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NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM

SATURDAY

ESSAY

by A. N. Wilson

[Daily Mail ,Saturday, October 11,2008]

 

Yes, we must tighten our belts. But the grit, humour and happiness shown by Britons during the last period of austerity, when both his grandfathers lost their jobs, make historian A N Wilson optimistic for the future

There can be no doubt that we have entered a new phrase in the history of the West. Capitalism itself will never be the same. The sheer number of people who could be ruined has probably not dawned on us all, not really registered inwardly. But it has dawned on the governments of the world.

How else can we explain the extraordinary spectacle of a Right-wing U.S. President ending his eight years in office by bringing in measures which would have been the delight of the left-wing of the Labour Party in 1945 -nationalising banks and mortgage lenders?

Any crisis which can make George W. Bush speak and act like the post-war Labour Prime Minister Clement Atlee has to be something pretty extradinary.

The question in many minds is: are we about to face a period like the Thirties or the Fifties?

I am in my 50s. The people of my generation born after World War II -and even more, for those like my brother and sister a decade older -grew up on two big peacetime stories.

Yes, there was a war, and that changed the country, But almost as big a change came into the lives of ordinary people as a result of two great financial disasters -THE GREAT DEPRESSION of the early [1930] Thirties and the AUSTERITY years after WORLD WAR II.

Both these phases of history affected our families directly, whatever our class and whether we lived in BRITAIN or AMERICA.

EVERY HOUSE WAS CHANGED....

You could say that the two phases turned into myths - they were repeated over and over again and shaped the lives of those who listened to them.  I have certainly been changed by these stories but, actually ,they make me cautiously optimistic and the present crisis.

After the WALL STREET CRASH of 1929 and the 'slump' of the Thirities, many AMERICAN and BRITISH families

LOST EVERYTHING

My familie's story must have been typical of the middle classes. One grandfather was a rich Manchester broker, with a large house. His daughter (my mother) was educated at Cheltenham Ladies College, and  he had business contacts all across Europe.

My other grandfather was a factory owner in the Potteries with afarm on the isle of man -servants , cars , money.

BOTH OF THESE GRANDFATHERS WENT BUST

and with extraordinary speed 20 years before I was born. It was a matter of months before

THE MONEY RAN OUT

 

 

OPTIMISTIC

[HOPE and final VICTORY]

MY MOTHER , instead of going to university, got  a job as a secretary, where her boss was my father. So, in a sense, I owe my very existence to the slump during the Thirties.

While my parents were tightening their belts and feeling the humiliations of a descent from extreme comfort to austerity and - a real novelty -working for a living, those less fortunate were suffering appalling hardship.

[TO BE CONTINUED]

 

It would be intolerable to suggest that these personal disasters are 'bracing' or 'good for us'.

But for the many, and let us hope it is the majority, the austere times ahead will prove to be a challenge which may - if we show optimism and the right resourcefulness - even turn out to be half enjoyable.

Don't' be a Sqander Bug' was the old legend on the posters in World War II (some of us recall Private Pike in Dad's Army, mincing about in a Squander bag outfit sewn for him by his doting mother)

...The truth is that , for the past 25 years, we have lived through a squander culture. Even before this crisis, we had all begun to be sickened by it.

We could remember that in our childhood, we too ginger-beer bottles to the grocer to be refilled rather than chucking the glass away. We started to recycle glass, card and paper.

We had began to calculate the bulk of food which we buy quite needlessly one week and chuck away uneaten the next....

We had  begun to question whether we need so many trips in aeroplanes and whether a few days beside the Welsh coast or visiting an English cathedral city would be just as restful an interlude as a wekend abroad.

My reason for being hopeful as we look ahead towards the lean years is that AUSTERITY BINDS US ALL TOGETHER

as

COMMUNITES and FAMILIES.

Clothes and food are two prime examples. Our MOthers never threw away our clothes, They stitched and darned until we had out grown them and then they were handed on - either to the next child in the family or to a friend or cousin.

There was no snobbery about children wearing the smartest gear and no nonsense, as we scuffed well-made Clarks sandals about designer trainers at 100 a pair.

And let it notbe thought sexist to have found memories of mothers stitching. there is no reason why fathers should not learnto sew, as I have done in grown-up life.

As for food, my wife has put a huge notice over our stove:

DO YOUR BIT .DON'T WASTE FOOD.

Not only would a new age of AUSTERITY teach us the valuable lesson that we can eat the same stew three days running or make the remains of the roast into cottage pie.

It saves time as well as money to go on eating the same dish until it is finished.

Moreover, eating up what is there, rather than extravagantly cooking something more to your taste, is a valuable lesson for children.

Such little things help to bind families together.  There was far less divorce or domestic bust-up during the AUSTERITY YEARS

for the simple reason that they did nopt have the time or the money to break away from one another.

Relationships , as well as Aertex shirts, could be mended.

Most of us are not hedge-fund managers losing or making a trillion as the stock market swoops.  ANd most of us, with any luck, will survive the present crisi without losing our livelihood or being kicked out of our homes.

