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#BeingBritish

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Empireland: The Fallout, with Sathnam Sanghera

*** Another day, another chancellor… “With this plan for stability, growth and public services, we will face into the storm.”Jeremy Hunt That was Jeremy Hunt, delivering his Autumn Statement to the House of Commons.  The big headlines? Tax increases, spending cuts, and a whole world of pain for people up and down the country. It was one of those moments where you could tell, even with the sound turned down, that this was a man delivering bad news, because it was written all over the glum faces of the Conservative MPs sitting behind him. It’s hard to believe that it was only 56 days ago that Kwasi Kwarteng was stood at the same dispatch box, delivering the extravagant  growth plan he had cooked up with the then Prime Minister Liz Truss.  He was promising historic tax cuts…. “Next year’s increase in corporation tax will be cancelled.”Kwasi Kwarteng More borrowing… “It is entirely appropriate for the government to use our borrowing powers to fund temporary measures to support families and businesses.”Kwasi Kwarteng and a two-year freeze on energy bills.  They didn’t have a plan to pay for any of it, so of course, it was an absolute disaster. The financial markets hated it. The pound collapsed to its lowest level in 40 years and Britain became a global punchline. So Jeremy Hunt – who is the fourth Conservative chancellor since July – had a lot of reversing to do. All at a time when the economic situation is already dire: inflation has hit a 40 year high at 11%, energy prices are still sky-high, unemployment has started to creep up, and as he told MPs,  the UK  is now officially in recession. His fiscal announcements – wholeheartedly backed by the current prime minister Rishi Sunak – have been designed to undo the damage to market confidence done by his predecessor. The aim is to restore Britain’s tarnished economic reputation by providing a plan to reduce future debt and curb inflation.  All of which means, the Treasury is looking to fill a £54bn black hole in the public finances. But how would the government carve up this enormous bill?  *** Jeremy Hunt has spent weeks preparing the public for bad news. And that’s where he chose to begin his Autumn Statement…  “There is a global energy crisis, a global energy crisis, and a global economic crisis.”Jeremy Hunt You might notice there, that he didn’t really want to talk very much about the damage done by Trussonomics and that dash for growth. He wanted to blame world events, not his Conservative colleagues. “There may be a recession made in Russia, but there is a recovery made in Britain.”Jeremy Hunt So what is in the plan? On one side, taxes will rise. The freeze on income tax thresholds will be extended, this means over three million people pay more in tax as their wages rise. Oil and gas firms will have to pay a huge windfall tax of 35% on their profits. And the cap on the amount households will pay for energy has been made less generous, increasing from £2500 to £3000. On the other side, there will be real-term cuts to public spending…  “We’re going to grow public spending, but we’re going to grow it more slowly”Jeremy Hunt However, government departments like education, social care and the NHS will be spared.  But the chancellor was also keen to be seen to provide support for the most vulnerable. “To be British is to be compassionate and this is a compassionate Conservative government.”Jeremy Hunt Means-tested benefits – including Universal Credit – and pensions will rise in line with inflation: that’s just over 10%. And there will also be an increase in the National Living Wage too. A lot of spending cuts have been deferred to after the next general election. *** Economists were quick to react, here’s Paul Johnson from the Institute for Fiscal Studies… The next few years look grim in terms of living standards, the biggest reduction in household incomes, possibly on record and certainly within recent generations.”Paul Johnson But the judgement everyone was waiting for was from the independent forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility – remember, they were ignored by Kwarteng and Truss last time round, at huge cost to the government’s credibility. The OBR view of Hunt’s statement was pretty sobering. “Over £100bn of additional fiscal support over the next two years cushions the blow of higher energy prices – but the economy still falls into recession and living standards fall 7% over two years, wiping out eight years’ growth.”OBR Statement That’s going to take incomes down to 2013 levels. The UK is expected to have the worst economic decline in Europe next year and living standards will not recover until 2027. The chancellor claims his latest measures mean the country will experience a less severe recession than it would have had without them. But as the OBR made clear, Britain’s woes are worse than their European neighbours and G7 counterparts. Tortoise’s Political Editor, Cat Neilan explains the politics behind it all…  “Jeremy Hunt tried to make a big thing about it being fair, that those with the biggest shoulders would take the biggest burden. This is critical to the survival of the party. You know, they need to be seen to stick to their manifesto commitments like the pensions, triple lock, and operating benefits in line with inflation. But they also need to make sure that they’re giving their MPs something that they can take into the constituencies and say: “Look, we are having to be the grownups. And we are having to pay for it, and no one will pay more than they deserve.”  One of the more interesting political elements to all this is the fact that because so many of the, uh, spending cuts have now been deferred until after the next election, that will force Labour to take a position on it. One of Labour’s probably biggest Achilles heels in recent years has been its refusal to come up with strong alternative policies. “What people will be asking themselves at the next election is this: are me and my family better off with a Conservative government? And the answer is no.”Rachel Reeves  By putting the spending cuts into post 2024, that will force them to take a view. They will have to have a position. Either they will have to roll back on it and be campaigning on tax wises, or they will have to back it and therefore back austerity. And that could be quite a difficult situation for Labour to be in. This episode was written by Rebecca Moore and mixed by Gary Marshall.

