It must have taken the wind right out of the Chancellor's sails yesterday to have the great "Britain roars back to life" headlines kept off the front pages (beyond the faithful Daily Express) yesterday. A combination of the continuing Savile saga, the latest attempt to demonise those on benefits and the disastrously timed news of Ford closing its Southampton plant and part of its factory in Dagenham with the loss of 1,400 jobs rode roughshod over that heady one per cent growth that saw the UK emerge belatedly from double-dip recession.
But this is much more than a ruined opportunity for positive headlines. Behind each of those job losses, plus the 1,000 Birmingham council workers deemed surplus to requirements, or the 850 shopworkers who recently lost their jobs in my hometown of Croydon when Allders, once the third-largest department store in Britain, closed its doors, is a story of personal and familial heartbreak.
Earlier this week, I wrote of the effect on our high streets from the closure of so many stores, both local and chain. Ask yourselves if you are surprised. Who do you know who is spending a lot at the moment? Who among us does not know somebody who has lost their job recently, and in the unlikely event this is not the case, how many of us fear the same?
In those circumstances, who would feel they are in a position to spend money on anything bar essentials and keep the economy on a growth curve?
Self-evidently, confidence is the key to recovery. Currently, there is precious little of it about. It is elusive and ephemeral, but as we approach the crucial run-up to Christmas, it would be by far the best present anyone could be given.