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Hello and welcome to The Stand with Aymond on the stand is proudly supported by Tesco at Tesco, our exclusive house for over 65 family carers and extremely medically vulnerable customers are every weekday, Monday to Friday, up to nine a.m.. Health care and emergency services have priority access at all other times now, more than ever, every little helps. Now we've learned that President Donald Trump has contracted the coronavirus and indeed his wife also. And they are believed to have contracted it from Hope Hicks, who is one of his closest aides.
And he was on an airplane at a rally and many of the closest people in his circle were with him. So we don't know where it's going to end. It's a very extraordinary end to what has been yet another extraordinary week for Donald Trump and indeed in the UK for Boris Johnson, where his government seems to be almost coming apart over its mishandling of the covid virus and many other things, including revelations about the home secretary, Pretty Patel, who has been a controversial figure in the past, including being forced to resign from a previous government ministry by Theresa May for misbehaviour.
Really, and that makes her a very interesting character. We're joined now to talk about all of these things by one of our favorite contributors to the stand, Chris Jones. Chris is former chief economist with the Bank of Ireland here, and he is also a resident of both Dublin and London. And he writes a weekly column in the Irish Times business section on a Monday morning, which is always a tonic if you want to get rid of the Monday morning feeling, Chris.
Thank you very much for joining us. I really don't know where to start, but the news of President Trump's contraction of this virus, this deadly virus for a man who is clinically obese and 74 years of age is, of course, a matter of sadness on a human scale. But his wife, his closest aide, and indeed a whole tier of the people around him were on an airplane with him at a rally within the past 36 hours. This is an extraordinary development, given that he mocked Joe Biden in the debate on Tuesday night for wearing the mask everywhere.
Yes, and there's been lots of commentary and people trying to do analysis of what it all might mean. Yes, it is always a human tragedy when any of us get contract this virus. And of course, everybody, I think, genuinely should wish the president and his wife well. The analysis such as it is that's been done about what it might mean goes off in all sorts of different directions. It is the classic October surprise that US presidential elections by folklore at least always seems to throw up.
And this perhaps is the biggest October surprise that we've seen so far in these in these various races that we've observed over history. Some people think that it will shore up support for the president because assuming that he comes out of it and we all hope that he does perfectly well, he might claim vindication that the virus doesn't amount to much. Others think that the uncertainty will encourage those who say that he's taken a cavalier attitude towards it and that this shows the virus to be the real threat that it is and that that will therefore erode some of his standing.
So some people think it's good for his chances. Some people think it think it's bad going into it. The betting markets have actually swung in Joe Biden's favor. And they're the ones that I look at most closely. It'll be interesting to see now over the course of the next day or two, if that changes. The one betting company, actually one online betting company suspended betting on Joe Biden and probably a horse racing fan team. And you'll know what that means when the bookies are getting it, when the bookies are suspending betting that it's taken as a done deal.
I suspect that will change now.
Yes, you're right to point to my interest in the betting markets. And I have been looking at them for a couple of months in terms of this presidential contest. And remarkably, it's more or less been even. Your pick that changed after the debate and I haven't looked this morning because I'm preparing to talk to you, but in a remarkable sense, they do bookmaker's invariably have access to the most informed views.
And the New York is right for the money. As somebody once famously said, you know, it's it's a bit troubling. Let's go to Boris, who was also a victim in his case. It was also recklessness. He was shaking hands. He was going visiting hospitals, not wearing a mask. There is something on the right of politics almost. I've just seen it described by an American commentator as almost feminine about wearing a mask or as was to put it.
And more accurately, it's a kind of macho thing not to wear a mask and to mock people who wore masks. And the irony here is that during their debate on Tuesday night, the president mocked Joe Biden quite severely for wearing the mask almost everywhere, he said contemptuously. But Boris Johnson also had this virus. And it's the question of popularity in his case. And he was in intensive care. He was on a ventilator. I think when he came out, his popularity had spiked upwards.
That's absolutely right. He got the sympathy vote in the wake of his illness and subsequent recovery. And his standing in the polls improved dramatically when he did recover and come out, come out of hospital. It subsequently sank like a stone not connected at all to his illness, but more to his home, while other people's illnesses and his popularity has continued to sink throughout the subsequent mishandling of the coronavirus. So, yes, if there is a pattern to be repeated here and Donald Trump comes out of his quarantine period in robust health, if there is a message from from Boris's experience, then Trump could well experience the spike in his popularity.
