39. Weekly Newsletter
Labour Party Conference
Britain’s second largest political party, the Labour Party, is currently hosting their annual conference which decides upon the party’s platform and policy positions for the year through daily votes. The event has been running in Brighton since Saturday (25th September) and will conclude this Wednesday (29th September). Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, is working to shift the party closer to the political centre following their disappointing election performance in 2019 which landed Labour with their fewest seats since 1935.
The political shift away from the influential left-wing of the party led to his own ‘shadow secretary of state for employment rights and protections’ to quit the shadow cabinet mid-conference. However, Sir Keir’s approval ratings have improved (with one poll equalling the PM on Monday) and one of his major structural changes for the party was voted through at the conference this week. Some of the policies outlined so far include: a £28bn a year of green investment, taxing private schools (raising £1.7bn), axing business rates (costing £30bn), a digital services tax (ranging from 2 – 12%), setting up an Office of Value for Money, and scrapping “hundreds” of tax breaks. Later this week, on Sunday (3rd October), the Conservatives will begin their annual Party Conference in Manchester.
COVID & Life Expectancies
Almost 7.7m people in the UK have tested positive for COVID and with almost all restrictions lifted: cases appear to be subdued from the start of the month but are slowly rising. A total in excess of 136,200 deaths have been attributed to the virus. Nationally, 48.74m people (about 90% of the eligible population) have received their first vaccine and around 44.77m of these patients have also received their second dose. This brings the total number of inoculations carried out, by the private sector and National Health Service, to over 93.50 million.
The average life expectancy for men has fallen for the first time in 40 years and female life expectancies have flatlined, according to the ONS. Northern Ireland was the only country in the UK to see improvements but still remained below the English average. Overall, men can expect to live 79.0 years and women then exceed this by another 3.9 years. Similar trends can be seen across Europe and the US which reveal a global dip in life expectancies.
UK Petrol Stations on Empty
Last week, the UK was focused upon a gas crisis following sharp increases in the wholesale prices of imported gas from Norway and Russia. Despite this ongoing challenge it has been overshadowed by the unexpected fuel supply crisis (shown in Monday’s newspapers, here) which has led to “up to 90%” of petrol stations running dry over the last few days. The results of this include huge queues for fuel from the remaining petrol stations, spending caps (usually between £30-35 pp) on fuel, and jerry can sales rising almost 1,700% as people stock up.
A cause of this crisis is due to the nation’s long-term shortage of HGV drivers (in this case, for delivering fuel to petrol stations) following a lack of new applicants to the industry and 30,000 cancelled HGV qualification exams this year due to COVID. Whilst there is no shortage of petrol or diesel in the UK: the unexpected surge in demand was caused by leaked remarks about BP suggesting prevalent supply chain challenges with distributing fuel. In turn, this gained widespread media coverage and triggered nationwide panic buying which appears to have snowballed. The UK Government has now granted 5,000 temporary visas to foreign HGV drivers and has considered calling in the army to ease the supply network.