The spectre of the Seventies haunts us once again, according to Roger Bootle for the Telegraph - 12.06.22.
With a wave of public sector strikes, beginning with the RMT’s one-day walk out to be repeated on 21st, 23rd and 25th June, is Britain about to slide back into the worst days of Wilson, Heath and Callaghan?
We think of the 1970’s as a uniquely bad period in Britain’s social and economic history. And yet, in comparison with today’s outlook, the figures for the period 1970-79 look remarkably favourable:
“The average rate of GDP growth over this period was 2.6pc, a fair bit lower than the 3.4pc achieved in the 1960s, but exactly the same as the growth rate achieved over the supposedly much better 1980s. By comparison, although economic growth may be 3.5pc this year, it is likely to be under 2pc next year.
What’s more, in the 1970s real wages increased at an annual average rate of just over 2pc. Unemployment averaged 4.7pc, only just a bit above where it is now. Meanwhile, government spending as a percentage of GDP averaged just under 42pc and the tax-take averaged just over 38pc. This compares with 45pc and 38pc today.”
It was the series of crippling strikes throughout the decade which those who lived through them most vividly recall: the miners’ strikes of 1972 and ’74, the three day week in between and the squalor and shame of the Winter of Discontent of 1978-79 which finally ushered in the Thatcher government and brought the Unions to heel.
Is history about to repeat itself?
“You can see clear parallels with the current situation, even though union militancy and price inflation have not reached anything like 1970s levels. There is again a supply-side shock emanating from outside the country which is sending inflation shooting up and squeezing living standards. Again, we face an energy crisis which may yet lead to widespread power cuts.
Moreover, there seems to be a widespread decline in efficiency and in the quality of public services, and the general public is being held to ransom by particular groups of workers. Most notably, there is the same sense of being adrift, with the Government unable or unwilling to take action to stop the slide towards disaster.”
But there is one important difference: back then we had a Labour government. Supposedly we now have a Conservative government. But it looks to be a CINO government – Conservative In Name Only.
The full article can be read here with a link to the original beneath it: