If you’re willing to ignore the mutterings of the pessimists who say it will only turn out to be the headlamp of an oncoming train it seems the UK might be beginning to see a little light at the end of the long, dark recessionary tunnel we entered when Northern Rock collapsed in the Autumn of 2007.
This week the Institute of Chartered Accountants reported that its index of business confidence had risen to 4.8% and predicted that the UK economy would grow by 0.05% in the second quarter of 2009. Chief Executive Michael Izza said: ‘This quarter’s business confidence monitor suggests the UK recession is at an end,’ although he warned against ‘underestimating’ the challenges ahead it looks like the good times may be about to start rolling again.
An impression further confirmed by the announcement by Ben Bernake of the US Federal Reserve that the world’s largest economy looked set to join Germany, France and Japan in emerging from recession before the year is out.
So, I ask myself, why aren’t we all out dancing in the streets or at the very least dusting off our credit cards and heading for the shops? The answer is because it isn’t that simple.
Growing confidence amongst business professionals and the emergence of major economies from recession are good things but real people care about and are influenced by much more than just the economy stupid. A number of other factors mean that the good times aren’t going to start rolling any time soon for a large number of Britons.
If, like me you live in a town that has lost the industries that were its sole reason for existing over the past thirty years the recession didn’t begin in 2007, it began around the time Denis Healey went to the IMF with his cap in his hand.
You will also have received the figure released this week that 3.3 million homes in the UK have no adults in work not as an indictment of a too generous welfare state, but as a stark reminder of how many lives are blighted by poverty and a lack of purpose.
While it is good news that business leaders feel more confident and that Lord Turner has started the debate about tightening the way the city of London is regulated, although it would be a mistake to think said debate should end with his rather student union proposals for banning ‘socially useless’ banking activities, real steps will have to be taken to mend our fractured society before the man and woman in the street feel a similar boost in their confidence levels. As Churchill might have put it, this isn’t the beginning of the end of the recession so much as the end of the beginning of our journey along a long and difficult road.
Big Brother, we’re not watching you.
There is at least one thing about which the joy of all right thinking people can be unconfined this week, Big Brother the granddaddy of all reality television programmes has been axed. Makers Endemol said the 2010 series would be the last citing falling ratings and the dismal nature of the current crop of contestants.
Lets not be under any illusions Big Brother isn’t and never was any kind of social experiment; it was a tawdry freak show. A few of the freaks, the late Jade Goody being the most prominent example, made sizeable fortunes and achieved a larger than expected place in the nation’s affections, but they were freaks none the less and we all demeaned ourselves by taking an interest in their antics for so long.
One question remains though, what will all those self obsessed nonentities out there who want to enjoy the trappings of fame and fortune without having to trouble themselves with either working hard or having any discernable talent do now their prime outlet has disappeared? I hear there may be several hundred vacancies at an establishment very similar to the Big Brother house situated in Westminster up for grabs next May.
The conference season will soon be upon us, made a little more interesting this year by the impending general election. Never mind fending off a challenge to his leadership from Foreign Secretary and part time Jerry Lewis impersonator David Milliband Gordon Brown looks certain to lose the election and with it the place at the top table of British politics he has dedicated his whole adult life to achieving.
A haiku published on the New Statesman’s reliably amusing competitions page summed up his predicament and that of his party perfectly, it reads as follows:
Sound of no music
Fills the upturned half-lit hall:
Talk about many a true word being spoken in jest.