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BREAD AND CIRCUSES
By John Newsome on 21st November 2012


We live in strange times. Never, in the furthest reaches of my imagination did I ever expect to see the words 'Pussy Riot' on the front pages of both the Daily Telegraph and Financial Times and yet, it came to pass. We also live in an age where people are assumed to be increasingly gullible.


During the Olympics, the American swimmer, Michael Phelps told us repeatedly (via Proctor & Gamble's (P & G) blanket advertising campaign) that prior to a race, there were two things he needed. Mmmm... what might they be, Michael? Trunks and a towel, perhaps? No, nothing so prosaic. Phelps' phenomenal haul of medals relied, somewhat surprisingly, upon music and somewhat improbably upon Head & Shoulders shampoo. The latter's importance rested on the belief that it 'washed confidence in'. Oddly, Duncan Goodhew won gold without any hair at all; he'd obviously been using Wash 'n' Go.


Leave aside that it makes no sense whatsoever to wash your hair prior to swimming. However, if it really is performance enhancing, we may yet see athletes stripped of medals having tested positive for Herbal Essences, Pantene and Silvikrin. Anyway, I digress; while Phelps' comments are ludicrous, it should be remembered that P & G is worth the better part of £200bn and knows a thing or two about generating turnover.


As the public is now saturated with 24 hour marketing messages, many of them requiring a common sense bypass, politicians have predictably jumped on the bandwagon. Nick Clegg suggested recently that parents and grandparents might use the tax free lump sum from their pensions to enable their children to buy a property. Let's see... the UK is riddled with insufficient pension provision so let's make it worse by guaranteeing capital to purchasers who cannot afford the asset in the first place. If implemented, this toxic double whammy would further artificially support property prices which would subsequently require a greater proportion of pension pots to aid future buyers. Baldrick was responsible for many a cunning plan but none as dumb as this.


The property pantomime has caused immense damage to the UK economy. The idea that everyone can benefit from an endlessly rising market is moronic but Clegg is not alone in his attempts to curry electoral favour by getting people on 'the property ladder'. The Prime Minister recently launched the NewBuy Scheme which will utilise £1bn of taxpayers' money to enable prospective purchasers to deposit just 5% of the asking price. And the Shadow Chancellor wants to spend the £3bn windfall from the sale of 4G mobile phone licences to build 100,000 houses and, you guessed it, "deliver real help for people aspiring to get on the property ladder”.


It is disappointing that so many of the political class are ignorant of what the UK economy really needs. It's reminiscent of the latter stages of the Roman republic where political power was bought by showering 'bread and circuses' on an increasingly demanding yet apathetic citizenry. It's been said that we get the politicians we deserve; perhaps Winston Churchill was right when he noted "the best argument against democracy is a 5 minute conversation with the average voter".


John Newsome can be contacted on:
01423 705123


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