Friday, 12 February 2016

I'd never kissed a Tory - then I married one

A growing number of parents aren't keen on their children finding love across the political divide Credit: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Lucy Mangan in The Telegraph


There is a scene in the eighties sitcom Bread, about the Catholic, working class Liverpudlian family the Boswells, in which one of Nellie Boswell’s sons plans to bring A Homosexual round for tea. “But Joey,” she whispers urgently, “what do they eat?”

Twenty five years later a similar scene played out in my own house when I told my parents I was bringing a Tory home – a boyfriend, for their inspection - except that they would have been happy to feed him anything, up to and including poison.

My mother was an NHS doctor and my father worked in the theatre. Their naturally left-leaning tendencies had been aggravated by Thatcher’s – um, let’s call them deleterious - effects on those two fields and weren’t much improved by their experiences putting two daughters through state school, as our milk, playing fields, books and local education authorities disappeared.


Lucy's left-wing parents were deeply dicombobulated by her Tory boyfriend Credit: Geoffrey Swaine-REX Shutterstock




I didn’t even meet a Tory until I went to university and now here I was bringing one home. I would go on to get engaged, marry and breed with him. My parents would still like to poison him.

In this, it turns out, they are not alone. A new study just out from YouGov shows that the proportion of parents who would be deeply discombobulated by their son or daughter bringing home a partner of a different political persuasion from them has almost doubled in the last eight years.

Among Labour-supporting parents 28 per cent would be “unhappy” and 10% “very upset” by such an occurrence, and nearly one in five Conservative supporters would be upset if their child married a Labour supporter.

You can understand the impulse. Parents (and I speak as one myself now) want their children to be safe and happy and both those things are felt to be most likely found in what you already know. It’s also an impulse that plays into a wider current mood where everything is becoming more tribal. Politics, obviously, has the increasingly spare, ruthless, Conservatism of Cameron and Osborne on the one hand and the (potentially) Stalinist purgative of Corbyn on the other.


 
Political party rosettes.






This mirrors the increased extremism of the Republican and Democratic parties in the US. The social divide between reds and blues over there is almost complete and there is real shock occasioned and stigma attached to any reaching across it – romantically or simply in terms of friendship.

Everywhere there is an increasing drive towards homogeneity, towards only mixing with your own kind. On Facebook we get in touch with old friends, friends of those friends, other people whose interests provably dovetail with ours before they even appear on our feeds.

On Twitter we self-select and then go to furious war with anyone or anything that appears in our timelines with which we disagree.

Life becomes an echo chamber in which we all squat like smug, fat toads until we have to bestir ourselves to fight another battle against incomers, with their nasty new thoughts and their horrible ways. Once they are banished completely we can fall gently into complacent lethargy and never move again.


Arnold Schwarzenegger and his now ex-wife Maria Shriver - Shriver was a Democrat while Schwarzenegger was a Republican. Credit: John Taylor




This is bad in life and worse in marriage. I am still not sure, a decade on since meeting him, whether my husband’s Toryism makes him mad or bad, but it does make him interesting to know. Yes, there are times when I would prefer a more peaceful, harmonious life.

I would like, for example, to be helped with the recycling without having to listen to a diatribe about environmentalism (or “a blend of anti-human, self-praising crypto-paganism that’s gone too far”) or to watch Newsnight without explosions of rage about bias and the “bloated, Byzantine, bureaucratic nightmare that is the BBC” or have our friends round for dinner without at least half of them being served slaughtered sacred cow as the main course.

I would like to be able to give money to people who beg on the streets without my husband rolling his eyes. That one I would like very much.

But it does banish boredom, which is surely one of marriage’s greatest enemies.


 
Different political persuasions in marriage is better than boredom.


Another thing parents should bear in mind when staring down the barrel of a politically-incompatible potential in-law is that he or she might not be as bad as you think. It may just be your left/right bigotry talking. In no other area of life do we cleave as strongly as we do to party political prejudices.

I was raised to believe that Tories ate boiled babies for lunch and kebabbed kittens for fun. Down on the ground though, they are, like the left, a mixed bunch.

Yes, some are, as I was taught, uncaring people who envisage the world as an immutable entity comprising the powerful and the people they tread underfoot, believing they are among the former, especially if they stick close to their friends from school.