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Britain and slavery: Who profited and what should they do now?

What should companies that profited from slavery do now to make amends? Our daily digital ThinkIns are exclusively for Tortoise members and their guests.Try Tortoise free for four weeks to unlock your complimentary tickets to all our digital ThinkIns.If you’re already a member and looking for your ThinkIn access code you can find it in the My Tortoise > My Membership section of the app next to ‘ThinkIn access code’.We’d love you to join us.In the early 1800s, Benjamin Greene was running his own brewery and managing of a number of sugar plantations in the West Indies. When the British government abolished slavery in 1833, he was paid the equivalent of almost £500,000 in today’s money to compensate him for the loss of his ‘property’ – that is, men, women and children who had been kept as slaves on the plantations. Greene’s brewery is now the highly successful Greene King brewery chain, just one of 43,000 UK companies – including several major banks – named on a database at University College London to have directly or indirectly benefited from these compensation payments. What can and should these companies do now to make amends?Editor: James Harding, Editor and Co-founder, TortoiseHow does a digital ThinkIn work?A digital ThinkIn is like a video conference, hosted by a Tortoise editor, that takes place at the advertised time of the event. Digital ThinkIns are new to Tortoise. Now that our newsroom has closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, we feel it’s more important than ever that we ‘get together’ to talk about the world and what’s going on.The link to join the conversation will be emailed to you after you have registered for your ticket to attend. When you click the link, you enter the digital ThinkIn and can join a live conversation from wherever you are in the world. Doors open at 6:25pm for a welcome and briefing. Come early to get settled, meet the team and chat to other members. ThinkIn starts at 6:30pm. Members can enter their unique members’ access code to book tickets. Find yours in My Tortoise > My Membership in the Tortoise app.If you have any questions or get stuck, please read our FAQs, or get in touch with us at memberhelp@tortoisemedia.comRead our ThinkIn code of conduct here. What is a Tortoise ThinkIn?A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. It is a place where everyone has a seat at the (virtual) table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise.

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Will Nicola Sturgeon lead Scotland to independence?

Have the twin pressures of Brexit and Covid gifted independence to the SNP? Our daily digital ThinkIns are exclusively for Tortoise members and their guests.Try Tortoise free for four weeks to unlock your complimentary tickets to all our digital ThinkIns.If you’re already a member and looking for your ThinkIn access code you can find it in the My Tortoise > My Membership section of the app next to ‘ThinkIn access code’.We’d love you to join us.Some commentators suggest that Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis may be boosting support for Scottish nationalism. The Brexit Trade Bill, some have said, could trigger support for a ‘snap’ independence referendum. One recent poll showed 55% of Scots now favour independence. How has the economic and social case for an independent Scotland changed in a post-Brexit and post-Covid world? Does Sturgeon have the political capital to push through a second referendum, and on what timetable might it play out?Editor: James Harding, Editor and Co-founder, TortoiseOur invited experts include:Fiona Hill is a British political advisor and former Chief of Staff at Number 10 for Theresa May. John Lloyd is a journalist and co-founder of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford. He is currently a contributing editor at the Financial Times. How does a digital ThinkIn work?A digital ThinkIn is like a video conference, hosted by a Tortoise editor, that takes place at the advertised time of the event. Digital ThinkIns are new to Tortoise. Now that our newsroom has closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, we feel it’s more important than ever that we ‘get together’ to talk about the world and what’s going on.The link to join the conversation will be emailed to you after you have registered for your ticket to attend. When you click the link, you enter the digital ThinkIn and can join a live conversation from wherever you are in the world. Doors open at 6:25pm for a welcome and briefing. Come early to get settled, meet the team and chat to other members. ThinkIn starts at 6:30pm. Members can enter their unique members’ access code to book tickets. Find yours in My Tortoise > My Membership in the Tortoise app.If you have any questions or get stuck, please read our FAQs, or get in touch with us at memberhelp@tortoisemedia.comRead our ThinkIn code of conduct here. What is a Tortoise ThinkIn?A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. It is a place where everyone has a seat at the (virtual) table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise.

