In the week in which PM Theresa May appeared before the annual shindig of the UK’s most visible Big Business lobby group, the CBI, it was perhaps fortuitous that both her crew and theirs released their latest statements of account.
Dealing with the businessmen first, the monthly industrial trends survey of the members more than reversed last month’s dizzying swoop to take the reading on order books back to recent highs; to move that for inventories to six year lows and – perhaps not surprisingly, given that particular combination – to raise the output assessment to its best level in getting on for two years.
But, even if that did serve to hammer yet another nail into the coffins of the Brexit Banshees of doom, it should also be noted that some of the cheer was generated by a rise in prices to what was almost a three-year high. Necessary to the point that it encourages exporters and disadvantages importers, perhaps, but a trifle worrying given the inflation-seeking mindset of the Bank of England.
As for Mrs. May’s government, well, despite achieving a record tax take, it still managed to overspend by enough to cast this year’s official projection of a lowered, but still hefty £55 billion budget deficit into some jeopardy.
The large numbers involved here can really be numb-ers if simply stated, so to put them into some kind of context, let us just first note that the scots, tithes, tallages, and poundages variously raised by Her Majesty’s Exchequer have doubled so far this century.
Put another way, the Provider State now routinely demands £650 billion-a-year with menaces from poor old Peter so it can pay its fully-pensioned placemen, Piers and Petula, to shuffle the piles of papers pertinent to the process of putting a somewhat lesser amount back into the pocket of a pleased-as-punch Patrick.
With around 65 million people in the country, that equates to around £10,000 a head, £835 a month, £27 quid a day – or around 3 ¾ hours’ graft at minimum wage rates.
Even that, of course, is not enough to sate the Beast’s appetite so that – despite an interest bill vastly reduced by Divus Marcus Carney’s beneficence; despite being seven fat years into an economic recovery; despite having record numbers of people in work, Maid Marion May and her Merry Men will still borrow the thick end of £1,000 a head to see it through to the end of the fiscal year – and that even before her Chancellor, Mr. Hammond, gets to town on his pump-priming, pet project-picking and crony-cossetting – sorry – on his mistress’s new industrial strategy, as he will do in this week’s Autumn Statement.
For those of you lacking a PhD in the relevant discipline, the technical phrase for this is ‘austerity’ – an affliction so severe that the Guardianistas, the gliteratti and the great, tax-eating unwashed routinely take to the streets to protest at the Tooth Fairy’s habitual miserliness.
Marvellous, thing, political economy, isn’t it?
[This is a lightly edited transcript of a piece first broadcast on WRS radio in Switzerland on November 22nd: Go HERE for a podcast]