Today was always going to be dominated by Lix Truss’s first appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions and as this is timed to start at 12.00pm promptly, Meg and I made sure that we fulfilled our normal morning routines in plenty of time. We went down by car to collect our newspaper and then popped into Waitrose to pick up some much needed supplies such as milk. Then we were home in plenty of time to witness the first of what will soon become the ritualised conflict between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Evidently, political commentators seize on such occasions to judge how each of the parties are performing. The general view is that there is now a pronounced change of style from Boris Johnson with less of the bluff and bluster and cheap debating points to which we have become accustomed. There now appears to be a clear ideological divide between the two parties. The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, made the points clearly and forcefully that not taxing the excess profits of the oil and energy companies with a ‘windfall tax’ is, in effect, increasing the size of the borrowing the government needs to undertake and the rest of the working population will eventually have to pay the bill. For her part, Liz Truss made a clear and confident start repeating yet again her strong conviction that only by not taxing the profits of the energy companies, more investment from them will help to stimulate the whole of the UK economy. Neither side scored a ‘knock out blow’ on the other and so I suspect that we have to score this, like a boxing match, as a draw. Tomorrow will be an equally eventful day because the announcement is due to be made of the measures that the government are bringing forward to alleviate the hardship of the greatly increased fuel bills. The current rumour mill is suggesting something between 80 and 150 billion pounds. As there are approximately 28.1 million households in the UK then this would suggest that the average households will receive a subsidy (hand-out if you will) of over £4,000 pa. What is interesting is the political reaction to these enormous sums. To the Tory party right (i.e. the present PM and Cabinet) these are loans worth taking out so that as a society, we can survive another huge shock to the system in the same fashion as the pandemic. If the Labour party were to engage in such a policy, no doubt that there would be a lot of talk of there being ‘No Magic Money tree’ or of visiting huge bills onto future generations. The reaction of the city is fairly muted insofar as I can tell – after all, they are always friends with a right wing government and know that huge loans of in excess of £100 billion may well help to bring inflation down by about 4% points. In the next few weeks, if interest rates were to rise to help to combat inflation, this eventually might mean a rise in interest rates that would eventually feed through into higher mortgages. At that point, the reaction of the public may well become critical. I suppose that all we can say is the Government are committed to a wholesale adoption of that is popularly known as ‘supply side economics’ – the ideological position that we need a small state and a liberated and lightly taxed private sector to help to stimlate economic growth. It is possible that all of this might just work – but most economists and political commentators are of the view that the experiment will fail and perhaps, fail spectacularly, particularly if nobody wants to lend us the money any more and we have to approach the IMF for funds.
Today has been a day with some emails in my inbox. So close friends from South Oxfordshire have extended an invitation to visit them and suggested a journey by train. We have worked out some dates suitable for both of us and I have already got some tickets organised, at a good price, as we are talking about a journey in three week’s time, organised through my favourite supplier which is ‘thetrainline’. I communicated with a close family friend of Meg’s Uncle Ken, only to learn that he passed away in the small hours of Sunday morning with the funeral in about three weeks’s time. This was not unexpected and we are pleased that we have taken every opportunity to see Uncle Ken when we can over the years (pandemic permitting). We are hoping to avoid a clash of commitments but we shall just have to wait until we get a firm date for the funeral so that we can book accommodation, apart from other things. Just to complicate matters still further, we are all trying to coordinate days for a get together of our University of Winchester ‘Old Fogies’ so I can foresee a horrible clash of commitments coming up but that’s life, I suppose.