After 20 months of economy-wrecking lockdowns and restrictions, 2019 is fondly remembered as a period of prosperous calm. Memories though, are deceptive. And in the days before we learned what gain-of-function meant, things were not as rosy as they now seem. Although the decade 2009-2019 was officially one of the longest periods of economic growth ever recorded, the rate of growth was anaemic – the media reporting on any quarter with more than 1.0% growth as if it heralded a return to the 1960s. And what growth there was owed more to additional debt than to improvements in productivity. The reality of the post-2008 years was of the mergence of an 80:20 economy in which the majority watched their prosperity evaporate, while a shrinking metropolitan salaried class fought a rear-guard defence of their income and status.
The political dam broke in 2016, with “the revenge of the places that didn’t matter” – aka Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. But few in the salaried class understood the economic decline which had spilled over into the political arena; preferring instead to blame it all on Russian bots. Nevertheless, whether the elites and their salaried lapdogs chose to understand the economic situation or not, the process of decline continued.
In the UK, Christmas 2018 had been the worse on record… until Christmas 2019 rolled around. And whereas Christmas 2018 had seen a big decline in discretionary spending, Christmas 2019 produced the first indicators of a decline in borderline essential spending too. We might choose to regard the humble Christmas pudding as something which can be lived without – although those who lived under Cromwell’s puritanical dictatorship might beg to differ – but a decline in sales – along with those of turkey and seasonal biscuits – points to a nation which was reining in its spending long before SARS-CoV-2 embarked upon the European leg of its world tour.
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