But others are drawn to the idea of freedom – freedom to do things, freedom not to do things, freedom to change things, freedom to keep things the same. My husband genuinely believes in the philosophy of helping people to help themselves.

I think this ignores the people who need extra help, but he sees it simply as another way of phrasing the “give a man a fishing rod” principle.
And on we go, slightly less bored, slightly more open-minded perhaps than if we agreed.


 
Both the left and right are far from perfect.


I was raised to believe that the left was perfect. Always protecting the underdog and promoting the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people, especially via fair and sufficient taxation. Publicly-funded fishing rods for all!

In real life, of course, things are more complicated. No-one ever told me, for example, that there is nothing more rigid than the liberal orthodoxy and that sometimes supporting Labour would feel more like attending a religious revivalist meeting than anything else, or that the average liberal reacts to any kind of disagreement as if it were a mortal sin.

Nevertheless, despite these growing disappointments, I will forever remain committed to such splendid ideas as an unprivatised health service, taxing companies according to their profits and to the belief that there are some people who can’t haul themselves up by their own bootstraps and shouldn’t be expected to.

Each side, it turns out, takes all sorts. The left talks a lot of rubbish and so does the right. From the bits that aren’t rubbish, we are all free to pick and choose and, except for the few committed and/or craven ideologues amongst us, we will all probably end up with stuff from each side.

Whisper it, we are probably all a lot closer than we think. Now, if you will excuse me I have a baby to boil and some kittens to skewer in preparation for Valentine’s Day. I’m sure he will be taking the anti-human, self-praising, crypto-pagan bins out for me in return. Compromise, people – it’s everything.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

The Shashank Redemption - Why not make administrators our role models?


ROB STEEN in Cricinfo


By putting a stop to the brief reign of the Big Three, Shashank Manohar has managed to do something that defied criticism © Getty Images


I simply couldn't believe all the filth which came out of their mouths. All day long. And to anyone. It was hilarious but unrepeatable, and because I wanted them to treat me as one of the lads, I accepted it.

You really know how to control a match buddy. It's a f***ing joke.

Two snapshots of sport in 2016, both from Australia, the nation that, some might say, put the "tit" in competitive.

That first reverberant sound bite emerged last week from England wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor, semi-fondly reminiscing about her recent experiences as the first woman to play the highest grade of male club cricket for Northern Districts in Adelaide. Somewhat unsurprisingly, she discovered that her ears and sensibilities were not going to be spared. As Bryan Ferry so eloquently put it, "Boys will be boys will be boys-yoy-yoys…"

The second, decidedly unsound bite came during last month's Australian Open, when that gifted but very naughty overhead smasher Nick Kyrgios hit fresh heights in his impressive assault on John McEnroe's all-time record for sporting officials harangued, abused and ridiculed. Indeed, at the end of the match in question, Kyrgios approached James Keothavong, the latest object of his loathing, and told the British umpire he was "a terrible referee", thus achieving the notable double of being at once searingly honest and hopelessly wrong.

What distinguishes the verbals encountered by Taylor from those delivered by Kyrgios, of course, is that the former occurred during a match that was not covered by the all-seeing, almost-all-hearing broadcasters. What further unites them is that the rules of the respective games, at amateur and professional level alike, empower the enforcers to penalise the offensive offenders. It is in the now-histrionic court of public approval that things get messy.

Naturally, there are those - almost invariably the sort of folk who claim to have first-hand memories of the '60s but were already too old to join in the fun - who will assure you that bad behaviour during a sporting contest is a strictly late-20th-century curse, triggered by the advent of unseemly rewards and the TV-fuelled obsession with personalities and controversy. This is, of course, absolute rot.

For no justifiable reason, playing sport for a living - unlike acting or singing or dancing or painting - means not only having to behave yourself, but being seen to behave yourself.

Ask Colin McDonald. Roused by Mike Atherton's recent contention that Fred Trueman and Brian Statham were England's No. 1 all-time co-manipulators of the new cherry, the dogged former Australia opener recently reflected on the might of Frank "Typhoon" Tyson: "I will never forget the remarks made by my opening partner Jim Burke during the 1959 Adelaide Test after a Tyson bouncer: 'If you bowl another one of those I'll knock your block off with this bat.' 'Will yer?' replied Frank. Not wishing to enjoy being the recipient of a similar delivery, my pleasant rejoinder to Tyson on his way back to his mark was 'Well bowled.'"

