Tuesday, 6 December 2011


I'm afraid this is a theme I have often returned to, and I will hopefully balance the gloom with a nice piece about us getting through to the knockout stages of the Champions League on Wednesday. But you have to agree that - outside of the Etihad Stadium - things are pretty bloody dismal at the moment!

Christmas is a time for meeting old friends, for taking stock of the year just gone. A time for sentiment and happiness, celebration and indulgence. Is this the gloomiest Christmas there has ever been? Is it darker than the early 40s, when my ancestors huddled around radios, eking out the butter ration and piling coats on the bed as the bombs fell all around? Darker than December 1914, when the Tommies and Fritzes played football in no man's land?

Day after day, ever more dire financial news is poured down on our heads, unrelenting in its intensity. Politicians in Italy are crying as they announce their austerity budgets; the streets are still burning in Greece; the youth of Spain stare at empty, crumbling development sites; and the disabled in this country are (sometimes literally) having their wheelchairs pulled from beneath them as the homes in which we place our old folk are facing financial ruin.

Businesses - many of them well established, sometimes bastions of the world of retail - are going under at alarming rates. Millions strike to defend what little future security they have; and thousands of others, with no labour to withdraw in the first place, turn with blank eyes to the windows of sports and electronics shops - smashing and grabbing for a slice of the pie. There is no money left, and that is what we are told. If Rolls Royce et al can't sell their cars, then every other lamprey - in a sort of sad homage to natural selection - which sucks on the scaly sides of the Silver Ghosts will also go hungry. And very quickly extinct, preserved only in the fossil record of Companies House.

Let us be under no illusion that Miliband, or anyone, will provide a way out of this. As we have seen in Greece and Italy, the markets will have their way, regardless of the 'will of the people', and we can expect no white knight to be allowed to rein in the money men. Hopes pinned on a Chinese Marshall Plan seem futile indeed, and the only glimmer of stimulus comes from sabre rattling at the old Iranian foe. May the Ayatollahs quake at the avenging angel - William Hague - and his cavalry of Euro Fighters!

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