Monday, 19 April 2010

Uncertainty

Is it just me, or do things around the world (and particularly the UK) seem so much more uncertain in the past year or so?

First there was the economy, with the spectacular failure of some financial institutions. The Labour government's "prudence" with the public purse suddenly looked like a complete illusion. Despite the fact that this is meant to be a global recession, for some reason the Pound has fallen to an unprecedented low against the Euro and looks weak even against the US Dollar.

Then there was inflation, with certain items rocketing in price to an extent that doesn't tally at all with the official figures - some foods in my local supermarket have gone up by 20% or more in one jump, and margarine actually increased by 100% in a matter of months. We were assured that the leap in fuel prices was due to an increase in the cost to the suppliers but, while oil fell in price, we are still waiting for a reduction in domestic gas and electricity prices.

This was followed by the coldest winter for decades, exacerbating poor people's "fuel poverty", making it impossible to walk normally for weeks and with frosts so long and penetrating that the roads and pavements cracked up. We've got used to mild winters and, with all the talk of Global Warming in the news, for most of us this was particularly unexpected.

For months we have had dire warnings of the huge size of the National Debt, and savage cuts in spending to come. Now an election is close, and we've been told not only that a Hung Parliament is likely, but also that this will alarm "the markets" to such an extent that the value of the Pound could collapse completely.

The latest source of uncertainty is the Europe-wide flight stoppage caused by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, in its fifth day as I write. As if the state of the European economy wasn't bad enough, something else to disrupt things and shake our old "certainties". (Guess who decided to splash out on a holiday to the USA this year, and booked flights with BA?) This also revives old fears of volcanic activity and the possibility of a volcanic winter...

Incidentally, despite my comments on economic management above, I don't trust the Conservatives and, as I work in local government, will be voting Labour anyway: I'm not stupid enough to vote myself out of a job!

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