The Tories risk a new cost of living crisis


Not long after being appointed Prime Minister in 2010, David Cameron announced that we should measure our progress as a country “not just by our standard of living, but by our quality of life.”

He was right, of course. Life is about more than money. But his remarks assumed that the issue of living standards was resolved. It has never been. Even in rich societies like ours, there is always a great possibility that many people will get poorer. When that happens, the relationship between standard of living and quality of life becomes clear. If the first falls, the second falls too.

Due to Covid and the accompanying huge increase in government spending and borrowing, this question has surfaced again. Boris Johnson’s government conjured up a lot more money and chased it through the system. At the same time, due to Covid, wider trade wars and post-Brexit disputes, some goods have become harder to get and therefore more expensive. Restrictions on the free movement of labor and perhaps the desire to continue to live on vacation or general credit have created severe labor shortages. There will be bills for all of this.

The prerequisites for a cost of living crisis, as it was all too well known in the 1970s, have been created. In the old saying, too much money chases too few goods. Prices are increasing. Inflation is returning. We all saw this in our recent grocery bills.

A cycle of anger begins. The public sector unions, whose members are sheltered from the coldest economic winds, are ready to strike strikes to offset the population’s wage increases. This can easily turn into an all against all war. It creates a feeling of deep insecurity and thus harms the quality of life.

It also questions previous commitments. This threatens the “triple lock” of pensions – which increases the basic state pension by 2.5 percent, the inflation rate or average income growth, whichever is higher.

Even in the better days than it was introduced ten years ago, it seemed dangerously inflexible. Soon, at a time when taxes on the labor force and social security are likely to rise rapidly, it will look unfair – especially if those taxes are raised to pay for “free” welfare for the elderly.

And then there are the costs of believing that we are facing a climate “emergency”. The promise of a better quality of life is speculative: it depends on the whole world succeeding in reducing CO2 emissions. But the immediately lower standard of living is real, because people have to pay five-digit sums for new heat pumps and have to reckon with rising energy bills. However, the quality of life itself suffers if the house is no longer warm or it takes half a day to charge the car.

All of the above say the obvious. But this government has not yet admitted this.

Don’t blame Jodie Whittaker for Dr. Who

Although I was an avid Doctor Who fan in my youth, I can’t claim to be following the series closely today, but there are several Whovians in my family. They agree that the recently announced departure of Jodie Whittaker, the Doctor’s first female incarnation, should come as no surprise.

In her view, the program wasn’t very good in her time, but Mrs. Whittaker is not to blame. She played the role well. The difficulty lies in writing and presenting the “showrunner,” Chris Chibnall, despite his impeccable pedigree as a contributor to the great life on Mars. You feel like everything has gotten pretty static.

Although the doctor is armed with a sonic screwdriver and is often seen welding, she spends most of her time keeping quiet and talking. In the finale of last season, she was paralyzed by the evil master for half of the show. The doctor’s three “companions” (they had been known as “assistants” for some time, a term now considered demeaning) seem surprisingly disinterested in finding out who she is and where she is from. Instead of asking her sparkling questions, they listen politely and always agree when she chirps against war, climate change, poverty and racial injustice.

The new model Tardis has gotten strangely small inside and the characters huddle clumsily together while the doctor delivers their “info dumps”. The storylines are too thin and the dialogues too full of inside jokes for adults. It’s been a long time since a really good, scary alien showed up.

For the true Whovian, the doctor’s interest lies in his madness. He / she is not like other men / women because he / she is not human. He is a time lord on the run from his comrades. He cannot love. He can’t even be nice in the sense in which we understand the word. He longs for action and often makes destructive mistakes, which the Companions have boldly pointed out in the past. Now the show has to prove in every episode that the doctor has to be personable as a woman and, like a conventional action hero, is always right. This causes it to sag. If the BBC now, as rumor has it, appoints a “Person of Color” as the new doctor, there will be the same temptation to make her / him both sinless and omni-competent.

For my family’s Whovians, the program’s golden era was in 2010 or so, when Steven Moffat was the writer and Matt Smith was the PhD. The title “Who” implies a question: the best doctor is the one who remains an unanswerable puzzle.

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