End of the Beginning

When the London Stock Exchange closed yesterday, it became possible to compare the year-end positions for 2010 and 2011. The FTSE 100 was down 5.6% over the year. Banks fell more sharply. Oil and gas shares rose. The High Street remains in dire straits, partly due to the impact of online shopping, partly due to you know what. This is also the time of year when rents have to be paid, the straw that breaks the Christmas camel’s back.

A year’s data is no better guide to economic trends than to climate change (though 2011 was the second warmest year recorded in the UK, second only to 2006). But the economic data is not other than we might expect. Growth is over, banks are dead in the water, and as the price of fossil fuels rises, so the profits accruing to those who still have them to hand will increase. What consumption survives is much more hard-headed and conscious of costs in the round.

And politics? Well, the choice is no different to usual. Either one of the London parties, all now steaming towards a corporatist merger with big business to protect the interests of the rich and powerful. Or the regionalist alternative, putting communities first, within the context of a world that is fast changing for ever.

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