Monday, March 1

Spring at last

Tomorrow is the first official day of Spring. The daffodils and snowdrops have started sprouting. I’ve even noticed buds on some trees starting to swell. These milestone couldn’t come soon enough. Winter has been particularly wearing this season. As recently as this week we soldiered through yet another bout of rain and sporadic snow flurries. On the home front, Garry has come down with a debilitating chest cold and I’ve been working extra-ordinary hours covering for staff on leave and senior vacancies we’re currently filling. With all this happening around me, I’m beginning to truly appreciate the psychological impact of the seasons on Britain life.

Thirty years ago, during the last winter as cold as the current season, civil unrest and union strikes crippled the nation. This infamous Winter of Discontent eroded confidence in the Government of the day, paving the way for the General Election that ultimately brought Margaret Thatcher to power in May 1979. History seems set to repeat itself as the nation’s major parties prepare for another General Election. The winter’s been harsh and current economic conditions are almost a bleak.

This week the Office for National Statistics revised last quarter’s GDP growth figure from 0.1% to 0.3%. In any other year this would have been positive news. However, the Pound’s value fell during the week as fears grow that GDP will contract again during the first quarter of 2010. This so-called double-dip recession is a distinct possibility for many reasons.

January’s foul weather hit retail sales hard as people stayed home. The pound has fallen again in value making basic imports, including petrol, more expensive. At the same time, VAT (goods and services tax) has returned to its pre-recession rate of 17.5% and several other Government stimulus policies have come to an end (including a stamp duty ‘holiday’ on house sales and rebates for scrapping old cars). Finally, factor in the dampening sentiment of a pending election, and you can understand why most economists think economic growth will be subdued at best.

Roll on Summer!

I came across these wonderful images of our Winter. While it’s been harsh and relentless, the nation has experienced some incredible scenes. Take a look.

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