Yeah, I would say I doubt it. Just to look at the wider picture in England and the state of the British government at another catastrophe, really, for Gavin Williamson, the education minister, this week at the hopeless handling of the coronavirus. Pandemic and inability to be consistent, even though nobody knows the rules and in a very embarrassing moment on television, Borrus didn't know the guidelines himself for the north east of England, where now you have a major hotspot.
It's pretty clear, is it Quest, that this may be the worst government Britain has had for a very long time?
It's certainly the worst one that I can remember. And I have to tell you that myself, I find it hard to understand the various rules. As we've spoken about before, my lie in Wales and the bulk of Wales is under lockdown at the moment. And I've been trying to figure out if I can actually go there and if I can, what am I allowed to do and what not to do. And I've consulted various people and got various different answers.
And that experience is writ large. When I speak to people about what we're allowed to do in London or what my northern friends are allowed to do. And when you see the vox pops on TV people being asked these questions, the rules are a mess because nobody understands them. And if nobody understands the rules, then you know that you're in trouble. That that has been very badly handled. You mentioned Gavin Williamston. The return to universities has been utterly chaotic.
We have these awful scenes of students locked in their rooms, their apartment blocks, their halls of residence, various interviews being conducted with them. They don't know what's going on either, what they are allowed to do and what not to do in my home country. Well, there's a hall of residence for the form of the university in which the area is in lockdown. But there's a hall of residence that's 200 yards from the university that's in a different borough that is subject to different rules.
The students don't know whether they're actually allowed to go into their university, which is in a different part of Wales, and the different set of lockdown rules. So it's chaotic everywhere that you look, which tells you a lot about, as I mentioned earlier, the mishandling of this crisis and the return to university was utterly predictable. We knew the dates that it was going to happen. Different universities go back at different times. Wales, Scotland and England all have different return rules.
But we all knew that the students were going back. We all know how students behave. You've seen that in Ireland as well. We've had those scenes from Galway earlier this year. Students are sent, you know, they're human, they're young human beings who are social animals. And all of this is not hindsight. It is it should have been foreseen and measures put in place to deal with it effectively. And they just simply haven't done it. They've allowed the students to go back.
And now coronaviruses seems to be running riot throughout these communities. It was drearily predictable. It was predicted and it has been appallingly mishandled.
Now, Britain has the worst record ever on the handling of this in Europe. It also is going to make people believe suffer the worst financial consequences of any country in Europe. Obviously, that follows on from their inability to deal with it sensibly in any way. Yet this week that the two people advising Johnson and his government and they chief scientist, chief medical officer, they appeared with Johnson, who looked bedraggled and hadn't got a shirt in his trousers, and he looked like a mess.
The signals there from that particular appearance are quite remarkable in terms of sheer competence, the kind of look you'd expect from someone running the government. He doesn't really seem to be working very hard, but. He made a promise for Christmas three weeks ago. Now these students are likely to be told they can't even go home for Christmas. Certainly, there's been lots of speculation about whether or not they will be allowed to go home for Christmas any time a government minister is asked, will they be allowed to go home?
The answer is essentially, we're going to have to wait and see. And as we have done all along, make it up as we go along. Johnson is caught between his scientists. You mentioned the two that he was standing alongside in the press conference there who are basically telling him to lock things down again in some form or another and always to do more than he is currently doing. That's very understandable. That is the scientific perspective. If you want to eradicate this disease or at least if you want to suppress it, they did it back in May and June.
They know what to do. Do it again is the advice that's on. That's the scientific community advising him. Then you and his health minister, by the way, whose brief, of course, his health is advising exactly the same thing. I suspect that Matt Hancock is giving him that same advice on his other side. He's got wishes to make and the finance people who are prioritizing the economy and saying that the more you lock down, the more financial harm we're going to suffer and therefore we should be opening businesses rather than closing them.
And the thing about Johnson is absolutely clear is that he can't make up his mind who he's going to listen to. And the problem that we've got as a nation is that depending on who he's spoken to most recently seems to determine what he does next, which is why we have this stop start, half hearted, two steps forward, one step backward approach to this, rather than something clear, consistent and well thought through it really does depend on who he is.
