“The Biggest Fall in Living Standards since Records Began.”
What a cheerful thought to wake up to. The fall in living standards didn’t surprise me. I was honestly more curious as to when records began. Turns out it was 1956. For context, the war that ravaged Europe and killed 15-20 million people had ended 11 years previous. Rationing in the UK ended in 1955. At that point, they were no longer in a state of emergency, but they weren’t in a boom either. They were rebuilding.
Ironically, were are experiencing rationing these days. Not the official, Government Issued Ration booklet program. Just supermarkets saying “Oi, two per customer, you greedy little so-and-so.” Eggs are rationed due to avian flu, various vegetables are limited purchase as lack of farm workers in the UK (thanks to Brexit) and devastating weather conditions in Europe (thanks to Climate Change).
Of course, the Government has nothing to do with these rules, as they don’t care who has access to fresh food, as long as their free House of Commons restaurants are fully stocked. The Supermarkets themselves are imposing them, having learned their lesson from the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020. (That one still confuses me. Covid wasn’t even ‘That Type’ of illness.)
There was also a housing crisis in the 1950, as so many homes were destroyed in the Blitz. The current housing crisis is entirely different. Enough Housing exists, but no one can afford it. In the rental market, properties are so scarce that people will pay a years rent in advance just to secure it. As for buying a property… The rising cost of living means people can’t put aside money for a deposit. People who had been saving are now using that money to keep up with the bills: Gas, Electricity, Food etc.
The most galling aspect of the housing crisis are the number of properties owned by foreign millionaires and billionaires that sit empty 90% of the time. They were, at best, purchased as a London crash pad for the trust fund baby. More often, they were purchased with cash as a form of money laundering. St George Wharf Tower is 50 floors, 214 flats, all purchased, mostly by foreign nationals and off-shore shell corporations. Only 10% permanent occupancy. It’s called a Ghost Tower, and there are many, more like it. In a city where 1 in 58 people are homeless.
The more complete headlines say that the Tories have overseen the biggest fall in living standards. Saying the Tories have overseen anything implies they were exercising some sort of control. That they were deliberately making life harder for the common people and it wasn’t just general incompetence. It’s probably a mix of both. Austerity was definitely deliberate, making the working class pay for government excesses. Boris Johnson/Liz Truss antics were down to incompetence and indifference.
Jeremy Hunt’s new budget has given a pension tax break to the 1%, no surprise there. He’s retained the current cap on energy bills but has ended the support to low-income households for paying those bills, so no real help there; it’s a net loss to the bill-payer. He has offered 30 hours free child-care per week to all parents of children under 3, in an effort to get more people working. There’s a catch, of course. It won’t come into effect until April of 2024.
Getting people back to work is a good idea, and will improve living standards. The delay, however, may render the whole plane moot. Businesses in the service industries are closing due to lack of staff. By the time people can get the childcare, there may not be jobs for them to go to. People need help NOW, not the hope of help in a year. The Tories have failed to follow through on too many schemes: Levelling Up, BoJo’s ‘High Wage Economy’, £350 million per week to the NHS.
The Tories will offer this carrot immediately before the next General election in the hopes it will get them re-elected. They are hoping people will forget every other way they are worse off. And since this Budget does NOTHING to address the Public Sector wage crisis, there going to be even more people even worse off.
One sliver of comfort in all this; when Grandpa talks about how easy these young people have it now, young people have the statistics to shut him up. Take whatever comfort you can get.
If you enjoyed this rant, please check out my collected works on Amazon. So That Happened by Sheila Power. Available in Digital or Paperback formats. Going Cheap, so give it a chance!