In emailing those wincing reminiscences to the Times, McDonald perhaps unwittingly highlighted the preposterousness of what might best be termed the sporting contract - that timeless unwritten constitution that obliges professional sportsfolk to seek victory at any cost but behave like a pre-pubescent Mormon; the same unwritten constitution that simultaneously obliges our competitive artists to remember, above all, that it's only a blimmin' game.

For those who regard ungentlemanly conduct as perpetually indefensible, last week's Under-19 World Cup game between West Indies and Zimbabwe in Chittagong proffered much to get high and mighty about. With one over remaining and the Zimbabweans requiring a further three runs, Richard Ngarava was "mankaded" by Keemo Paul, sending waves of disgust rippling around the planet.

Indeed, it says all too much about cricket's self-deluding self-image that a photograph of the incident made its way onto the English sports pages even though not one of Blighty's nine national daily papers sent a correspondent to the tournament - thus missing the lethally precocious magnificence of Alzarri Shaheim Joseph, a skyscraping Antiguan beanpole who seems destined to put Kemar Roach and Jerome Taylor to shame by becoming the millennium's first great lean, mean Caribbean pace machine.

In principle, this column agrees wholeheartedly with Tony Cozier: the notion of being honour-bound to deliver a pre-emptive warning is more than a little stupefying. For one thing, it's not as if we expect batsmen to stick their hand up and inform the bowler they're about to suddenly take guard the other way round. For another, baseball, cricket's uppity younger brother, has always been more clear-cut: if a runner is caught straying off base while sneakily seeking a head start, he's out and that's it. No ethical posturing or accusations of moral bankruptcy here. In fact, such dismissals are so common they have their own incriminating name: "picked off".



If Ched Evans wins his appeal and is re-signed by Sheffield United, will he be greeted with apologies? © Getty Images


Should we be perturbed that teenagers such as Paul appear to be every bit as prepared as their elders and alleged betters to seek any legitimate advantage available rather than concern themselves with something so nebulous as "the spirit" of the game? The opposite conclusion should be drawn: their priority is to demonstrate that they are capable of making the leap from outstanding amateurs to - at the very least - competent professionals.

For no justifiable reason, playing sport for a living - unlike acting or singing or dancing or painting - means not only having to behave yourself, but being seen to behave yourself. On and off the park. Why rugby flankers or NFL tight ends - whose job is to disrupt the opposition by virtually any means necessary - should be expected to be angels beyond the touchline is utterly beyond this column's ken. Since successful athletes tend to peak in their late 20s, all this column can say is that when it was that age, it was about as mature as day-old cheddar. Then there are the stresses and strains of doing one's job in public, unaided by an editor or body double, never mind in the incessant glare of the octopus otherwise known as the media. Shouldn't compassion be more prevalent than self-righteous, hypocritical indignation?

This is not to say there are not intensely problematic cases. Nor decry the many Sheffield United FC fans - among them the Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill, whose name was removed from a stand at Bramall Lane after she, along with many others, threatened to end their loyalty should the club re-sign the convicted rapist Ched Evans. Nor fault Atlanta Falcons for releasing Michael Vick in 2009 after the quarterback had spent 21 months in jail for running a dogfighting ring. Vick, though, rediscovered his mojo by kind permission of the Philadelphia Eagles. As for Evans, who has always maintained his innocence, his case has been referred to the Court of Appeal. What happens if the verdict is reversed? Would United re-sign him? Would (anti) social media resound with apologies?

"I'm not paid to be a role model. I'm paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court." Thus, in a largely forgotten 1993 commercial, stated the NBA star Charles Barkley, hitting the nail squarely on the head. "Funny how big shots accept all the trappings of role model-dom - especially the residual commercial cash - before they renounce their broader responsibilities to society," retorted Phil Mushnick in the New York Post. Meanwhile, in Sports Illustrated, Barkley's fellow NBA alumnus Karl Malone jabbed hard: "Charles... I don't think it's your decision to make. We don't choose to be role models, we are chosen. Our only choice is whether to be a good role model or a bad one."

