THE labour shortage, inflation and infallible Tories were the topics raised by columnists and contributors in the newspapers.

The Daily Mail

Richard Littlejohn said farmers were offering to pay people £30 an hour to pick broccoli - ‘thirty quid an hour is more than three times the national minimum wage and equivalent to £60,000 a year.’

“Maybe it’s all part of Boris Johnson’s cunning ‘Levelling Up’ agenda. Soon our green and pleasant country lanes will be jammed with farm labourers tooling round in Teslas and drinking scrumpy from Waterford crystal champagne flutes,” he said.

He asked how much the price of broccoli would have to rise by to pay for the cost of labour.

“Before putting a penny on tax or NI, ministers should have conducted a ruthless audit of costly projects like HS2 and taken a scythe to their own departments,” he said. “With a few notable exceptions, the civil service has been worse than useless during the pandemic.

“See how they like ‘WFH’ when they’re not receiving their taxpayer-funded, index-linked salaries, gold-plated pensions and London weighting allowances. They can always retrain as lorry drivers — or pick broccoli for £30 an hour... “

The Daily Express

Ross Clark said higher wages will count for nothing if they are accompanied by higher inflation.

“And that, unfortunately, looks as if it is where we are heading,” he said. “ We could all too easily find ourselves back in the 1970s, when British workers had several pay rises a year – but prices in the shops rose every week.”

He said it was inevitable that higher wages for lorry drivers will add extra costs for supermarkets, resulting in higher prices.

“The problem with inflation is that it feeds off itself: high prices mean workers demanding higher wages, which in turn pushes up prices further. Once it becomes established it is very difficult to contain.

“Promising us higher wages is a dangerous thing for a Prime Minister to do. It is fuelling expectations and risks awakening the dangerous beast of inflation.”

The Guardian

Dr Phil Burton-Cartledge, course director for Law and Social Sciences at the University of Derby, said the Conservatives have good reasons to feel cheerful.

“Their national insurance increase on workers, empty shelves and involuntary conga lines at garage forecourts have barely dented their polling,” he said. “The latest YouGov survey, reporting on Thursday morning, put them on 39% against Labour’s 31%.”

“The Tories seem to offer a salve, shielding the old from the direct cuts to their living standards from David Cameron’s leadership until today, while doing less for the working-age population: this is the key to understanding the differing appeal of Johnson’s populist politics to different age groups.

“The old are mostly spared direct assaults on their living standards, while those of working age bear the costs and run the risks.”