FOUR MONTHS OF THIS?
As people lie in ambulances waiting for treatment, the sound of squabbling politicians rings in their ears.
If it’s not the NHS, it’s the economy. We got four or five rebuttal and counter rebuttal documents from the Conservatives and Labour on Monday about each other’s spending plans.
The electorate is already mightily disillusioned with the Westminster game. Four months of this will not just have them turning off in droves, it will make them angry.
Political reporters have already been overusing the phrase “the election campaign got under way today”, when we know that there will be multiple launches around the spring party conferences and when Parliament is dissolved. Oh for the return of the short sharp campaign. There is a view that people generally form a view two years out from an election. It is difficult to achieve significant changes in opinion amid the sound and fury of the last few weeks before polling day. To inflict this early period of claim and counter claim on a weary electorate is a mistake.
THE YEAR AHEAD FOR BUSINESS.
For business, the approaching election means the thing it hates most, uncertainty. The possibility of a change of government might mean that investment plans will be put on hold. This is compounded by the prospect that forming a new government might take weeks and involve multiple parties. Discerning what that will all mean for taxation and business incentives is very difficult, hence the Prime Minister comes up with his plea for continuity under the Conservatives.
But away from politics there are a number of other business related questions for the year ahead. How much longer are the workers going to settle for 1% pay rises and zero hours contracts? With unemployment dropping and the economy improving, are we going to see more robust demands for pay rises? These may particularly come in the private sector where there is some evidence of skills gaps developing. Public sector workers may be less likely to take part in a wage push because remorseless cuts are set to continue whoever is in power.
AN UNCERTAIN WORLD.
Uncertainty at home and uncertainty abroad. The slump in the oil price in 2014 took everyone by surprise. Whilst it provides everyone with lower costs in the short term, what it is telling us about the health of the world economy is another matter.
The American economy is surging ahead but the Euro zone’s performance continues to be an embarrassment for those of us who want it to succeed.
The Russian economy is tanking because of the oil price and sanctions, but how will Vladimir Putin react? Will he bow to the pressure or stoke up the fear that Mother Russia is under attack from the West.
A few years ago China’s rapid expansion sent raw material prices soaring. Growth has slowed. What effect will that have on China’s policy of increasingly investing in western infrastructure? Questions are being asked for instance about progress with the development of Wirral and Liverpool Waters.
A NEW MAGNA CARTA.
As we mark the 800th anniversary of this shake up in English governance, it would be nice if we could take a fundamental look at how we are ruled from parish council to the House of Lords.
It doesn’t look as if that is going to happen. Instead we will have to concentrate on incremental change. In that respect the question for this year will be whether Leeds, Sheffield and even Liverpool will be getting the Greater Manchester devolution deal, with or without elected City Region mayors.