Turning point… or more of the same?

The soaring cost of living could soon be more of a worry for the Conservative government than the pandemic or Johnson's blunders. That's the main point in Jim's wide ranging look ahead to 2022.

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The Pandemic and Johnson

It is two long years since the Chinese city of Wuhan loomed into our consciousness as the pandemic broke out. For two years we have been able to talk of little else in relation to our family life, our businesses, our politics.

We are all so fed up with it that it is everyone’s prayer that the Omicron variant is the last. However, one has a nagging fear that it won’t be.

Let’s work on the optimistic assumption that we will be able to return to normal later this year and manage Covid-19 like the many other viruses that afflict, but don’t overwhelm humanity.

That is the fervent wish of the Prime Minister who has found it difficult to display his swashbuckling libertarian style while telling people to stay at home. It is difficult to believe that he will make so many crass mistakes this year. If the pandemic retreats, he will be thanked for the spectacular vaccination programme and resisting tight lockdown demands. People won’t forget the illegal parties in Downing Street and the hypocrisy of the people involved, but voters will have other things to concern them.

THE ECONOMY STUPID

Chief among these will be the cost of living. Inflation could be at 6% by Easter, the highest since John Major’s time. Soaring energy costs will be a huge challenge for business and domestic customers. National Insurance is due to go up 1.25% shortly with the Chancellor indicating he’s not for turning on that or in favour of removing VAT on energy bills.

It could all mean the average family £1200 worse off and that would spell trouble for any government. Let alone one lead by a man like Boris Johnson. His boosterism will seem misplaced with food banks growing and people having to choose between eating and heating.

Business will also be wrestling with the full effects of Brexit. Trade has already slumped with the EU and mountains of form filling await those still brave enough to trade with our near neighbours. What a joke Brexit is!

The North also awaits with less than bated breath the White Paper on Levelling Up. This concept has now become the butt of jokes. Perhaps the new Secretary of State responsible for devolution, Michael Gove, can put some flesh on Johnson’s skeleton.

LOCAL POLLS

The local elections will be more important for Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer than Boris Johnson. Governments are expected to take a beating midterm, but so far Labour’s local election performance in opposition has been patchy. Starmer needs thumping victories to bake in the modest lead in the opinion polls he has belatedly achieved.

In the North West such gains are going to be difficult to demonstrate as the party is in control of most councils after 12 years in opposition. Labour will want to take full control of Bolton, Wirral, Burnley, and West Lancashire and win the all-out election for Cumbria. The county is then expected to be split into unitaries on which the elected councillors will serve.

Liverpool will have no elections this year pending a full shake up of voting arrangements next year.

THE WORLD

President Macron has begun his election year in France by saying he wants to p… off people who aren’t vaccinated. An interesting start. He’ll probably win as the runoff is usually against a neo fascist.

I’m worried about the usual issues around Russian and Chinese intentions but more so by the United States. It is quite possible that Republican victories in mid term elections in November will leave Biden as a lame duck. More importantly the Republicans coming into Congress will all be Trump supporters still denying the 2020 result. Happy New Year!

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