We’re getting poorer

We are all getting poorer by the day.

Who says so? Matthew Parris, Times columnist and one-time MP does.

He should know. He’s well-connected. He seems to understand the powerful forces stopping us getting richer the way we used to.

After all, his dad was an electrical engineer in what we used to call the Empire. Later, we called it the colonies. Now it’s “other people’s countries.”

Anyway, the young Parris got to watch the run-up to the global peak of energy and resource extraction from a front-row seat.

His dad wired up South Africa, Cyprus, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Jamaica. It was the high point of the 19th and 20th centuries’ development tube. We put fossil energy in one end. Wealth and consumption (and hundreds of millions of consumers) came out the other.

Now it doesn’t work so well. Net energy is going down. Someone’s got to lose. Most days it’s those of us in the richest part of the world.

Mr Parris thinks that we Brits are handling this very well. After all, we’ve been doing decline as an international power for 100 years.

“All’s well with our democracy; all’s well with our politics,” he wrote on Saturday. “We’re skint, that’s all.”

All’s well? Really? In an country that’s still got a long way to fall before it stops being a consumer economy, skint consumers are of little consequence to their rulers.

Today our old Etonian prime minister will call for wartime-scale abandonment of checks and balances on messing around with our built and natural environments.

He’ll say it will get Britain growing. He’ll tell the people that they need to get out of the way.

How did that work after WWII? City centres were ruined and areas like the Mendip hills were handed over wholesale to quarrying.

Wartime rules that stayed in force for several years after the war meant that ‘people’ had no say. They often knew nothing until it was too late.

We’re starting to find out what getting poorer is really all about. There’s a lot more to it than voters merely putting up with being skint without starting riots.

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