BY GAVIN CHAMBERS
Yet again the Welsh Labour-led administration has made a senseless decision. First, Wales is plunged into an unnecessary lockdown, unlike other areas of the country. Then, the government attempts to ban people from England coming into the country, doing nothing to help deny the stereotype of a knee-jerk anti-English nation, and very probably exceeding its devolved powers. Then, Labour enforces the closure of shops that are deemed by to sell ‘non-essential’ items; and now, after some twisted logic, Labour go and stop the larger supermarkets that remain open from selling those ‘non-essential’ items to the general public to maintain a so-called ‘level playing field’. By their logic, because smaller shop now cannot sell certain items, neither should larger shops sell them.
The outcome is that supermarkets cannot sell items that many people do need. We cannot buy items we want in physical shops, which could be toasters, or kettles, can-openers, pans, cutlery or clothes. We cannot buy books, even. And what about Laptops? Laptops, that are clearly essential to those having to work online from home, which, if they break down would leave a worker in a difficult position, are banned from sale too. Argos remains closed in supermarkets for shopping that’s not online, and their main shops are closed outright.
Meanwhile, businesses cannot make money from selling what consumers want to buy, and then are not taxed on those products they want to sell. The consequence is a negative impact on individual freedoms, the freedom of enterprise and on the economy. But the government, Drakeford and his Labour chums, have decided that we do not need these things and so we cannot buy them from supermarkets.
This does not appear to be a measure to stop the spread of Covid. A person going to another aisle in a supermarket and buying something else alongside their shopping is hardly going to significantly increase the risk of Covid transmission. Nor is a person journeying to the supermarket to buy an item he needs increasing the risk, when there are limits on the number of people allowed in supermarkets. This is, instead, primarily following this ‘level-playing field’ idea, a poorly conceived economic argument. Of course, we can make a guess that people will then go off and buy what they need from any of the online giants, bringing yet more trade away from the high street.
What I cannot stomach is how people, most of them Labour supporters, can entertain that this is a good policy. I see people on social media banging the Labour drum about how this only lasts for two weeks, or how it helps out small businesses. First, if this is indeed a bad policy, nothing more needs to be said: it is bad, and the short duration of its badness has no relevance. Second, the situation that stopped small businesses from being able to carry on their trade was initiated by Labour in the first place. Third, Labour aren’t helping small businesses in the slightest. They are just harming larger businesses and consumers. Labour seem to think that if one group must suffer, then another group must too. This is an instructive lesson in what Labour deems to be equality: we are equal if we are all worse off.
The fact is that, if Welsh Labour has geared itself to put in place a policy that negatively affects businesses from going ahead and doing business, and from individuals from buying the products that they would like, or products they might well need, it should make clear arguments as to why such an oppressive measure is necessary. If Labour cannot provide those justifications, it should not enforce the policy, and it cannot disregard the principle that a strong economy can improve our lives.
So, for all the supporters of the measure I ask: if Conservative supporters can disagree with Conservative policies when they deem them to be wrong, why can’t Labour supporters have criticism for Labour policies?
As I write this, the petition against this senseless ban on trade has gathered speed enough to attract over 50,000 signatures. We can see that quite a few people in Wales are quite fed up with the illogical way in which this country is being run.
I would not be surprised that Welsh labour will try and delay the May 2021 elections when they see the recent polls!
Gavin is Chairman of Islwyn Conservatives and stood in the last General Election for Islwyn and is on the South Wales east regional list for the last assembly elections .