Well, Christmas and New Year festivities have come and gone - as they always do - rather quickly and the world has started the year with a few rousing tales.
I’ll start with the Trump/Bannon fiasco. I suppose you could call everything surrounding the White House a fiasco these days but there’s some particularly nasty vitriol being bounced back and forth over quotations by Bannon used in a new book by some chap called Wolff about unpatriotic and treasonous behaviour by Trump’s son during the 2016 election campaign. Inevitably, this involves the Russians and not least a glamorous femme fatale lawyer who his son allegedly tried to encourage in a variety of ways to denigrate the Clinton campaign. Unsurprisingly, Twitter messages have been humming with tasteless and unpleasant comment - but we are not surprised at that, are we ? The tales are exacerbated by revelations of the White House staff being in almost open war amongst themselves over the various and extraordinary things being asked of them - lying being uppermost in their new tasks for the president, whilst Melania Trump (I’m still convinced she’s a doppelgänger) is reportedly almost estranged from the marital home. Add to this Trump’s big red button which he counter threatens North Korea with and we have a picture of a gross and mismanaged administration and a dysfunctional bunch of people playing at being president and entourage.
Angela Merkel in Germany still struggles to hold some sort of cohesive coalition together and that has almost completely removed her from a presence on the European and world stage - albeit temporarily. Given Germany’s economic role within Europe this has alarmed a number of members in the EU bloc who no doubt fear a reduction in contributions to their coffers in the coming months. This perversely puts Emmanuel Macron on the front burner of the stove for a little while at least and despite his domestic problems with unions and a bolshy labour force he is now filling the space Mrs Merkel occupied not so long ago. Monsieur Macron must feel he’s gone to heaven !
Back home we have that oh so predictable NHS crisis filling the newspapers and media reports. How that is being handled is very much an open debate but perhaps it’s not solely to do with cash - it’s just as much to do with how the available money is spent and how it is prioritised. But one thing is sure, the changing demographics of our nation have been ignored, ergo, a rapidly ageing population with more demanding medical needs, and the exponential rise in our population just makes the volume of demand way beyond anything that was planned for. This really shouldn’t have been a surprise to our government - after all, it’s been common knowledge for the rest of us for the last 15 or so years. Therein lies much of our current angst with government - of any political flavour - cutting essential public services without a careful eye on the implications and starving public sector institutions of cash that would galvanise employment almost universally. All in the name of prudent economics. Yet you and I know that the brand of prudent economics bandied about like it is some kind of achievement meriting reward is a fools paradise if no wise and strategic planning on where and how to make economies is conducted. Let’s just slash expenditure everywhere they may chant and if it all goes wrong we’ll just keep on repeating our mantra of ‘getting on with the job and providing strong and stable government’. Hogwash may have been a theme for 2017, but it shouldn’t be one for 2018.