2017 will of course be remembered as Year 1 of a deceitful, authoritarian, racist, misogynous US President. But it is also inspirational for a global women’s uprising, launched in the UK with the London Women’s March in January.
The economic surprises of 2017 were the strength of the global cyclical upturn including in the Eurozone (but whose deeper flaws will resurface in the next sharp downturn). Only the UK economy lagged behind – though maybe not as far as many Remainers expected.
A lost opportunity for the UK economy was the Chancellor’s November budget, a masterly exercise in inertia just when Brexit uncertainty, austerity and ongoing economic weakness meant strong action was called for. The Chancellor ignored a broad political consensus to end austerity. Faced once more with falling average real wages (down each month since January) and the lowest investment rate in the G7, the Chancellor delivered a non-Budget. Austerity will grind on, weakening our economy as it goes through Brexit stress, and tearing the social fabric. The challenges of climate change are left untouched, where not made more acute.
The poorest still have their benefits frozen while Brexit-fuelled inflation rises over 3%. The public sector pay curb remains in all but name. Thanks to the political cowardice of this government, cuts and pay curbs are largely decentralised so that local government politicians and NHS staff take the flack. Employment numbers have grown but more slowly (1% up). That is the flipside of our low investment, low productivity, low-wage economy, deliberately designed that way by politicians lacking in integrity, vision and ambition.
If the government is not replaced by Labour in 2018, we can expect more of the same.