Being a student of the past, I have often argued with people when they say that history doesn’t repeat itself.
Now, it is true that events will not be replicated exactly but we can cite parallels that bear an unerring similarity. Currently it is the reporting on many channels of the return of the ‘feel good’ factor, return of ‘confidence’, the ‘turning of the corner’ ad nauseam.
Of course, during a General Election, these are precisely the factors that politicians will either seize on if they are in government, or dismiss as being irrelevant or too little, depending on the colour of their rosette. But let us concede that we are in the home run of an intriguing General Election campaign that is a close call with all sorts of outcomes still in the hat. That lies in the hands of the electorate, or those who have bothered to register.
Look beyond 7 May and we have to ask ourselves what will occur. The fact that 5,000 small business leaders put their names to a letter in The Daily Telegraph supporting the policies currently being pursued by the Conservative Party does not seem to have caused a massive impact on the opinion polls. In fact, closer analysis seems to show that the inaccuracies and withdrawals may well have injured the cause.
What will be more telling are the apparent signs of a slowdown in the economy that comes from two reports this week from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Confederation of British Industries (CBI).
In its findings, the OFT figures show recovery should not be taken for granted. GDP was estimated to have increased by 0.3% in Quarter 1 (January-March) 2015 compared with growth of 0.6% in Quarter 4 (October-December) 2014. However, GDP was 2.4% higher in Quarter 1 (January-March) 2015 compared with the same quarter a year ago.
Despite all the cranes you see sprouting up in London, construction fell by 1.6% and overall production by 0.1%.
The recovery in British manufacturing continued in the three months to April but in its report, the CBI warns that ‘the pace of growth eased and export orders growth remained sluggish’.
As with all reports, there is a time lag to be taken into account and predictions can be notoriously inaccurate with revisions all too frequent. What should always be stressed is that the last thing to be welcomed is forgetting the past, especially when it has been as painful as the recent recession.
There is a term for this – ‘social amnesia’. Two quotes for this are:
‘To ignore history and precedent when responding to the present or informing the future. Discarded ideas are repackaged; meanwhile, the expectations for these practices remain the same.’
‘Fits of social amnesia after difficult or trying periods can sometimes cover up the past, and fading memories can actually make mythologies transcend by keeping them impervious to challenge.’
This is the main worry for the country – as it has so many times before – we tend to suppress the unpleasant memories and then throw our collective hands up in horror when they occur again. When you hear a politician saying to you: “No more boom or bust”, or anything similar, run a mile.
Caption Bloomin’ rosettes and pledges but none of them can promise sustained growth without acknowledging those dangerous decisions from the past.