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Should we be ashamed of Winston Churchill?

What does Churchill symbolise now? Our daily digital ThinkIns are exclusively for Tortoise members and their guests.Try Tortoise free for four weeks to unlock your complimentary tickets to all our digital ThinkIns.If you’re already a member and looking for your ThinkIn access code you can find it in the My Tortoise > My Membership section of the app next to ‘ThinkIn access code’.We’d love you to join us.In a poll run by the BBC in 2002, the British public voted Winston Churchill number 1 in a list of “100 Greatest Britons”. No Black people featured in the list. Everybody knows that Churchill led the country to victory against Hitler in WW2, but Churchill scholars are the first to admit that he is a controversial and complex figure. Popular history struggles with such nuance. As awareness of his racist language, association with eugenics and accusations of corruption and neglect (particularly in relation to the Bengal famine which killed three million people) has grown, many, especially young, British people are demanding that the role he presently occupies in the national imagination be revised – or erased entirely. Like it or not, Churchill is an enduringly significant symbolic figure. The question is: what does he symbolise now? Following on from the Future of History File published by Tortoise in August, please do join us to explore how, and whether, we can begin to reframe our relationship with Churchill’s legacy.Editor: James Harding, Co-founder and Editor, TortoiseOur invited experts include:Professor Richard Toye is professor of history at Exeter University. He specialises in global and imperial British history from the late nineteenth century to the present day. His latest book Winston Churchill: Politics, Strategy and Statecraft was published in 2017. Chris Bryant MP is a Welsh Labour Party politician and former priest who has been the Member of Parliament for Rhondda since the 2001 general election. How does a digital ThinkIn work?A digital ThinkIn is like a video conference, hosted by a Tortoise editor, that takes place at the advertised time of the event. Digital ThinkIns are new to Tortoise. Now that our newsroom has closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, we feel it’s more important than ever that we ‘get together’ to talk about the world and what’s going on.The link to join the conversation will be emailed to you after you have registered for your ticket to attend. When you click the link, you enter the digital ThinkIn and can join a live conversation from wherever you are in the world. Doors open at 6:20pm for a welcome and briefing. Come early to get settled, meet the team and chat to other members. ThinkIn starts at 6:30pm. Members can enter their unique members’ access code to book tickets. Find yours in My Tortoise > My Membership in the Tortoise app.If you have any questions or get stuck, please read our FAQs, or get in touch with us at memberhelp@tortoisemedia.comRead our ThinkIn code of conduct here.What is a Tortoise ThinkIn?A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. It is a place where everyone has a seat at the (virtual) table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise.

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Tortoise Festival of ThinkIns – Is Britain becoming more intolerant?

