Darryl Morris Weekly – 05.03.21 – 1%

“One big positive about the clap for carers has been the impact on kids,” said Andrew, calling my talkRADIO show one Friday morning after the nation had taken to their doorsteps, “my 8 year old has had his opinion of his mum, a nurse, transformed and it has reinforced the reason for his generations sacrifices too.”

It was a penny drop moment. For all the hollow symbolism of the clap for carers movement, it will have taught a generation the value of their contribution.

In our house, at roughly the same time, another penny was dropping. My girlfriend, Michaela, was furloughed from her job. Her Mum, Lisa, was stepping into the line of fire as a nurse. It dawned on us that Michaela was being paid more to stay at home than her Mum was to go to work on a COVID ward. It was a shocking and sickening realisation. It shouldn’t have been, but it was.

The consensus was clear. It was irrefutable. There were people and professions in society that we simply hadn’t treated well enough. We’d left the status and the value of those jobs to dwindle.

As we were presented with our moment of realisation, Andrew’s son was taking to his doorstep every Thursday evening to clap for his Mum. Maybe, when this generation reach a position of power and influence, they will treat them better.

Until then, it’s a 1% pay rise.

The chancellors budget annoucement on Wednesday made little to no mention of the NHS or the key workers who are it’s backbone. The devil came in the detail yesterday, when it became apparent that the government were going to recommend just a 1%  increase in pay for NHS staff.

But what does that mean in real terms? Callum Bell, a mental health nurse – who will carry the burden of the psychological recovery as well as the pandemic itself – tweeted:

I’m a senior (band 6) Nurse.

A 1% pay rise only puts an extra £6 in my pocket each week, which doesn’t even cover how much I get charged for parking at work.

For others, accounting for inflation, it represents a pay cut.

The wave of comparisons came thick and fast. Billions spent on Test and Trace and botched private contracts, cried some. Look at the economic mess, and some people have no job at all, cried others. The truth is, they may be unhelpful. Meaningful analogies can quickly descend into unhelpful whataboutary.

Another absence from the chancellors announcements was a widely touted ‘windfall’ tax. The idea that we’d reach out to those big companies whose business models have allowed them to profit hugely from the pandemic and ask them for a one off contribution on the money they have made. We could filter it down to those who have been hit, through no fault of their own. It wouldn’t be simple. Supermarkets, for example, point out that the profits they have made from the monopoly they have had have been off-set by losses elsewhere in the business. But there are some companies – namely Amazon – who have had a very good ride indeed. It’s true to say that knocking on the door of the big boys comes with risk. They could work harder to find loop-holes, cementing their determination to pay as little as they can. Or they could simply up sticks and leave. There has long been the fear that if you raise corporation tax – companies will simply move elsewhere.

The government say the NHS pay rise is as much as they feel able to commit to right now. And maybe they are right. I can’t say for certain.

But that presents us with a bigger question: is a society that doesn’t feel able to offer it’s frontline health workers a pay rise and feels unable to challenge multi-billion pound corporations to contribute more… broken? This last year has taught us that where there is a will, there is a way. Governments have been able to step up, step in, take bold decisions and wrap their arms around the right people while asking others to play fair. Maybe that’s an attitude we need to retain?

This weekend, we’ll ask Helen O’Connor from GMB NHS for her take.

It also leads us on to another of the weekend’s big questions. As a YouGov poll puts the Labour Party 13 points behind the Tories, what does Kier Starmer need to do?

There has been a chorus of criticism for both Starmer and the electorate. Most of which misses the mark. Some say he is underperforming. That to allow a government that have failed so badly the room to be so far ahead is a damning indictment of his leadership. Some say that the electorate are stupid. That to keep their faith in a government that have overseen one of the worst death tolls and economic fall outs of the pandemic – with scandals, cronyism and deceit along the way – means they must be either thick or not watching.

Both of those points misunderstand how people engaging with politics – and why people backed the Tories in the way they did last year. The idea that the Labour Party could bounce back so easily from one of the worst defeats in modern history, and do so at a time when the public are willing the government to succeed, is fanciful. Factor in culture, media, messaging and personality… and you’ll realise that mountain is much, much higher than it may seem.

A fortnight ago, ahead of Starmer’s big reset speech, we spoke to Brendan Chilton from Labour Future and Kevin Craig, one of the party’s biggest donors, to figure out what Starmer needed to say. This weekend, we’ll check back in with them to figure out if what he did say has got lost.

And the world (mainly obsessed newspaper journalists) is gearing up for one of the most hotly anticipated interviews of recent years, as Harry and Meghan sit down with Oprah for a tell-all chat. This weekend, we’ll take the chance to journey back through some of the interviews that have rocked the world. From Diana, to Michael Jackson, to Frost-Nixon, to Prince Andrew, to OJ Simpson. What makes a truly explosive interview? How do you get it right? And what’s the risk if it goes wrong?

See you in the morning.

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By Darryl Morris

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