Evening Standard comment: This is the time to galvanise the economy

The Chancellor has not responded to Brexit in quite the way he intimated before the referendum. Instead, after declaring that austerity was in effect on hold, he has promised to reduce corporation tax to 15 per cent — at least two per cent less than he had planned. The former head of the World Trade Organisation, Pascal Lamy, has condemned the move as “tax dumping”, and a damaging salvo in the Brexit negotiations. He’s wrong. Ireland already has a corporation tax rate significantly lower than that of other EU states, at 12.5 per cent, which the French dislike. It’s still a paid-up EU family member.

George Osborne is in fact doing exactly the right thing, which is to take urgent measures to build “a super-competitive economy”. That’s the correct response to Brexit: to give business every help to flourish in the new environment. His next step should be a rapid review of business rates, which fall heavily on those retailers who maintain a physical presence on high streets. Reform was already under way; it should be expedited.

But what business really needs is stability, which means some certainty about our political leadership. That means that the Tory leadership contest must be resolved as soon as possible. There is no possibility that Theresa May will be anointed by MPs without a vote by party members, so that process must be speeded up. Then the next Prime Minister has the task of unifying party and country.

That task is harder given the animosity and bad faith that has already characterised political conduct post-Brexit. Nigel Farage has resigned as Ukip leader, on the rational basis that he has done his job, to help bring Britain out of the EU. That is an honourable course. By contrast, Michael Gove’s behaviour seems anything but proper: his last-minute scuppering of Boris Johnson’s leadership bid, having until then been in charge of his campaign, was shabby and has every appearance of duplicity. He goes into the contest with his reputation for decency diminished.

But for all the spleen that goes with a Tory leadership contest, all the contenders must acknowledge that after it is over we need all the political talents to unite in the national interest, to bring about the best possible outcome to the Brexit negotiations. They should start by confirming that those EU nationals who are already here will be welcome to remain. We’re glad to have them.

Another young life lost 

After another horrifying stabbing, we have to ask how to end the knife culture. Fola Orebiyi, the latest victim,  was just 16 years old and should have had a long life ahead of him. Instead, he was savagely chased by a group of other young men to Portobello Road, where he died in a pool of blood. Four teenagers have now been killed in London this year; many others have been injured. Gangs, which rule their designated territory with ferocious violence, dominate the lives of many teenagers. 

Indeed, the significance attached to defending their patches means that for young people caught up in gang activity, horizons and opportunities become ever more limited. Tackling gangs, and the knife culture they rely on, is not easy. But well-targeted use of stop and search can make a difference, as both the Mayor and the Met Commissioner have made plain. The authorities must do all they can to help young people escape violence.

Here’s to the Celts

In these turbulent times it’s worth reflecting that the spirits of Londoners are in the hands of those from other parts of the kingdom: Welsh footballers in the Euros, and Andy Murray at Wimbledon. We’re all in this together!

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