Begging to differ was the Boston College sociologist Michael Malec, former editor of theJournal of Sport and Social Issues. "In essence Barkley is correct. If you want to emulate what he does on court, you've got a wonderful model there. That doesn't necessarily mean he ought to be a model as a father or husband."

Time, then, for a radical rethink: if we really must have role models, should we not look to the administrators, the purported adults?
Plainly, suggesting even a tiny proportion fit the bill is tantamount to proposing that the next best option is Robert Mugabe (the current No. 1 global dictator, according to Forbes magazine, just ahead of Bashar al-Assad). Fishing a good guy out of the alphabet soup containing such toxic ingredients as the ICC, IOC, IAAF and FIFA, is akin to locating a needle in the Pacific Ocean.

Tim Wigmore was spot on when he pointed out that, before India - with a little help from their equally greedy, yellow-bellied pals in Australia and England - started muscle-flexing in earnest, the ICC was scarcely a model of enlightened governance. On the other hand, quoting the questionable wit and dubious wisdom of Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama's former chief of staff ("Never let a serious crisis go to waste") was perhaps not the wisest choice.

Emanuel, after all, "seems committed", attested that zealous American scourge of bad sports Dave Zirin, "to win the current spirited competition as the most loathsome person in American political life". As mayor of Chicago, Emanuel demonstrated how the profits generated by spectator sport can distort social values. Having overseen the closure of 54 schools and six mental-health clinics under the justification of a "budgetary crisis", he handed over $100 million-plus to DePaul University for a new basketball arena.

What, then, of Shashank Manohar? In terminating the mercifully brief reign of the "Big Three" with suitable prejudice, he should be feted as the first major sporting administrator in recent memory to do something that defied criticism. Nonetheless, there are no fewer than three Ranji Trophy sides in his own state. As reader Jose P observed in a comment: "The diversity, and complexity of the well-entrenched multiple power centres within the BCCI structure, is a thousand gordian knots knotted into a more complex humongous knot."

Still, let's be generous and optimistic out there: anyone for the Shashank redemption?

Our adoration is killing the NHS. It needs tough love

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian


Archaic demarcations between GPs, consultants and nurses are wasting billions. These have to go
 
Protestors demonstrate during a doctors strike in Oxford. ‘The sheer scale of past NHS mismanagement has been staggering.’ Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters


John Reid, then the Labour government’s health secretary, in 2004 offered GPs a deal that ended weekend and home visits. They could hardly believe it. He also leveraged their average pay to £100,000 a year. People said it would send thousands rushing to accident and emergency. The British Medical Association called the deal “a bit of a laugh”, and the King’s Fund later calculated it added £30bn in costs to the NHS with no appreciable benefit. But no one blamed the NHS. Everyone loved the NHS.

The attempt by Jeremy Hunt, today’s health secretary, to remedy part of Reid’s disastrous reform enjoys no such popularity. There is two-thirds support for the junior hospital doctors in their strike against weekend restructuring.

People may dislike other public services. They see the police as dodgy, train drivers as bolshy, utilities as run by crooks. But the NHS “saved my mum’s life”. So leave the doctors and nurses alone. Just give them money. Give everyone money.

Nothing dents this love. Day after day, the headlines scream of NHS woe. Last month half of all doctors said they offered a worsening service. Eleven thousand heart patients “die because of poor care”. The NHS wastes £12bn on a computer system that “does not work”. One in four hospital staff feels “harassed and bullied”. Three-quarters of them tell care quality commissioners that “patient safety is now at risk”. If the NHS is to the British, as former chancellor Lord Lawson said, “not a service but a religion”, the religion must be juju.

The sheer scale of past NHS mismanagement – of private finance and of procurement – has been staggering. It makes the Ministry of Defence seem a paragon of efficiency. When David Cameron at the 2010 election promised “no more tiresome, meddling top-down restructuring” and then did just that, I realised the NHS was more powerful than him. The beast had to keep reorganising or, like a shark, it would die.

The NHS’s carapace of love has to be its biggest danger. On Wednesday it was revealed that, despite last year’s Francis report on whistleblowing, not a single sacked NHS whistleblower has been re-employed or manager reprimanded. Instead doctors are eulogised for the “daily miracle of saving lives”. This is despite the OECD reporting that they save fewer lives per head than insurance-based health services in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Britain’s record on tracing cancer is dreadful.

