to the party members. In a typical act of mischief, the Prime Minister suggested that it might be stitched up in parliament with one of the last two candidates withdrawing as happened in 2016. Prime Ministers who are chosen without the endorsement of party members don’t always fare well. Ask Gordon Brown and Theresa May.

THE PEOPLE’S THEATRE

Congratulations to Knowsley Council and everyone associated with Shakespeare North. The new Globe style theatre just opening in Prescot looks magnificent. It was a courageous visionary idea to choose one of the most deprived boroughs in the country to be home to the Bard in the north, trading on sixteenth century connections between Shakespeare and the first Elizabethan indoor theatre outside London, in Prescot.

Max Steinberg, who has played such a big part in regeneration projects on Merseyside for so many years, is chair of the Shakespeare North Trust. He spoke at a Downtown event recently and said he was most proud of the way the local community has already adopted the Shakespeare North Playhouse as their own.

Already there is evidence of the project giving the local economy a much-needed boost with cafes and restaurants springing up nearby. “All things are ready, if our minds be so” Henry V.

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