Fiscally reckless

So, after months of inaction occasioned by the Tory Party indulging in one of its regular bouts of internecine warfare, and a further delay for some feudal mourning rituals, today the Government finally got around to unveiling a plan to tackle the looming financial crisis.

There had been some expectation that newly-minted Prime Minister Liz Truss, free of the need to pander to the assorted oddballs who comprise the Conservative membership, would come up with something semi-sensible, a hope encouraged by the fact that she had shown some ability to recognise political reality by abandoning her “no handouts” approach to the energy bill emergency and adopting a price freeze strategy, albeit one financed by debt rather than taxes on the power sector.

Alas, it turns out that Truss, and her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, are even further down the neoliberal rabbit hole than was feared. The budget presented this morning, featuring tax cuts unapologetically targeted towards the wealthy, with wildly unrealistic projections of economic growth which will supposedly compensate for the resulting deficit, has not only dismayed the mass of the electorate who are not going to benefit from the abolition of the top tax rate, but also caused panic in the financial markets, sending the pound to a 35-year low against the dollar. Commentary in the press has been overwhelmingly negative, comparing the plan to the infamous “Barber Boom” of the early 1970s, an attempt by Edward Heath’s government to kick-start the economy by aggressively cutting taxes, which ended with the ignominy of an IMF bailout.

Truss seems to be betting that this time the trickle-down strategy will finally work, and that everyone will have forgotten about all the unpleasantness by the time the next election comes around. Since that poll is at most two years away, that is quite a gamble. The stake for Truss is her premiership; if she wants to wager that on a long shot I guess she can, but the stakes for the nation are so much higher that it’s hard to view this reckless course of action with equanimity.

All is not lost though; the scale of the crisis and the obvious inadequacy of the government response is provoking a backlash, as workers are forced into action to defend even a basic standard of living. The country is set to become ungovernable unless there is a change of course; one can only hope it comes before too much more pain is inflicted.

Jean-Luc Godard RIP

The Grim Reaper has been busy in the last few weeks, claiming some genuinely significant figures; first Mikhail Gorbachev, now Jean-Luc Godard.

You may not be surprised to learn that I watched a lot of Godard’s Nouvelle Vague films when I was a student, but I have to admit that, À Bout de Souffle, Bande à Part, and Alphaville apart, they have pretty much merged in my mind into one long, disjointed montage of coolly alienated young garçons et filles pursuing doomed relationships in a monochrome Paris. Of his later work I’m fairly sure that I’ve seen Prénom Carmen, but I can’t recall much about it.

When it comes to cinematic milieus, I probably lean more towards 70s New York than 60s Paris (while recognising that without the influence of Godard it’s unlikely that Scorsese would have made the films he did) but, that said, I still think that Michel Poiccard makes a infinitely more appealing role model than Travis Bickle, so there’s no doubt that Jean-Luc’s reputation as a genius auteur is fully justified.

Elizabeth Windsor RIP

Well, this has turned out to be quite a week of change for the UK; a new Prime Minister and a new monarch within the space of two days.

Of course the former has become so commonplace recently that it’s hardly worth commenting upon, but the latter is a novel experience for just about the whole population, so it’s difficult to know how the country will react. It’s the sort of thing that feels like a bad omen, especially given the general sense of gloom that has been pervading the nation lately, but on the other hand the immediate response of most of my (admittedly unrepresentative) associates has been to look forward to some extra public holidays, so perhaps the net effect will be to lighten the popular mood somewhat.

Whatever; I expect we’ll have to plod through a week or two of somber music and public lamentation, though hopefully it will be a little more dignified than the mass hysteria that broke out when Mrs Windsor’s ex-daughter-in-law passed away. There might even be a reasoned debate about the future of the monarchy, though that perhaps is too much to hope for…

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