Is Britain becoming more intolerant? It’s fashionable to talk about a creeping nastiness in British life, about a rise in racist attacks and anti-Semitic language, and the fading of a long tradition of live-and-let-live. But not all the evidence points the same way. Injustices are still being ironed out (on gender, gay, or trans rights) and some of the most striking examples of a newly tolerant, accepting Britain – our attitude to same-sex marriage, for one –  seem to be holding steady. What’s the truth about intolerance in the UK? Our special guests for this ThinkIn included: Tasnime Akunjee, criminal defence lawyer who specialises in terrorism law. Asad Dhunna, founder of The Unmistakables and director of communications for Pride. Claire Fox, director of the Academy of Ideas. The Readout What’s the truth about intolerance in the UK? Are we as tolerant of different people and cultures as we think we are?  Let’s start with the data.  Recorded hate crimes have risen in every strand since 2011-12 – with hate crimes relating to transgender and religious issues both increasing by more than 400 per cent. But how are they recorded? Claire Fox (now a Brexit Party MEP) pointed out that the victim does not have to justify or provide evidence of their belief and police officers don’t have to challenge the victim’s perception. Tasnime Akunjee agreed that the definition of a hate crime is problematic, but saw a clear link to political events (the EU Referendum). My colleague Matthew D’Ancona echoed this. Politicians need to take responsibility for the way they affect our public discourse with intolerant language.  Secondly – technology. Asad Dhunna said people increasingly live on the internet, and to function as a society, interacting is important. But we now live in a world where that interaction can happen through a screen with the ability to mute and block. Internet users can then end up living in their own bubble, hearing the same views, not getting perspective. As those online behaviours migrate to the real world, our problems may multiply. And finally there is nothing like lived experience. A common theme in the room was the prevalence of microagressions whether because of gender, race, religion or class. They’re difficult to measure, and can only really be heard. What next? Measurement: can we get to grips with the link between hot political language and events in the world? Like climate and weather, we know that change has consequences. Understanding: the idea of microagressions is relatively new and contested. How do we walk a mile in the shoes of people on the receiving end?

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The big question – Disunited Kingdom: Does Brexit mean leaving one Union – and then breaking up another?

Disunited Kingdom: Does Brexit mean leaving one Union – and then breaking up another?  Brexit has been the spur for the Scottish government to demand a new independence referendum. The vexed question of the Irish border is placing a strain on the relationship between Belfast and London. What will be left of the UK when the constitutional dust settles? What is a Tortoise ThinkIn? A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. Modelled on what we call a ‘leader conference’ in the UK (or an editorial board in the US), it is a place where everyone has a seat at the table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It’s where, together, we sift through what we know to come to a clear, concise point of view. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise. Drinks from 6.00pm, starts promptly at 6.30pm. If you are late to a ThinkIn you can ‘SlinkIn’! If you would like to contribute to this ThinkIn, let us know by emailing thinkin@tortoisemedia.com We film our Thinkins so we can watch them back, edit the best bits and share them with members who weren’t there in person. Members can find their ThinkIn booking code in My Tortoise, under My Membership.

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The big question: What’s to blame for the rise of the far-right?

Mondays in the Tortoise newsroom get lively. These ThinkIns are the heart of our editorial planning for the weeks ahead. It’s when we discuss what’s happening right now in the world and ask you to help us filter what matters. Come and tell us what you think, what you know, and what you want us to do about it. Together, we’ll figure out how to get to grips with the world around us. At Monday’s ThinkIn we’ll be asking: What’s to blame for the rise of the far-right? What is a Tortoise ThinkIn? A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. Modelled on what we call a ‘leader conference’ in the UK (or an editorial board in the US), it is a place where everyone has a seat at the table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It’s where, together, we sift through what we know to come to a clear, concise point of view. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise. Drinks from 5.30pm, starts promptly at 6.00pm. If you are late to a ThinkIn you can ‘SlinkIn’! If you would like to contribute to this ThinkIn, let us know by emailing thinkin@tortoisemedia.com We film our Thinkins so we can watch them back, edit the best bits and share them with members who weren’t there in person. Members can find their ThinkIn booking code in My Tortoise, under My Membership.

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Citizenship: should we bring back national service?

The arguments over Brexit, the divisions between London and the rest of the country, the ties between the four nations of the UK have all strained the idea of a sense of nationhood.  How do we refresh the ties that bind us as a country? Do we want to? And, if so, would a modern national service, whether as a period of military or social service, improve social cohesion, social mobility and a shared sense of belonging?   What is a Tortoise ThinkIn? A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. Modelled on what we call a ‘leader conference’ in the UK (or an editorial board in the US), it is a place where everyone has a seat at the table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It’s where, together, we sift through what we know to come to a clear, concise point of view. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise. Drinks from 6.00pm, starts promptly at 6.30pm. If you are late to a ThinkIn you can ‘SlinkIn’! If you would like to contribute to this ThinkIn, let us know by emailing thinkin@tortoisemedia.com We film our Thinkins so we can watch them back, edit the best bits and share them with members who weren’t there in person. Members can find their ThinkIn booking code in My Tortoise, under My Membership.