Friday, 30th September, 2022

[Day 928]

Today dawned rain-filled and gloomy in line ith all of the weather forecasts. Meg and I took our time to get ready this morning but were preparing a rendez-vous with our University of Birmingham friend in the park for later on in the morning. However, after we had received a quick telephone call we decided to meet in one of the High Street coffee bars that we have frequented in each other’s company because there was a little anticipated joint project that we wished to discuss. Accordingly, we met for coffee and toasted teacake after which we discussed our business and then treated ourselves to even more coffee and teacakes. Why our friend and I like each other’s company so much is because we are actually very similar in our approaches to academic work and life. We identify ourselves as competent but not ‘top flight’ academics, to which status we do not necessarily aspire. Nonetheless, we both some some regrets (and our friend more so than ourselves) that we had accumulated decades of experience which could then have been utilised to assist in the life work of younger academics but this was not necessarily to be as we both retired before the age of 65. Nonetheless, neither of us would want to belong to the uber-casalised life of the modern university and there are some things (marking masses of student assignments until the wee small hours of the morning) that we positively do not miss. There are some times, though, when Meg and I who truly espoused the polytechnic style of higher education based in no small part around the sandwich based degree have some regrets that this style of education seems to have been abandoned for ever, burnt on the altar of successive economic crises and cuts. We sometimes speculate that if we had been local jobbing builders, we could have driven around an area pointing to examples of edifices that we had help to construct. However, we have little to show by way of academic legacy as even the papers that we had written in the course of our careers may now be out-of-date and mouldering in the recesses of our respective university libraries. After a very pleasant morning, though, we got home and cooked ourselves some sea bass served upon a bed of crispy lettuce – our traditional Friday midday repast and then settled down for a lazy afternoon.

Today, it has been widely reported that the Prime Minister and her Chancellor of the Exchequeur have met with of the Office of Budget Responsibility and it was felt that an earlier forecast and critical review of the government plans would help to allay investor fears. But the government has rejected demands to bring forward publication of assessments of its growth plans and the impact of planned tax cuts and indicated that we would have to wait until late November for this. When the stock market volatility and turbulence is taken into account, this delay seems dangerous in the extreme and it is no wonder that the pound has immediately lost ground. The late Enoch Powell, a classical scholar quoted in his now infamous ‘rivers of blood’ speech that ‘those whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad’ one can only think that this must apply fully to the present leadership of the Conservative party. Liz Truss’s trip around several local radio stations yesterday was an absolute disaster. Local journalists are not afraid to pull their punches as their Westminster and national counterparts are liable to be in a ‘cosy’ relationships with the political elites and they are muted in their criticisms. Liz Truss was immediately faced with comments such as ‘Where have you been?’ and ‘Are you taking a fire extinguisher to a fire that you yourself started’) and, no doubt, this exercise will not be repeated. To show how out of touch the Tresury is with the lives of ‘ordinary’ people, the Treasury posted a tweet saying in the post that a ‘typical first time buyer in London moving into a representative terraced house’ would save £11,250 on stamp duty, £1,050 on the household’s energy bills, and if they earn £30,000, almost an additional £400 on tax. But various commentators have been pointing out that a person on that salary would not be able to afford a mortgage on such a property in the first place.

The Sky News commentator, Adam Boulton, has posted a fascinating piece in which he argues that the autumn has traditionally been a time for economic crises – which he documents in great detail. He argues that is certainly a time of year for stocktaking in Western market economies after a break or slowdown over the summer holiday period. Autumn, mid-October this year, is when the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank hold their annual joint meeting. With the year’s three-quarters done, it is natural to look back and to assess whether things have gone well or badly. If there are problems, governing politicians and markets are likely to take steps to correct them, which sometimes only lead to bigger mistakes. The Tories are in conference next week but as soon as Westminster returns there will be plots galore with some feeling that Truss will be gone by Christmas (to be replaced by Rishi Sunak as a safer pair of hands) We shall see.