Sunday, 16th October, 2022

[Day 944]

For the last few days, we have had a good start to the day with clear-ish, blue skies and an absence of wind. I got up early and went off to collect the Sunday newspapers after which we had our normal cereal-based breakfast whilst we watched the Laura Kuennsberg show. This generated no real surprises as the new Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, reiterated his by now well rehearsed script that the previous government had done well in helping consumers with their energy bills but had made two enormous mistakes in their dash for growth. Those with long political memories may recall that other Conservative Chancellors have also attempted a ‘dash for growth’ and these attempts have nearly always ended in failure. It may well be that the Brexit-loving and libertarian right who have taken over the modern Conservative party have not read enough of our own recent economic and political history and hence it is not surprising that classic mistakes are being repeated. William Keegan, the economics commentator, has indicated that ‘the ghosts of British economic crises past are raising their spectral heads. Memories are being evoked of the ill-conceived and ill-fated dashes for growth under Conservative chancellor Reginald Maudling in 1962-64, Anthony Barber in 1972-74 and my old friend Nigel Lawson in 1988-89.’ These sentiments were also enunciated by a prominent Tory, Robert Halfon, former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party and an education minister under Theresa May, who said he believes Liz Truss needs to apologise to the public for the economic turmoil caused by the mini-budget three weeks ago. He told Sophy Ridge on Sky News ‘I worry that over the past few weeks the government has looked like libertarian jihadists and treated the whole country as laboratory mice on which to carry out an ultra-free market experiment’.

After breakfast, Meg and I made for the park where we met up again with our two park friends, Seasoned World Traveller and our University of Birmingham friend and we shared a coffee together as we could sit around a table on the terrace outside the park’s cafe. We wondered collectively whether Jeremy Hunt’s announcements would serve to calm the city jitters when the stock exchange opens tomorrow morning. Two of us thought that Hunt’s announced measures and promises to ditch even more of the Truss budget might do the trick but one of us thought that this was unlikely. We will find out tomorrow morning who is correct but certainly the next few days are going to be critical. At the end of the day, though, if we are going to fund some part of our budget by borrowing, then we have to convince those who lend us the money i.e. international investors, that we are a good proposition. Another factor to be borne in mind is the operators on international stock markets have no loyalty to anybody except themselves so if it is worth their while to speculate against the pound, no doubt they will do it. As long as the markets are moving either up or down then somebody can make some money out of it. After we had discussed economics and politics, we turned our attention (goodness knows why) to the modern rifle and when the notion was first developed that the accuracy of both bullets and guns could be radically improved by adding a degree of spin to the bullet which is what, I believe, the modern rifle does. It looks as though it was during the American War of Independence that it was realised that a more accurate weapon could kill British commanders and this was a more efficient use of firepower. Not being particularly interested in militaria, I will leave this debate for those who are interested in such matters.

Meg and I lunched on one of those ‘spatchcocked’ chickens that are split open and laid out on a tray that you just have to put into the oven, which we did whilst we were out. Then we lunched on that before setting down to watch the World Cup rugby match between Italy and Scotland. Italy proved to be the better team and nearly completed the whole of the match without having a try scored against them. In the event, though, this match did not hold our attention as much as the match of yesterday when England overwhelmed Samoa so I may need to be a bit more selective about which of these contests I watch in the days ahead.

A UK spy chief is reported as saying that in the conflict in the Ukraine, Russia is losing ‘staggering’ numbers of both men and materials. This may or not be the case but I well remember the sage words of the Labour minister, Denis Healey that ‘in war, the first casualty is truth’ Of course, this was particuarly true of the Iraq conflict and probably the number of losses on the Ukrainian side are likely to be under-reported. Nonetheless, there are now quite a constant drip of stories indicating how ill-prepared and under-motivated the soldiers are on the Russian side, so it might be that before the winter starts to bite in Northern and Central Europe that the Ukrainians are starting to turn the tide.