Oh dear. It's not looking good. The economy has practically ground to a halt. So has the economy in France, and Italy, and Germany, and let's not even mention Ireland and Greece. We're all cutting, cutting, cutting, but when everybody's cutting and nobody's spending, you might be cutting your debt – you have to cut your debt – but you're not getting any growth. Which means that more and more people are losing their jobs, and there aren't enough new jobs to replace the jobs that are lost. Which means, in other words, that you're caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.
It seems to be taking quite a long time for us, and Europe, and America, and the world, to recover from the longest recession since the Great Depression. In the three years since the sub-prime time bomb exploded on the Western world, and some bankers walked out of skyscrapers with the contents of their desks in cardboard boxes, and other bankers got their jobs, and very nice salaries, and very nice bonuses, paid for by the taxpayer, our economic recovery has been only a tiny bit better than in the three years after the Great Depression. But it looks, according to people who study these things, as though the next phase of recovery is going to be slower. It looks, according to some of these people, as if there might not even be a recovery. What there might be instead is a long-term slump.
If there's a slump, or even if there's just no growth, what there will be is more and more people losing their jobs, and more and more people losing their homes, and more and more people having their pay, and pensions, slashed. What there will be is more and more depressed people, and more and more ill people, and more and more young people without hope of a future. This is what's quite likely to happen even if the euro doesn't implode, and we don't have to keep bailing out other countries. It's what's quite likely to happen even if you don't think about the fact that people are living longer, and need pensions for longer, and are getting fatter, and will need more medical treatment, and even if you don't think about the fact that almost everything we used to do can be done much more cheaply in the East.
You can see why, if you were in charge of a country's economy, and particularly if you were taking a very big chance with a strategy that some people said was right, and some people said was wrong, and a lot of people's jobs, and homes, and health, depended on you getting that strategy right, you might bite your nails. You can see why you might look, as the longest-serving chancellor in modern history often did, as if you hadn't had a good night's sleep in 20 years. But it's quite hard to see why, if you were the chancellor of a country that the OECD said would be lucky to get growth at 1 per cent, you'd turn up at an awards ceremony and make jokes about the pages of the magazine being stuck together, because you thought its readers would only read it with one hand. It's quite hard to see why you'd make jokes about politicians being, like those readers,"w***ers".
George Osborne, who did give a speech like that at the GQ awards on Thursday night, seems very relaxed about his job. So does his boss, whose baby face is, after 16 months of being responsible for the hopes of 62 million people, as smooth and shiny as the day he started. So do most of the members of the Cabinet, who wake up every morning and have to think about things like how do you solve a housing crisis when there isn't any money to build more houses, and how do you solve unemployment, when there isn't any money to create any jobs, and what do you do about a "feral underclass" when there isn't any money to give them support, and how can you be "tough on crime" when sending people to prison only makes them commit more?
It's hard to know exactly what kind of person would want to take on a job like this, and would do it without thinking it was all that big a deal. But there does seem to be one little clue. You can see it in the photos. They're nearly all male.
Yes, we know that it's not all that easy to breastfeed a baby in the House of Commons. We know about the hours, and we know about the braying. But there's a much bigger reason why men go into politics and women, for the most part, don't. It's because men seem – and the studies back this up – to be hardwired for something called "problem solving", and they seem to want to do this even when it's not at all clear that the problems can be solved.
We should, I suppose, be grateful that someone will take them on. Some of us get into a terrible tizz just trying to think of things to tell other people to do. Some of us lie awake at night, worrying that we might make fools of ourselves by saying something stupid. Something that will have no impact whatsoever on anyone's life, or job.
Someone's got to do it, and I suppose it doesn't really matter whether or not they're male. But there's something about all these smiley, joky men that makes me nervous. Perhaps it's because I'm a woman I think it doesn't matter if you think you're right, or if you can look as if you think you're right. Perhaps it's because I'm a woman I think I'd feel less nervous if you sometimes looked as though you worried you might be wrong.Reuse content