Who is squeezing you then?

by John Darvall

This year will be dominated by three main arguments in the national news. Europe and being in or out of it, energy costs and can you afford them and your income; are you earning enough of it?

Lets ponder the last one. When have you ever earned enough? Isn’t there always someone earning more than you, maybe even doing the very same job as you, probably working less hard than you, not as deserving as you of the money they earn. Twas ever thus but now this has become political.

Labour has given this earning paradox a name and it’s called a ‘cost of living crisis’. You might call it ‘life’ because the age-old reality is that no matter how much money you have, chances are you live to your means. The painful reality for many is that this shifted in the last four decades to living beyond your means. Life has been fuelled by easy credit and the simple, now misplaced belief that property prices are another household income steam. They were always going to rise and rise and rise and even after they crashed, property prices would rise again. All political parties are guilty of instilling this belief. Many bought in to it, literally. The reality is that, for some, there is a genuine ‘cost of living crisis’ but for most this is just life, boom or bust, feast or famine and the answer is not as simple as more income. That would be like starving yourself thin.

January has given us a slew of statistics and predictions for the coming year. The trouble is that statistics are losing their power. Just look at the lack of belief in crime numbers or NHS waiting times. The IMF (not to be confused with the much missed MFI … OPEN BABK HOLIDAY MONDAAAAAAY) say the UK economy will become one of the fastest growing in the world this year and ONS say our unemployment rate has dropped to 7.1% of the workforce, with the highest number employed workers ever. So it’s basically all good, but do you ‘feel’ good? This is politically important. You have to feel good because if you don’t you must find someone to blame for feeling bad.

The chances are you don’t feel good at all. In part this is the human condition. In reality this maybe because you might be doing one of the newly created jobs that are poorly paid. Or it maybe because you have not had a pay rise in the last few years. Or it maybe because you took a pay cut to save your job or the job of the colleague. Also there is no doubt that prices have gone up on most of the things you buy. So if someone tells you you’re having cost of living crisis it does tend to make you question if you are. Yet what is Labour’s answer to this soundbite and label? Freeze UK energy prices in a global energy market, raise the tax rate to 50p in the Pound for those earning over £150,000 and borrow more to build stuff. The Coalition say things will start to get better for you soon. Are you smiling now?

Politics isn’t working. We know this. I’ve blogged about this before (see earlier posts) and it’s set to get worse. The Hansard Society suggest that less than 13% of young people have any intention of voting at all in the next General Election. Turn out at the forthcoming local council elections, European elections and the Scottish independence referendum may be so poor that the actual mandate of these elections may come into question.

Why? Maybe it is as simple as the failure of modern politics and politicians to engage with you other than the tried and tested way of ‘why you should be afraid of it and who is to blame for it’. They are all at it. And Labours ‘cost of living crisis’ is a prime example of this. Who isn’t having one of those? And what is the answer? A pay rise of course. But by how much? Who is going to pay for it and where will the money come from?

The answer to the last question is you. One thing that is for certain is that the current UK economic recovery has been driven by the consumer. All political parties agree on that. The reality is that you will have to pay for your own pay rise because inflation will increase, prices will go up all because the bosses will have to put their prices up to pay for the rise they have given you.

There are no easy answers to this but labels and soundbites are as much use as statistics now. We don’t believe them and we are tired of hearing them. All we want something to believe in and to feel good about.

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