Listen to last. Yes.
And tomorrow, he's going to meet the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. It's a one on one meeting, highly unusual. And it looks as if there's a very important meeting in Brussels today, as I'm sure you know, where Michel Martin will be addressing the other 26 leaders on the subject of Brexit and what should happen next. I mean, nobody can take Johnson's word, but he is going to meet in a one on one.
This is a stroke he pulled before with Leo Varadkar when he gave Leo ragga assurances about no hard border on this island and that the withdrawal agreement would cover Farson, that everafter by properly accepted his assurances and gave the nod to the EU. And then, lo and behold, we got the internal markets bill, which goes back on the promise that Johnson made to Fruchter and thus to the European Union. Can you do business with a guy like this with great difficulty?
Because, as you say, we don't know whether he is likely to keep his word, given that when he signs a treaty very quickly, he repudiates it afterwards. And that's the problem that he faces now. This is where Brexit is finally hitting hard reality and all the bluff, bluster, false promises, sunny uplands, meet the cold, hard reality of what it means. And right from the very start, it's always meant, particularly when they signed the withdrawal agreement, that there has to be a border somewhere.
That's what the integrity of the single market means. And the EU has some flexibility over what it can offer him, but it doesn't have flexibility over the integrity of the single market. That's the hill that the EU is prepared to die on. And that means there has to be a border somewhere. You can fudge a little bit what that border might. Look like where the actual customs posts are, what the forms are that are going to be filled in, it can be light touch or heavy touch, but there has to be a touch.
There has to be a border somewhere. And he has to choose now whether it's going to be on the island of Ireland or whether it's going to be down the Irish Sea. That's the choice. There isn't a third way. There really isn't. And until he makes that choice, we won't know whether there's going to be a deal. If there's going to be a deal, the border has to be down the Irish Sea. If there's no deal, then unfortunately, there is going to be a border of some kind or another on the island of Ireland, and it's really up to him to choose.
Now, this has been the EU's position since day one. It's been absolutely consistent. It's never removed from this position. So he has to he has to do this now and he has to make this decision. This is the reality that he is now facing. And my guess is that having played the hardball with the internal markets, bill, having all the rhetoric over fishing, over state aid, over protecting the Northern Ireland peace process, all of that final comes down to him now having to make this choice.
I think that because the situation with covid is so bad, the economy, as you rightly pointed out earlier, is one of the worst performing in Europe, if not the world, as a result of the way it's been handled. And so if you add in the hard Brexit, the no deal Brexit on December 31st, the economic consequences of the coronavirus, then even he must realize the insanity of exposing the economy to these costs. And so my guess is what we'll get is that Johnson will declare victory.
He will say the EU was closing down. He will make all sorts of bluff and bluster, but it will be him that is closing down in the same way that he has done before. He's got form in this regard declaring victory after him climbing down. And I suspect that's the plan. It's whether or not he can actually get away with it and sell that to the hard wing of his party, because I know that the IRGC in particular, but most of the Brett Brexit nurses are looking very carefully focused on on this issue.
It's less than a year, but it's the best part of nine months since the British people elected this government. And really, it was a victory for Boris Johnson and his ability to campaign and to formulate slogans. Now you're in London, Chris, are the British people? I I think London maybe not may not be typical, but because I think it was for one thing, there were a lot of reminders in London. It was a majority there.
Do you think the British people now are having buyer's remorse about Johnson? To an extent, it isn't widespread, but you can see it in the polling in that a customer is now miles of hair ahead of Johnson. There's been one, perhaps two opinion polls that has placed Labour ahead of conservatives, although most of the polls still have them either neck and neck or the conservatives just ahead. So there's clearly been a pull back, but the support for Brexit is a bit like Trump's base support.
We know it's there and we know that there is nothing that is going to crack that that level of that base level of support that it really is. No matter what you can explain to a Trump supporter, point to the evidence that all the things that he promised he would do for you, he hasn't. You can point out to the baseline Trump supporter that, in fact, he's made your economic and other situation worse rather than better. And this is the thing that I think we know lily livered liberals don't quite get.
