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Cost of living

Are we set for a Winter of Discontent?

Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Soon after becoming prime minister in 2010, David Cameron said we should measure Britain’s progress “not just by our standard of living, but by our quality of life”. Of course “life is about more than money”, says Charles Moore in The Daily Telegraph. But if our standard of living drops, so does our quality of life. Thanks to Covid and post-Brexit disputes, some goods have become harder to obtain and more expensive. Constrictions on the movement of labour, “and perhaps the desire to go on living on furlough”, have created severe labour shortages. A 1970s-style cost-of-living crisis is on the horizon: “too much money chases too few goods”, so prices rise and inflation returns. The “vast” increase in government spending hasn’t helped.

This could spark a “cycle of trouble”, with trade unions striking so their members’ wages match rising prices. The “triple lock”, which raises the basic state pension by 2.5%, the rate of inflation or average earnings growth, whichever is highest, will go from “dangerously inflexible” to outright unfair if taxes on workers rise. Then there’s soaring energy bills and the “five-figure sums for new heat pumps” meant to address climate change. Quality of life suffers from this “profound instability” – from your house being cold or it taking half a day to charge your car. “All of the above states the obvious. Yet so far this government has not admitted it.”