Opinion and Editorial from the Policy Exchange team.
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Three times this week sections of the M25 have been closed by activists from the Insulate Britain group, demanding government take responsibility for insulating all social housing by 2025, and re-fitting all houses with low energy heating by 2030. The protests certainly succeeded in provoking a reaction. Video footage of angry motorists scuffling with demonstrators and being ordered back to their trapped cars by police offices soon went viral, as did a recording of an officer telling activists if they felt any discomfort, or needed anything, they only had to ask for assistance. Some columnists have blamed protestors for a crash which occurred in Surrey on Wednesday morning, although that incident remains under investigation.
Nimbys get a bad press. They live in attractive houses in expensive areas but want to deny that chance to others. They are a powerful lobby motivated by selfishness who often behave badly – check out the recent viral video of a local woman hurling abuse, and a chair, at Camden Councillors when a planning decision didn’t go her way. They have climbed up the housing ladder and grown rich on an asset boom that has more to do with Bank of England policy than hard work.
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The anniversary of 9/11 routinely invokes reflective articles, considering both the day itself, and the war on terror which followed. This year’s twentieth anniversary would have formed a significant landmark, but the Taliban’s military victory in Afghanistan, and what it infers about American power, appears less a landmark, more a rupture. If media reports are to be believed, the Taliban is set to hold an inauguration ceremony on Saturday 11 September, thumbing its nose at commemorative events in the United States and elsewhere.
This week’s announcement of a health and social care levy was hugely significant. Much has been made of the impact on the taxation system: a 1.25 percentage point increase in national insurance contributions across employee earnings and employer wage costs (representing a 2.5% overall increase in the tax rate on earnings). It’s a move that will raise £12-14bn a year, and take this Conservative Government into new territory on exchequer spending at a time the economy remains in a vulnerable position.
A theatre in receipt of Arts Council and UK Government Covid funding has been accused of a “grotesque lapse of judgement” for holding an event on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 that calls the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan a “crime of aggression”.
The event features speakers from CAGE, an Islamist group described by Boris Johnson as “apologists for terror”.
The Bank of England has appointed a new chief economist to succeed Andy Haldane. Huw Pill’s experience should offer the UK central bank a novel intellectual perspective drawn from having worked at both the ECB for many years and as Goldman Sachs chief European economist.
When the Taliban were toppled in Afghanistan in 2001, I had only been a member of Parliament – representing a constituency that has many Muslim, as well as non-Muslim, voters – for a matter of months. But I can remember well the mood of the House in the weeks that followed. No one was under any illusions. This wasn’t going to be easy. The West’s involvement in Afghanistan was likely to continue for years.
On Thursday the Taliban took to social media to declare that after a 20-year interruption, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was back in business. In a month’s time, when we mark the anniversary of 9/11, they will doubtless again be governing nearly all the country. In the West there are understandable fears that the return of the Taliban means the return of Al-Qaeda, whose presence in Afghanistan provoked the American-led intervention in the first place.
Afghan women are once again cast in the role of collateral damage, as Afghanistan’s politics is played out via brutal images of desperate mums throwing babies over barbed wire to American soldiers at Kabul Airport, interspersed with photos of an Afghan woman shot by a Taliban goon for not covering her hair. The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and the collapse of its institutions, was as fast as the Americans’ dash to leave the country at breakneck speed.