Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Par-tay.

WOOT! Huzzah! Hooray! Praise be! Whoop-de-woo and tra-la-la and CELA-BRAY-SHUN!

The British economy is estimated to have grown by 0.3 per cent in the past quarter, according to figures released today.

I know. It's like a body-popping party in statistics-covered hot pants, isn't it? But don't drink the champagne just yet. There's more.

This comes hot on the heels of this year's Rich List, which shows 11 new billionaires among a group of people worth a combined £450billion and 80 per cent of whom made their own fortunes.

How amazing for us! More billionaires are a sign of Britain's booming wealth and global brilliance, we're back on track, touch decisions have produced results, and it's probably about time we thanked Gideon with an inherited baronetcy or something as a mark of our national gratitude.

Oh damn, he's already got one. Hmm. Book tokens? I'll have a think.

On top of this wondrousness, there is further source for delight in the news that the publicly-funded-or-we'll-jail-you British Broadcasting Corporation is going to cap the severance pay for bosses that it sacks at a piddling £150,000.

Hallelujah, I hear you cry. The last D-G got £450,000 after just 54 days in his job during which he displayed an epic inability to steer HMS Auntie as she repeatedly smashed herself against the rocks of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

This represents a massive pay cut for inept bureaucratic tools everywhere, because don't forget we're all in this together.


Except.

No, I don't like to say. It'll ruin the mood. Your bubble will be burst. The champagne might go flat.

Well, all right then. You'd better have a drink for this.

Today's GDP figures are an estimate, not a fact. They almost always get revised up or down, and in recent years the margin for error has been an average 0.7 per cent.

So that growth of 0.3 per cent could actually be a frankly miraculous boom of one per cent, or it could be a buttock-clenching triple dip of -0.4 per cent. We don't know what the figure will be, but we do know the one we've had today is almost certainly wide of the mark.

Cheer up though, it could still be a positive figure. That's the politically-important bit. Anything over zero can be spun as though we've just won the lottery and can rush out to buy a Bentley, while a negative figure would be, well, um, let's just say embarrassing.

It would be the first triple-dip recession in British history - the worst, longest, crunch of all time. It would be unprecedented and we would, if it happens, no doubt get to see an unprecedented level of back-pedalling and finger-pointing among our leaders.

But that might not happen, so don't let's worry too much. The economic trough was in 2009, we're doing better than then, and the fact today's figures show the economy is flatlining and is today only as good as it was six months ago is frankly of more immediate concern for most of us.

Because at the same time the square root of naff all is happening to our national wealth, prices are rising, unemployment's growing, and wages are flat.

Unless you're a billionaire, and not from round here.

Of the top ten billionaires in the Rich List, eight didn't make their money in Britain and aren't British. Heaven knows what it would take to unravel their tax affairs, but you'd get good odds that if they're paying any in this country it's probably because they pay less than they would elsewhere.

Still, if attracting foreign billionaires who don't pay a lot of tax can be called a plan, it's working.

Most of them are self-made, only a few inherited their wealth, and they all employ a lot of people all over the world in successful businesses. And the list shows the 1,000 richest people in Britain are ten times richer than the 1,000 richest people on the list when it was first produced 25 years ago.

Yay.

But while the top end of the Rich List saw their combined earnings rise 11.1 per cent in the past year, the bottom end of the Not Rich List have seen pay cuts of up to 15.9 per cent.

Pension clerks, farmers, pest control officers, taxi drivers and lollypop persons are all worse off than they were last year and arguably do some fairly important jobs.

Farming is particularly crucial - less than two per cent of our work force produces 60 per cent of our food, and they have had a 15.9 per cent pay cut. Supermarkets might be responsible for this as they try to keep prices down, but supermarket bosses rarely seem to announce they've lost 15.9 per cent of their pay.

And, predictably, inflation of 2.5 per cent means what little they do have buys them less. The net result is that for the first time ever there are more poor, working people than there are poor, not-working people.

We all pay the cost of that - both in terms of in-work benefits for the low-paid, and in yet more cuts in welfare for those who do not work in order to make the government's point that work has to pay more than claiming.

Whether we pay tax or we claim, somehow or another we're all going to be paying for those low wages.

There's two more things. You're not going to like them. Have another drink.

If you burrow down into the GDP figures it shows that government spending has increased by 0.5 per cent in the past quarter and 1.2 per cent year-on-year.

Yup. Despite austerity, belt-tightening, cutbacks, public sector redundancies, pay freezes, pension squeezes, there's-no-money-left, we're-in-this-together and all the rest of it, THE GOVERNMENT IS SPENDING MORE MONEY.

Money we don't have. Money we have borrowed. Money we did not earn from hosting foreign billionaires, money not pushed into the economy by impoverished farmers or lollypoppers, and certainly not money we gained in any way from a 2:1 history graduate with no experience whatsoever in economics marking time until he gets his soft, ladylike hands on daddy's baronetcy and millions.


I know, I know. It's a mess. That's what happens when you party without thinking it through.

You're probably thinking 'it's all right, David Cameron has just announced he's made Boris Johnson's brother head of his policy unit, they'll have some bright ideas and save us all, even the lollypop people, because that's their job'.

Perhaps I might agree with you, maybe there'd be reason for optimism and one tiny flicker of hope deep in the empty money caverns under Whitehall, if at their first frightfully positive meeting they had anything even approaching pens and paper.

They can't even draw a money tree.

'Our new policy is to ask nanny for some crayons.'