For the first time in about two months, we’ll be having a respite from the daily Brexit drama, as Parliament is on holiday.
We will be talking about the supposedly dire prospects for business in the UK in 2019, as around 60% of business leaders expect worse economic outcomes next year. A majority in the Institute of Directors survey predicted worse times for business as a whole, but an effective majority of 30% predicted better outcomes for their own business. Reasons cited include the prospect of a No Deal Brexit which leaves many businesses in uncertainty regarding international trade.
Boxing Day retail suffered the worst footfall for the third consecutive year. Retailers have already been forced to significantly cut prices to compete with online shopping. Punters have been subject to local campaigns and TV adverts by Visa, urging them to “support the high street” in an attempt to bring them back. Looks like it hasn’t worked as shoppers continue to find buying online more convenient and cost-effective.
The first problem with mainstream interpretations of news of this sort regarding retail is pointing to anything other than an increased preference for online shopping as the cause. Brexit is more than likely Project Fear extended. A general negative outlook isn’t corroborated across all sectors. It’s the fact that people prefer Amazon, end of story.
The second problem is any call for the protection of retail. Since it is only consumer preference that is causing the downturn, there is no cause for protection. There is nothing inherent in high street retail that deserves special treatment at the expense of consumers. It would only frustrate the public in being able to access goods they want at the prices they want.
Persecution of Christians Hunt’s top concern
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for a worldwide investigation into the persecution of Christians. This comes as the number of Christians killed for their faith has doubled in a year, and reflects the Foreign Secretary’s view that since Christianity is still technically the state religion, it should be made a priority of foreign relations.
Earlier this year, there was widespread outrage as Christian Pakistani woman Asia Bibi was refused asylum into the UK after being released from death row after eight years, originally charged for blasphemy. She was subject to widespread protest and death threats from the majority Muslim population. The government was accused of cowardice, fearing the backlash from Muslim extremists at home.
It is speculated that Hunt’s latest move might be a genuine response to stories like these, combating what is seen as a politically correct orthodoxy that gives some religious minorities a free pass as egregious crimes are missed.
Restaurants and Supermarkets Face Calorie Caps
In an unprecedented attack on British food consumers, Public Health England are considering enforcing a calorie cap on restaurant and supermarket food as part of their plans to cut overall calories in public food by 20% by 2024. Food makers will have to adjust recipes or reduce portions to fit within the new guidelines.
Proposed calorie limits include:
:: All convenience meals – 544
:: All restaurant mains – 951
:: Sandwiches – 550
:: Salad (as a main) – 550
:: Pizza – 1,040
:: Portion of chips sold in supermarkets – 302
:: Portion of chips in a restaurant – 416
:: Onion bhaji – 134
The proposed limit for a pizza is about half of the average Pizza Hut, showing clearly food providers will have to make significant changes to comply with the rules.
This is being put in place to ostensibly combat obesity, but has been critisied as “arbitrary, unscientific and unrealistic,” by Christopher Snowdown, who illustrates the banality of the food interventionist mindset succinctly:
“[Their] view of the food supply is a simple one: people eat whatever the food industry tells them to, therefore all that needs to be done to tackle obesity is to force it to make its products less fattening. Food companies don’t respond to consumer demand. Consumers response to the whims of food companies and, for reasons that have never been explained, food companies enjoy putting excess salt, fat, and sugar in their products. Maybe they do it for a laugh. Nobody knows, but since it doesn’t need to be in the food in the first place, no one will notice if it gets taken out.”
You can read more from James Smith on Think Liberty here.