Portrait of the week: Lockdown eases, debt rises and three killed in Reading

Home Pubs in England would be allowed to reopen for table service from 4 July, Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, told the Commons, his words being met by an exclamation from one MP of ‘Hallelujah’. But drinkers would be expected to supply names and addresses before being served. Restaurants, museums, galleries, cinemas, hotels and hairdressers could also reopen, but not bowling alleys. Churches could reopen for services, including weddings, with a limit of 30 people, provided no one sang. The ‘two-metre rule’ was reduced by way of advice to one metre, to be combined with mitigating measures, such as facing in different directions. The government discontinued its daily televised briefings.

Martin Vander Weyer

Tinkering with VAT won’t make us trust the government

Should Chancellor Rishi Sunak cut VAT as an emergency stimulus to the consumer economy? When Labour’s Alistair Darling made a 2.5 per cent £12 billion cut after the 2008 crash, I called it ‘an unconvincing and expensive gambit’, on the basis that shoppers would barely notice and that ‘far more significant will be the general level of confidence as it is affected by business failures and job losses… and the general grimness of global economic news’. The same applies today only more so, given that inflation is dormant, households’ pent-up spending power has in many cases been boosted by lockdown and the top VAT-cut winner would likely be Amazon. By