Blame the babyboomers? Peter Rhodes on the real cause of Britain's problems
PHILIP Hammond will present the Budget tomorrow. He is said to be keen to be remembered as the Green Chancellor. Which means today will probably be the last day that I look out of my window, admire the sleek lines of my old diesel saloon and think: “Yup, that was a smart buy.”
REMEMBER when the Budget used to be a huge secret with everyone in Westminster sworn to keep mum until the Chancellor rose from his seat? These days it is so well (or badly) leaked beforehand that it’s like picking up a book you’ve only just put down. Help for students, more houses to be built, a bung for teachers and the NHS? Didn’t we all read that yesterday?
SO it’s all our fault. Somehow I guessed that the housing shortage would eventually be blamed on us of the privileged, pampered post-war generation. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid says we babyboomers are ‘living in a different world’ when we dare to question the need for millions more houses to be built. Really? Or maybe we live in the sort of world where, when a country’s population has soared from 50 million to 70 million in a single lifetime and is growing at 500,000 a year, we expect the Government to get a grip. Most of Britain’s social, housing and transport problems are the direct result of our soaring population – and yet the Government has no population policy. The problem is not selfish pensioners. It is stupid politicians.
ONE of the greatest marketing triumphs of all time was the issuing of little cards that land us deeply in debt – and describing them as credit cards. If they had been called debt cards, would we have queued up so eagerly to apply for them? I doubt it. You discover their true nature when you use these little plastic things too much and struggle to make the repayments. Without any request from you, the bank will suddenly increase your “credit limit,” which is actually a debt limit. It is the equivalent of throwing a lifebelt to a drowning person, except that the lifebelt is made of concrete. Citizens Advice is today urging the Chancellor to make it unlawful for banks to raise credit limits without the customer’s consent. Good luck with that. Sadly, much of the ‘growth’ (another word for debt) so cherished by every Chancellor is only made possible by chucking an endless supply of concrete lifebelts at the drowning.
THE really big stories, the ones that turn out to be planet-changers, are often the ones tucked away. Like the news that Norway’s huge sovereign wealth fund, founded on decades of North Sea oil and gas, is to reduce its holdings in carbon fuel stocks to guard against ‘a permanent drop in oil and gas prices.’ Behold, the age of drill rigs, pipelines and refineries is ending. The world is changing.
AND as the price of crude oil drops dramatically, we can presumably expect the price of fuel at the pumps to drop dramatically, too. Only kidding.