‘There are fears that Britain is heading for a triple dip recession…’ How many times have I seen this story in the press in the last couple of months? It reminds me of a similar story that kept coming up around this time last year. It went something like this: ‘There are fears that Britain is heading for a double dip recession’. For months hacks and assorted experts debated whether or not this would happen, when as far as we ordinary mortals were concerned it had happened. We did not have the latest economic indicators at hand, all we knew is that life was getting harder by the day.
Even though Britain continued to record negative growth, the press, having gorged themselves silly on the Jubilee and the Olympics, were quick to make the most of any item of good news, however flimsy. So towards the end of last year, a slight drop in unemployment was meant to show that Britain was on ‘on the road to recovery’, when in fact it reflected the rising number of low paid part time jobs. Then on the weekend before Christmas, all the main news channels were breathlessly reporting – wait for it – a last minute shopping rush. Really? The last Saturday before Christmas? No!
The festive cheer quickly wore off and by early January, commentators were admitting that though people had spent a lot in the run up to Christmas it was not enough to save troubled retailers. Then all of sudden, there was some very bad news indeed as Honda announced 800 job losses and Jessops, HMV and Blockbusters became the latest high street giants to go into administration, putting between them around 9,500 jobs at risk.
Anyone watching or reading what passes for the news these days might have gone away thinking these businesses had collapsed because they had been overtaken by the online retailing revolution. That was obviously part of the story but it masked the reality that in an economic downturn, shoppers will do all they can to save their money. If that means buying cheaper online they will.
Oddly enough, although plenty of sympathy was expressed, I heard no one discuss the fate of those who have now lost their jobs. They just seemed to vanish from the picture, just like the tens of thousands from the string of last year’s high street closures that included Comets and Peacocks. It is unlikely that many will easily find work. Instead they will end up on benefits and join the anonymous army of scroungers that the government loves to go on about.
It is not the unemployed, it is not the proliferation of food banks, it is not the increased child poverty that worries those on high, it is the sight of thousands of boarded up stores across the country. Even the government’s cheerleaders in the press are conceding that its obsession to reduce deficit via a raft of ‘austerity’ measures has produced precisely the opposite affect. They are now urging some sort of spending stimulus, mindful that the situation is so fragile that even the recent spell of snowy weather could push Britain into an unprecedented triple dip recession.
When will they finally admit that the government’s economic policy has no more bearing on reality than Alice in Wonderland?