BUT WE SHALL ALL BE CHANGED

The lucky majority will merely find themselves in the somewhat grotesque position of paying higher tax to bail out the mistakes of an Icelandic bank or a City fat-cat.

However, we will be poorer. We won't buy a new car in ahurry. The new dish washer or that foreign holiday will be put on hold. It will slowly dawn on us that our savings are worth half what they were,l

Yet , compared with the children of the Thirties who contracted rickets and copared with the Jarrow hunger marches, our lives will be incredibly fortunate.

Yes we will have to tighten our belts. But if my reading of the British character is not too optimistic, I think we'll grumble [as we do as a people] a bit about it, and then -like Barbara Pym, huddled over the one bar electric fire in Pimlico while wearing her overcoat - we shall actually 'enjoy' the DISCOMFORT.

*

[There is one vital matter that should take top priority and that is the return of the old uniformed reliable friend of the people the Bobbie- on- the- Beat.  This is imperative because LAW and ORDER will have to be the order of the day in order that there is a link between the people and the government of the day THAT EVERYONE CAN TRUST.

*

OCTOBER-2008

 

DAILY MAIL

COMMENT

[Saturday, October 11,2008]

This crisis must spell an end to state excess

 

YESTERDAY was a day of days. Hysteria gripped world stock markets, fortunes were loat. and the world inched a step closer to an economic

ARMAGEDDON.

Once mighty companies were left a shadow of their former selves, savers watched as nest eggs evaporated and pensions shrank.  the pound continued to plummet, and the scandal over the hundreds of millions of pounds invested by criminally incompetent councils in dubious Icelandic banks deepened.

But arguably it could have been worse. Yes ,taxpayers will have to pay the price for years to come, but without this week's bold banking rescue package, some of Britain's major banks would have gone broke.

After dithering for months, Mr Brown -who, to be fair, over the past few days has evinced authority, gravatas and resolution -at last moved decisively.

But as the markets have shown, Britain's action alone is

 NOT ENOUGH

Such measures must be global.

America must build on its $700 billion bail-out by taking direct stakes in banks. Other European countries should follow suit.

The world must also cut interest rates still further. With commodity prices dramatically falling, the threat of

INFLATION

has , for the present, all but evaporated.

Nor should we shirk from cutting taxes to give money back to consumers to spend on products

TO SAVE JOBS

Although it hurts the Mail to say it, in these tumultuous times, governments should not be hidebound by fiscal conservation.

But the measures must not be aimed at shoring up share prices.  Stock markets should be allowed to find their own level, to get the panic out of the system.

What Government should do instead is  target the far more significant credit markets

. If we are to prevent the stock market contagion causing irreversible damage to the real economy, the priority is to

GET THE BANKS LENDING AGAIN

TO

BUSINESS

TO

CONSUMERS

AND TO EACH OTHER.

*

But when the current crisis is past -and make no mistake, what goes down will one day go up again -,huge concerns will remain about the right balance between freedom in the financial markets and the heavy hand of the STATE,  This is the issue destined to overshadow politics in the coming years.

For the Conservatives there will be painful questions about their commitment to

FREE MARKETS

and their somewhat

INCESTUOUS RELATIONSHIP

with the

CITY.

 As the Mail argued this week there should be a

ROYAL COMMISSION

should be set up immediately to identify those who got us into this catastrophe.  This must be coupled with a determination to

MAKE SURE

the

GREEDY FEW

are never again allowed to make the many

PAY FOR THEIR MISTAKES.

Labour must grapple with a different matter: its commitment to

HUGE STATE SPENDING.

There will be a temptation - and many in Mr Brown's party are already succumbing to it - for these events to be seen as a

WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITY

to

INCREASE PUBLIC SPENDING.

IF THEY GET THEIR WAY BRITAIN WILL END UP BANKRUPT.

THE TRUTH is that TODAY every PRIVATE SECTOR COMPANY and INDIVIDUAL is TIGHTENING THEIR BELTS.

THE PUBLIC SECTOR MUST SHARE THE PAIN.

All those countless non-jobs advertised in the GUARDIAN must END

THE STATE must be subjected to exactly the same kind of ruthless purge that is now being experienced in the COMMERCIAL WORLD.

IN the years of affluence, we could put up

WITH ALL THIS WASTE.

 

NO LONGER

Yes, there may be a case for more spending on huge job producing capital projects, such as

CROSSRAIL

But Whitehall must live by the same rules as

THE REST OF US.

-every pound justified, every spending decision scrutinised.

FAR FROM A BLANK CHEQUE

FOR THE STATE

THIS ECONOMOC CRISIS MUST SPELL THE END OF THE ERA OF
PUBLIC SECTOR EXCESS.

*

 

[We believe that under the present financial crisis there should be a NATIONAL GOVERNMENT in order that the GOVERNMENT of the day does not use the means at its disposal to its own benefit instead of the benefit of the TAXPAYER

A National GOVERNMENT would also allow the best brains and expertise from all spectrums of the political and academic fields to pull together for the good of the country and not as now give the present incumbent of No10 the weapon to ensure a further term in office at a time of his choosing.]

 

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[Font Altered-Bolding & Underlining Used-Comments in Square brackets.]

OCTOBER-2008

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