People of a certain age will remember the Supertramp album Crisis: What Crisis?, released in 1975. It had an iconic front cover depicting a man lounging in a deckchair seemingly without a care in the world whilst Armageddon was taking place around him. It was also adopted as a headline by The Sun during the so-called ‘Winter of Discontent’ from 1978-79 to summarise prime minister James Callaghan’s denial that there was “mounting chaos” in the country.
You can probably see where this is going.
If you had lived in a hermetically sealed cave for the last ten years and just happened to pop to the shops for the first time today you could be forgiven for thinking the biggest crisis facing Britain is rubbish weather, data breaches, and the fact that the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party uses foul language.
A glance at Twitter may suggest not all is well in UK PLC. A year off from a general election one would expect the government to be shouting from the rooftops about their achievements. After 13 years in power the list would no doubt be impressive.
There is nothing. Nada. Rien.
The dark art of political distraction
Instead Conservative MPs take to the airwaves and social media enclaves to pile in on opposition parties and blow dog whistles that even contestants on One Man and his Dog would be proud of. (Note to younger readers: this was an absolute gem of a TV programme that featured sheepdog trials).
In the last three days, ALL prime minister Rishi Sunak’s official tweets have been about illegal immigration (with a notable exception of something about Larry the Downing Street cat) – unsurprising given the sclerotic progress made on delivering his five pledges. His MPs have followed suit.
Nowhere are the government or Conservative MPs talking about their successes. Because, dear reader, there aren’t any. After 13 miserable years there are no grand infrastructure successes, there is no halving of poverty, no economic growth, no improvement in anything. Please, if I’ve missed something do tell me. Note: any claims will be fact checked.
Instead what we are all subjected to is a series of ‘dead cat’ stories. The art of ‘dead-catting’ is attributed to Australian political strategist Lynton Crosby, and is a tactic used to divert attention away from problems by metaphorically throwing a dead cat on the table. The economy may be going down the pan, and many families are struggling to make ends meet, but instead the media are being asked to focus on asylum seekers and whether a Labour parliamentary candidate once campaigned with Greenpeace.
So let’s just ignore the cat and remind everyone what the REAL issues are that are confronting voters every day in this country.
Move along now – nothing to see here
Whilst we live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, millions are going without the essentials we all need to get by. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) cost of living tracker (2023) has identified that 5.5 million low-income households have had to cut down on or skip meals because they can’t afford food.
Four million reported going hungry, and 2.7 million have reported having a poor diet because of the cost-of-living crisis.
Record food inflation in the UK is well documented with the government’s own Office for National Statistics (ONS) admitting that the price of food rose by 17.4% in the year to June 2023. It forces those on low incomes to miss meals with JRF claiming 69% have cut back on food for adults. Overall, as many as 4.5 million low-income households (39%) are behind on at least one bill, with average arrears totalling almost £1,600.
JRF found that a third (31%) of low-income households (3.7 million households) have less than £200 in savings and 51% (or six million low-income households) have less than £1,000.
The backdrop is the highest annual inflation rate since 1981 (11.1%) recorded in October 2022 with energy prices increasing by 110% between April 2021 and April 2023 and food prices increased by 27% over the same period.
Incomes, as we know, are not keeping in line with inflation.
Factor in what’s happening with both mortgages and in the rented sector and you have a ticking timebomb for families up and down the country.
Wasted years, wasted opportunities, wasted lives
On 18 July the ONS reported that the bottom fifth of the population now have the lowest share of total income since records began (in 1977) as tweeted by Jonathan Portes, professor of economics at Kings College, London.
‘Things can only get better’ is not going to be the slogan adopted by the government anytime soon. The forecast for the UK economy by the Treasury suggests GDP growth of 0.7% next year. That will hardly scratch the surface in terms of promising help to many beleaguered families.
The government remains trapped. They appear to have no sense of the scale of the crisis and even less interest in trying to resolve it. No wonder there are so many dead cats flying around.
Probably for most of them the general election cannot come soon enough. Devoid of any policies and any evidence of things getting better in their communities, all they have to resort to is immigration.
I mean, what happened to ‘build back better’ for example? The national infrastructure delivery plan 2016-2021 proudly talked up public capital investment of over £100bn committed to projects and a £483bn project pipeline. Just think of the votes that could have bought.
As it is we have had 13 wasted years with nothing to show except many devastated communities and blighted lives.
A glimpse behind the curtain
The voters are not stupid. Sunak and his cohorts can throw stories out about asylum seekers for only so long before even journalists get bored. The real truth of what is happening is out there for all to see. Conservative MPs can get as mad as hell on twitter about the ‘woke’ – it counts for nothing. It doesn’t solve the energy crisis, help renters or put food on the table.
Crisis? What crisis? We know exactly what the crisis is, it’s just a shame the government is neither listening nor cares.