Jeff Prestridge  

It's looking abysmal for Blighty

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

I have just come back from a lovely break in Mallorca, my favourite place in the world.

Walking, running and swimming. Simple pleasures – my first time on the island since before Covid-19 struck, plunging the world into lockdown.

Although a patriot of good old Blighty, a big chunk of me wishes I hadn’t returned and instead just kept on walking in the beautiful Tramuntana mountains, lost in my own thoughts and my own little cocooned world, occasionally listening (nostalgically) to past editions of "Desert Island Discs" with Sandie Shaw, Cecil Arthur Lewis (do Google him), et al.

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Selfish? Yes. Parochial? Yes. Understandable? Yes.

What a time it was to be off work. While away, I took time out from my meditations to listen to Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, courtesy of Radio 4 (the BBC at their very best). Boy, our trains may be running irregularly and the NHS may be crumbling before our very eyes, but we still don’t half excel when it comes to pageantry.

Also, while I was away in sunny Mallorca, I listened as the prime minister’s bold plan to rejuvenate the economy, based primarily on tax cuts, literally unravelled as soon as it was unveiled. Financial markets saw through the numbers pretty quickly, resulting in a series of U-turns that keep on coming.

What a monumental cock-up. The result? Money, billions of pounds of it, thrown at the markets to stabilise gilt prices in the wake of Liz Truss’s and Kwasi Kwarteng’s gung-ho economics.

Soaring mortgage costs for anyone wanting to get on the housing ladder, and just as alarmingly, sky-high rates for those coming off fixed rate loans taken out two, three or five years ago. We’re not out of the woods yet. Far from it. Indeed, we’re trapped in unyielding bracken.

Spending cuts, to be unveiled by Kwarteng at the end of this month, are going to be vicious, although maybe not sufficient to convince markets that the government intends to get the country’s public finances back on an even keel. 

The warning issued from the Institute for Fiscal Studies that fiscal tightening in the region of £60bn will be required gives us a good idea that much pain lies ahead.

Benefit payments rising in line with inflation as previously promised? I’m not sure. While a U-turn may please the markets, I imagine it will widen fractures in the Conservative party and bar a miracle, condemn the government to electoral defeat in 2024.

Let’s not beat around the bush. We face challenging times as a nation – politically, geo-politically and economically. Whichever way you look at things and whatever your politics, it’s hard to see any shafts of optimism in amongst the gathering gloom.