Is that the answer that you get when you go through all of that? A cold hearted logic and analysis is that the baseline support of Trump looks you in the eye and says, I don't care. And if the same with Brexit, if you point to the if you point out to Brexit supporters, the hard line Brexit is that Brexit is a nonsense and it's going to cost you rather than gain you anything. All of the project fear things that were predicted are now coming to pass.
They will look you in the eye and they will say, I don't care. So so it's it's a sociological, psychological phenomenon as much as anything. It's an article of faith. It's like religion. And this is this is the aspect to these two things that are very, very similar. They are very similar. But I must say to you, liberals ad that you delivered Tony Blair, for example. You delivered Bill Clinton, who we, of course, attribute much of the Irish peace process to and will.
Be forever grateful, but it was Mr. Clinton and his treasury secretary of the time who screwed the banks up by allowing retail banks to become investment banks.
It does not get mentioned, but you liberal guys have given us ordinary folk an awful lot of pain over the decades and ignored our real concerns, which are around fishing, immigration and equality of opportunity.
I think you're absolutely right to have a go at liberals in the way that you do. And I have to put my hands up when I say guilty as charged. The metropolitan elites, the liberals, whatever label you want to put them, put on them, are guilty of a lot of things over recent years and indeed decades and that vast swathes of people have been left behind that that expression, the left behind is real. It can be measured and you can see it.
And the economic consequences of globalization and technological change were not fully thought through and are not enough. Things were done for the people that were left behind by those economic forces. And so it the values based thing that that people cling to. You mentioned immigration and other forms of cultural and identity conflicts. Those those are those are real things. And the liberals in a way, are getting what they deserve in the sense that there's there's great pushback. And this is a reaction against all of the things that the people that you describe have done in recent years.
I mean, they left fertile ground for populists to work in. And that would be that would be the charge both in the United States of America, in Europe and in the UK. Yeah.
Not only did we leave fertile ground, we handed a watering can and fertilizer over to the opposition as well. And so, as I say, yes, that the the baseline complaints of people who eventually ended up being pro-Brexit and or pro Trump because you often find the Brexit is, by the way, are pro Trump as well. Yes. Here in Britain, there's read across in various various dimensions. But I cling forlornly to my liberal position, which is, yes, you've got a justifiable set of complaints, but Brexit and Donald Trump are not the answers to your complaints.
They will not solve any of the problems that we liberals helped to create. And therefore it will fall to us, I think, in the future at some point to pick up the pieces. I don't know when that's going to be, but the pieces are not going to be picked up by the Brexit tears. And and and and the Trump is a different set of solutions to the ones being proposed by them. The left behind are not going to be helped by Brexit or Donald Trump now.
And my son reproaches me frequently for not being of a liberal persuasion. And he's his favourite guest on the stand is someone called Chris Jones. Now, Chris, let me ask you a question about someone who will never be called a liberal. Preedy Patel is the home secretary and she is a very controversial figure. She was sacked from one government, one Tory government, I think Theresa May, because she breached every rule in the book by meeting Israeli ministers while she was on holidays in Israel.
She met 14 of them or something and talked a business that was not hers. But she's also she was in the past in favor of the death penalty and now she has bullying charges against her and her present position in the Home Office.
And this week it was revealed as, of course, she's responsible for immigration, that she has some proposals or had some proposals about moving immigrants, people who are coming across the channel to the Ascension Islands, which I believe are 4000 miles away to Papua Papua New Guinea. And also there was mention of a floating wall in the English Channel. Can you fill us in on these? Santillana has been mentioned as well.
Yes. When Napoleon was exiled. So, you know, sense historical resonance here as well. I think that there's a couple of things going on here. I think, first of all, there's a lot of kite flying. It's very hard to believe that they will actually do the Ascension Island thing. They're modelling that. They went to Brexit is sometimes described in terms of doing an Australian deal with the EU and Australia is mentioned in this context as well, which because Australia have offshore processing centres, I think they're called, and they're for refugees rather than immigrants.
So we need to be careful of language here. And Australia stands accused of breaching all sorts of treaties, human rights treaties, international treaties about the treatment of refugees with the way in which they they have done it. And the first thing that the legal types have said over here in response to these, what I think is quite flowing is that they're all illegal in terms of the treaties that the UK signed and the response from the Home Office, or at least the unofficial response from the Home Office, is once once we've left the EU, we will no longer be bound by those particular treaties.
