How the Government is invoking Thatcher in HGV crisis

Farming Union slams Brexit & Covid for fruit and veg picker shortage

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The UK remains in the vice grip of an HGV shortage, which has stretched the supply chain to breaking point, keeping shop shelves bare and petrol stations dry. Queues have barely shrunk across the country in recent days, and the crisis has now entered its second week. The onus lies on the Government to restore the status quo, but ministers have warned shortages could continue until Christmas and reframed the trouble as a “struggle”.

Conservative messaging has pushed Boris Johnson’s ‘Build Back Better’ slogan, and suggested the supply chain issues are a teething issue from Brexit that will eventually subside.

The Prime Minister has defined the current shortages as a “period of adjustment” that will eventually see Britain flourish.

Speaking to Andrew Marr at the beginning of the Conservative Conference yesterday, the Prime Minister said his plans to boost the economy and wages would offer a long-term solution.

Commentators have likened the Government’s latest spin as an attempt to evoke Margaret Thatcher.

Iain Martin, a columnist for The Times, wrote on Twitter that the Government has presented the shortages as a “steely Thatcher-style struggle to reorder the economy.”

The controversial Prime Minister sought to transform the economy when she came to power in 1979 when Britain was reeling from the winter of discontent, inflation and an International Monetary Fund intervention.

She used her leadership to direct the country into privatisation, with union-busting and rolling back the state while introducing tax reforms.

Supporters argue her policies – which caused immense suffering amongst those on society’s lower rungs, notably miners and other working-class Brits – helped enhance Britain’s ailing reputation.

Brits are struggling once again, and the Government is hoping they will accept the hardships will eventually lead to prosperity.

But Mr Martin revealed a significant hole in their plan that may mean ministers can’t repeat the former PM’s “success.”

He said that, in memoirs of her tenure, authors noted how her cabinet “obsessively” prepared.

He provided the example of stockpiling coal before the miners’ strike and increased power capacity.

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The current Government, on the other hand, he said, “doesn’t seem as… organised.”

Successive cabinets received warnings of Brexit shortages, both before and after the vote.

Critics have said the Government could have prepared for shortages in once migrant-fuelled occupations, such as fruit picking, with solutions such as visa exemptions for these areas.

Ministers have only offered temporary visas for HGV drivers now, suggesting a lack of preparation.

In the meantime, one Conservative MP has suggested supply chain collapse could end up being a good thing.

Speaking at a conference fringe event yesterday, Tory MP Chris Loder said it would prove positive if supply chains did eventually “crumble”.

He said it was in “our mid and long term interest” to see logistics chains break.

If they did, he added, they would allow “the farmer down the street” to “sell their milk in the village shop like they did decades ago”.

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