Doctors are in the business of saving lives. It is their job. Firefighters are not “miracle workers” for putting out fires, or teachers for getting pupils through exams. Healthcare may benefit from fear of death and disease, and we are rightly appreciative of those who relieve it. But when other professionals such as social workers or carers of the elderly fail, they are publicly excoriated. Why is the NHS immune?

I have intermittently experienced medicine at home and abroad, in public and private sectors. I admit I feel strangely secure in the familiar NHS surgery, with its tired magazines and admonitory notices. It has a wartime air, like a Dad’s Army set, rendering it unpatriotic to complain.

But this is no joke when a friend dies of MRSA, or when a mentally disturbed child is left untended, or when, in my own case, the labyrinthine “referral” system between GPs and hospitals leads to dangerously delayed cancer diagnosis. When I challenged the consultant, he said the opinion of my GP on a particular test was “of absolutely no concern to me”.

Lax professional practices are bad enough in the law, but in medicine they can be fatal. Simple blood tests and check-ups which, in the NHS, take three visits and a month of waiting for results, in the private sector take one visit and 24 hours. A heart scan can take half a day off work in the NHS (and goodness knows what fee to the commissioning practice), but £295 and half an hour at Lifescan.

In the age of the internet and computerised testing, archaic demarcations between GPs, consultants, nurses, pharmacists and technicians make no sense. This is not a matter of ideology, but of restrictive practice. It must cost billions.

Britons love to swap horror stories about the foreign health systems. American care for the uninsured was, at least before President Obama, dire. But the American best puts the NHS to shame, as does care across most of Europe’s insurance or pay-and-reclaim systems. Insurance is not always a cost-effective basis for care, but the private sector delivers so many services more efficiently than the NHS.




Doctors' strike turnout much lower than last time, says Jeremy Hunt



People love to defend the NHS – and attack private provision – through those deadly twins, prejudice and anecdote. The state’s anonymous hospitals and complex staffing systems can be glorious, but they are equally wasteful and demoralising. It is not just Hunt that is driving NHS staff at all levels into the arms of agency contractors, and costing the taxpayer a fortune.

I have never understood why so many self-inflicted “health needs”, such as sports injuries, drunkenness and overeating, should be charged to the state. Some fire brigades are charging for careless callouts. Mountain and lifeboat rescues often request “contributions”. Free at the point of delivery has long been a proud boast of the NHS. But that is policy, not papal doctrine.

The drug companies always made sure “free” did not apply to NHS prescriptions. With demand rising exponentially, supply of care must be rationed by something: if not by some form of payment and insurance, it will be by queueing and quality.Last year it emerged that more than 300,000 patients waited in ambulances for more than half an hour just to get into A&E.

Something is clearly snapping. One day, charging will assuredly come. The maddening thing at present is that it is unnecessary. It is not the NHS that needs reform but the concept of “seeing a doctor” or just getting care. The NHS may not be very good, but it is cheap to the nation. If it got tough with its labour practices and demarcations it could be even cheaper – and far better.

There is nothing wrong with loving the NHS, but it needs to be tough love.

The world can't afford another financial crash – it could destroy capitalism as we know it


A new economic crisis would trigger a political backlash in Britain, Europe and the United States which could drag us all down into poverty




Call this a protest? You ain't seen nothing yet Photo: PAWEL KOPCZYNSKI / REUTERS


By Allister Heath in The Telegraph


They bounce back after terrorist attacks, pick themselves up after earthquakes and cope with pandemics such as Zika. They can even handle years of economic uncertainty, stagnant wages and sky-high unemployment. But no developed nation today could possibly tolerate another wholesale banking crisis and proper, blood and guts recession.

We are too fragile, fiscally as well as psychologically. Our economies, cultures and polities are still paying a heavy price for the Great Recession; another collapse, especially were it to be accompanied by a fresh banking bailout by the taxpayer, would trigger a cataclysmic, uncontrollable backlash.

The public, whose faith in elites and the private sector was rattled after 2007-09, would simply not wear it. Its anger would be so explosive, so-all encompassing that it would threaten the very survival of free trade, of globalisation and of the market-based economy. There would be calls for wage and price controls, punitive, ultra-progressive taxes, a war on the City and arbitrary jail sentences.