And there's one of these pantomimed. Oh, yes, you are. You know, you're not conversations going on, but it does look like treaty. Human rights treaties, refugee treaties are likely to be violated if they do this. So I think there's a there's a legal dimension to it, but it's the politics of this that should interest us because there's a WhatsApp group now with lots of WhatsApp groups for the for the Tory MPs that got elected to Labour's red, previously called so-called red wall can constituencies.
And naturally enough, this WhatsApp group is called the Blue Wall. Yeah. And they believe that the only way they're going to win, they're already thinking about that seat retention in four years time or so when the next election is due. How are they going to keep their seats given that economic performance that we've talked about and we know the way the economy is going to go over the next while the unemployment numbers are going to be horrendous, et cetera, is going to be a while before that turns around.
So they're not going to be able to campaign on the economy. How are they going to retain the blue seats that were once red? And this blue wall WhatsApp Group, according to reports, is suggesting that they're going to have to play the values card. And that is the thing that appeals mostly to these new working class Tory voters, which is about being includes being hard on immigration. So it's playing the culture war card, you know, firmly plunked down in the table and in poker terms, going all in on the culture war.
And so that's where this is coming from. I think this is this is about playing to people's atavistic fears about illegal immigration, about refugees. And it is a real problem because the numbers are horrendous. The number of people that tried to come in on floating deathtraps in the channel during August in one month was the same as it was in the whole of twenty nineteen. The numbers, for all sorts of reasons, are going going up. And so it is a real question.
What are you going to do with these asylum seekers? Because that's what most of them are. And this response, I think, is a political response to to essentially saying, right, this this enables us to continue to continue being the hard anti-immigration people that we are. We're going to look after your anti-immigrant values. And so it's part of the culture war now, finally, and very much part of the culture war, if you take a certain view.
And the idea that Charles Moore, Margaret Thatcher's biographer, former editor of The Spectator, The Sunday Telegraph, and indeed The Daily Telegraph and one of the few bosses and that Boris Johnson that didn't sack Boris Johnson, he may be the next chairman of the BBC. And the BBC is under pressure. Also, the notion of a big job for Paul Dacre and the man who built the Daily Mail into this mighty middle England machine and that it's that it is ad Johnson is said to be considering giving both of down, but more in particular in relation to the BBC and the opportunity to shape the BBC in their own image.
It's another installment in the culture war. I suspect it's also a bit of kite flying as well. I'm not entirely convinced that either or both men will either be offered the job or even if they were, that they would take it. In particular, I think would find that particular role extremely onerous and not quite what he was expecting. But it's the BBC one that is the most interesting is part of a pattern of recent months where essentially the conservatives have worked out how to keep the the BBC a in line and not cause too much trouble for them.
And when it does, these sorts of things emerge more is an interesting man. Guess is is his two volume biography of Thatcher. He's clearly. Very smart, very intelligent man, but as editor of The Telegraph, we know what his politics are and he would be the epitome of the anti WOAK middle class white English person that would play straight into this values based culture war thing that I'm talking about, because he would certainly take on the BBC's WOAK ism and the BBC, again, like the liberals that we talked about earlier, handing the conservatives ammunition as recent being Rule Britannia at the Proms.
Why they do this? You know, in a sense, they deserve everything that they're getting because they keep hounding their opponents all the ammunition that they need to keep them in line. So it's all about the anti WOAK aspect of the culture war, which which will they will just keep on playing. OK, Chris, it's great to hear from you from London. It's great to know that you're safe and well. And thank you. It's great to see Britain in such a robust state.
And maybe next week we can talk about Harry and Megan and the importance of this couple. That's the future of England.
I come from I come from a long line of British Republicans. So be careful.
OK, Chris, thank you very much for joining us. That's Chris Jones, former chief economist with the Bank of Ireland, now a very good writer. And you can read his stuff on page the business pages of the Irish Times every Monday. And it's well worth the price of the newspaper. We're grateful to Chris, to you, and, of course, to Tesco, our sponsor.
That's all we have time for now. We'll talk to you soon.