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Opinion

To get out of the economic crisis, we need vision

We need to think across all aspects of our lives and how we can live them better in the future

There’s a Spanish chessboard manufacturer that is doing very well just now.

Rechapados Ferrer had been making around 20,000 boards a year in their workshop near Barcelona. Then Netflix released cool chess-based drama The Queen’s Gambit. Orders went up 215 per cent in the last four months.

It’s a nice story. It’s also nice to read of successes. And it presents an interesting solution to our potential economic crisis. In a pickle, get Netflix to make a great TV show about it.

Netflix and The Return of the High Street. Netflix with their six-part drama on the move to full employment. The People V Inflationary Tax Measures and the Interest Rate Matrix.

Sadly, there are only so many broadcastable hours. So other solutions need to be found for societal lifts post-Covid.

At present, there is much discussion in the UK about whether or not the Westminster government should continue to fund a £20-a- week boost in Universal Credit for those most in need. The boost is due to come to an end in late September. At the same moment the furlough scheme will finish.

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The Westminster government can, with justification, say they have spent vast sums helping people with numerous support payments during the Covid crisis, though the reality is that so have most other developed economies. And it doesn’t take Keynes to work out that cutting vital support from people at the very moment they may lose work could cause huge damage to individuals and to the wider economy.

Here we are, debating £20 rises. Which is both essential and not right at the same time

In the US last week the Senate voted to OK a $1.9tn Covid rescue package.

This is what that sum looks like written in full -– $1,900,000,000,000.

It’s so big it begins to look hypnotic, like it’s trying to confuse us with its mind-boggling scale. This is what they decided was needed to help America recover from Covid AND to deal with some of the structural problems that existed previously keeping people locked into poverty. It’s an admittance of the scale, and clearly an acceptance of the debt that will follow. But what is the alternative, really?

And here we are, debating £20 rises. Which is both essential and not right at the same time. It will help, but it won’t fix. The problems leading to the need are becoming baked in. I remember the anger and confusion when foodbanks first popped up offering emergency help 10 years ago. It was felt they would soon be unnecessary and obsolete. There are now more foodbanks than McDonald’s outlets in Britain. There are around 1,300 McDonald’s.

As well as the discussions about the £20 rise there are emerging debates on more radical reform. Hilary Cottam, professor at the Institute of Innovation and Public Purpose at UCL and somebody who has been looking at issues around social welfare for a number of years, is gaining traction for her call for a new Beveridge Report. It makes sense. In the way Beveridge’s approach in the midst of the Second World War looked at how the nation really needed to change utterly to rebuild, leading to the NHS and all that Attlee brought forward, we need some of that deep, fearless thinking and planning.

We need to think across all aspects of our lives and how we can live them better in the future.

It’ll take a bold leader to see that and commit to it and move beyond petty party politics.

And Netflix may even get involved.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue

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