Two men walk along the road to Los Angeles in 1937, during the Great Depression





For fear of allowing extremist or populist parties through the door, mainstream politicians would end up adopting much of this agenda, with devastating implications for our long-term prosperity. Central banks, in desperation, would embrace the purest form of money-printing: they would start giving consumers actual cash to spend, temporarily turbo-charging demand while destroying any remaining respect for the idea that money needs to be earned.

History never repeats itself exactly, but the last time a recession was met by pure, unadulterated populism was in the Thirties, when the Americans turned a stock market crash and a series of monetary policy blunders into a depression. President Herbert Hoover signed into law the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, dreamt up by two economically illiterate Republican senators, slapping massive taxes on the imports of 20,000 goods and triggering a global trade war. It was perhaps the most economically destructive piece of legislation ever devised, and it took until the Nineties before the damage was finally erased.

That is why we must all hope that the turmoil of recent days in the financial markets, and the increasingly worrying economic news, will turn out to be a false alarm. It would certainly be ridiculously premature, at this stage, to call a recession, let alone a financial crisis. But at the very least we are seeing a major dose of the “dangerous cocktail of new threats” rightly identified at the turn of the year by George Osborne, a development which will have political repercussions even if the economy eventually muddles through.

Investors in equities, including millions of people with private pensions and Isas, have already lost a fortune; they won’t be too happy when they begin to realise the extent of the damage. Growth is slowing everywhere, and the monetary pump-priming of the past few years is looking increasingly ineffective. Traders believe that interest rates won’t go up in Britain until 2019, and there is increasing talk that negative interest rates could become necessary across the developed world, further crippling savers.

No positive spin can be put on any of the latest developments. Banking shares have taken a beating; China’s slowdown continues; Maersk, the shipping giant, believes that conditions for world trade are worse than in 2008-09; industrial production slumped in December, not just in Britain but more so in France and Germany; energy prices are devastating Middle Eastern and Russian economies; and sterling has tumbled.

It is always a sure sign that panic has broken out when financial markets respond badly to all possible scenarios. The prospect of higher interest rates? Sell, sell, sell. A chance of lower rates? Sell, sell and sell again. A rise in the price of oil is met with as much angst as a decline. The financial markets remain addicted to help from central banks: they are desperate for yet more interventions, regardless of the consequences on the pricing of risk, the allocation of resources or the creation of unsustainable bubbles that only enrich the owners of assets.

This is exactly the tonic that the populists have been waiting for. Despite their dramatic emergence, they have so far failed to make a real breakthrough. The SNP was unable to win the Scottish referendum and the National Front didn’t gain a single region in France. Mariano Rajoy remains Spain’s prime minister, and anti-establishment parties have been thwarted in Germany. Even lighter forms of populism, such as Ed Miliband’s, were rejected. Syriza’s victory in Greece was one of the few genuine populist triumphs; but it was soon crushed by the combined might of Brussels and Frankfurt.






The Republican presidential nominee often proclaims that his presidency will make America a "great" country again

This could be about to change. The fact that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both won their respective New Hampshire primaries is certainly one remarkable indication of the state of mind of many US political activists. Any economic relapse would help Marine Le Pen’s chances in next year’s French presidential election, and further undermine Angela Merkel’s sinking popularity in Germany.

But it is in Britain that the immediate impact could be the greatest. The Brexit debate is already being overshadowed by the migration crisis, undermining the Government’s attempts at portraying a Remain vote as a safe, low-risk option; a sustained bout of economic volatility would further ruin the pro-EU case, especially given that the eurozone, rather than the City, is likely to emerge as one of the epicentres of any fresh crisis. It would be hard for bosses of large financial giants to credibly tell the electorate to vote Remain when their own businesses are in crisis.

Britain will noticeably outperform the EU this year: our labour market remains strong and our banks far better capitalised than many of their eurozone competitors, too many of which are still sitting on massive amounts of bad debt. The Chinese slowdown is worse for Germany than for us. But while the Eurosceptic cause to which some of us are partial is likely to benefit from the turmoil, it would be madness for anybody who cares about this country’s future to feel anything but dread towards the economic threats facing the world. The sorry truth is that there is very little that governments can do at this stage, apart from battening down the hatches and hoping that central banks succeed in kicking our problems even further down the road.