So what happened to the economic gloom so frequently forecast as a result of June’s Brexit vote? The pound sank, making British exports cheaper (a good thing) but making our own imports more expensive (a bad thing) and pushing up inflation. Economic growth over the last three months has exceeded expectation (0.6%, another good thing) but the Bank of England has adjusted its prediction for the coming year down from 2.3% to 0.8% (presumably a bad thing).
Meanwhile, if you happen to be the investing type, the FTSE 100 Index has been hovering close to the 7000 mark, its highest level for some four years. And unemployment is still creeping down: both good.
I’m not about to bang on about my dismay that this country voted to leave the European Union. But bizarre contrasts surround us. Any/every economy hates uncertainty, which invariably pushes down both share prices and the currency. Oddly, in the UK only one of the two has declined.
Yet uncertainty persists. Politicians are quick to say that a vote is a vote (and it is), so we must pursue Brexit. But still there’s no indication that anyone in government knows what that means, or how to go about it. And I have yet to read or hear anything that contradicts the view stated strongly a couple of months ago that we simply don’t have the people with the knowledge of how to go about it.
Certainly the unholy trio of Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis, whom Theresa May put in charge of the Brexit process (not, surely, without some sense of mischief or revenge), haven’t even got beyond the initial squabbling yet.
Nonetheless, although logic dictates that we should be in a mess, it seems perhaps we aren’t. Recent reports suggest that restaurants and bars are booming (a jump of 1.4% last month): it appears that we’re prepared to spend money on ourselves. The Times business columnist Sathnam Sanghera (namedrop: I taught him once) observed in a recent article about his home town, Wolverhampton, that cities which are struggling economically need to understand that, right now, people don’t want to buy stuff so much as to purchase a good time. Retail apart, any struggling town needs to attract the better sorts of restaurant and pub chains.
Meanwhile, how has your summer been? The papers have been full of “staycation” ideas. Money’s short, was the advice: the outlook is one of utter gloom and, with such a weak pound, it costs an arm and a leg even to holiday in Greece at present. Conclusion? Stay at home.
Have we Brits actually stayed at home, though? Or did we still chase the sun? I’ll be interested to see any figures that are published. We Traffords spent most of this summer break (no cracks about teachers’ holidays, please!) in our hideaway in north Northumberland. We’ve enjoyed mostly good weather and, as always, simply revelled in the county’s unique beauty and quiet.
The leader of Northumberland Council pointed out on Monday’s local TV news that tourism brings over £700m a year into Northumberland: let’s have more of that, then! This summer, eating and drinking places at Craster, Seahouses and Bamburgh have appeared to me to be packed out and thriving. On Sunday, as we walked with friends along the coast to the magnificent ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, even the wet start to the day (happily replaced by sun later) failed to prevent what was virtually a procession of visitors making the same pilgrimage. Moreover, Monday’s Glendale Show at Wooler, one of our annual family rituals, was the busiest I’ve seen, the sheer number of cars trying to enter the showground creating a tailback on the A697.
Are any of those random impressions actual economic indicators? I’ve no idea. But for me, at any rate, it’s been a good summer, free from gloom: and (here I must confess), apart from a long weekend in Italy to catch some sun and food, we’ve enjoyed our “staycation”.
But then, we’re biased. For us, time spent in Northumberland isn’t as good as a holiday: it is a holiday!
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The West increasingly follows the exact pattern of the Twenties and Thirties, with succour being given to all of the world’s headbangers who feel they can get away with it.
Junior doctors are following the path the miners took in the Seventies and Eighties, actually reinforcing the goverment’s drive to end the NHS by providing proof that the people in the servce are putting ther own interests above those of the community at large.
At the same time, NHS doctors and nurses are joning the armies of agency staff providing private healthcare, through which this ‘shadow health service’ is enabled and expanded by the very people claiming to oppose it.
Every part of society seems hell-bent on turning the clock back to where the world was at a time when everyone in Western society vowed to fight never to repeat recent history.
Or am I totally mistaken? Is working for a free, welcomng, law-respecting and socially charitable society so wrong?