SECONDS OUT…ROUND NINE by Ian Hernon

Boris Johnson has effectively adopted the slogan “Buy British” for the election campaign, promising to help struggling UK companies after Brexit.

The prime minister said freedom from EU rules on state aid would enable the government to speedily intervene where and when necessary.

He believes that current EU rules on state aid are bureaucratic and inflexible, and said a new regime would allow decisions on whether and how to intervene to be taken within days, allowing a quicker response to economic downturns.

Under his plan there would be aid for struggling British industries and public bodies would be encouraged to buy UK products, particularly food.

This is a major turnaround. While the Conservatives were once the party of free trade, Boris Johnson donned the cloak of protectionism. He even cited the difficulties the UK had in getting emergency financial for Tata Steel’s UK business in 2012.

Boris, in this narrow sense, was aping Labour – Jeremy Corbyn has previously suggested he thinks EU rules could restrict the government’s ability to intervene to support industry.

Once again, it all comes down to trust. Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said the PM’s promise on state aid rules “sticks in his throat” because the Conservatives had “sat on their hands and used state aid as an excuse” when refusing to intervene to save a steel works in his Teesside constituency in 2015.

The Labour manifesto does not directly mention state aid, but the party has pledged to bring mail, rail, water and energy back into state ownership, and part-nationalise BT.

Business lobby group the Institute of Directors said the PM’s proposals “suggest a retreat away from free and open markets” and would have “clear implications” for the UK’s ability to negotiate a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.

Free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs said greater use of state aid to help firms in trouble would “translate to veiled support for cronyism”.

Meanwhile, the Left-wing group Momentum produced a video with Jeremy Corbyn as Santa Claus. Coco-Cola accused them of using footage from its iconic advertising without permission.

The Lib Dems posted thousands of election leaflets pointing to a website which asked: “How well do you think Theresa May is doing at negotiating Brexit?” Did they not notice that she is no longer in No 10?

Channel 4 replaced no-shows Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage with melting ice sculptures during a debate on climate change. They were judged “even drippier” than Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson.

ROUND 9 SCORE: Tories 8/10

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