Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: energy prices

Who is squeezing you then?

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.

This last week has been about the weak.

In Westminster last week the Leader of the opposition was called weak by the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister was called weak by the Leader of the Opposition. Next week neither will be there as they will both have a note from their mum’s saying they ‘can’t go as they are being bullied’.

Also it is the weak and vulnerable who will suffer with the coming winter fuel bills of the big six energy companies and their average of 9.2% increases in energy prices. What is actually being done about that? Naff all in reality. The ‘Big 6’ effectively said ‘not me mate’, Labour’s price freeze idea is totally potty as it can never work in the global energy market of today, the Coalition’s proposal of a competition review will take 12 months to reach a conclusion and shifting the Green tax into general taxation only mean you will pay more, just differently. It is going to be a long, cold winter for many so warm, snuggly Christmas jumpers might not be such a bad present idea this year.

All this has occurred against the background of Russell Brand calling for a revolution against the political class of today, those who seek to make a profit and pretty much anyone who is not him or who think like him. Free speech is a wonderful thing.

Yet it is free speech that is actually under threat by the very actions of those who benefit most from it, make money out of it and use it to fill the pages of our daily and Sunday papers.

Whether we end up the Royal Charter to govern and control the actions of the press, or they continue to ‘mark their own homework’ as the campaign group Hacked Off call it, one thing is for certain. Thanks to the actions of some journalists and maybe others on trial right now, our press and journalism will never be the same again in the UK.

But this is far bigger problem than just our UK press.

The world looks to us for a free press. Our tradition of free speech and a free press first gained its printed voice in the mewing 17th century newspapers and in the articles of Milton against the puritanical views of Cromwell and his the English Republic. If our press falls under parliamentary control other governments will use our newly ‘state controlled’ media as the very example they need to control, govern, censor what can and can’t be printed. Then it will be the same for broadcasting. Mr Brand may yet get his revolution, but perhaps not quite on the terms he was elucidating.

Why did all this happen? Why did the press do what they did? What made it okay for the press to rifle through the bins of Steve Coogan, ‘convict’ Bristol’s Christopher Jefferies on a series of front pages or hack into the phone of the then missing school girl Milly Dowler? You.

You bought the papers. You bought the stories. You chose the front page of the paper, you fed the beast. It is all down to you. And it’s down to me too. No paper, no journalist, no editor would have done any of the things revealed in the Leveson enquiry if you didn’t buy them.

So now we may not have lost the sensational headlines, but we have lost threatening, penetrating investigative journalism, challenging opinion and, most of all, the freedom of the press that we all enjoyed, maybe just a little too much.

The press will be weak from this last week.

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