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Strikes, stagflation and Mungo Jerry - just like the 1970s all over
iStock_atlantic-kid_1970s London

Summer nostalgia isn’t what it used to be

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A tortured journey through contemporary Britain prompts a political reverie from our editor at large.

14th Jul 2022
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For some reason the 1970 Mungo Jerry hit In The Summertime sprang into my head this week.

In the summertime, when the weather is hot
You can stretch right up and touch the skyline 
When the weather’s right, you got women
You got women on your mind
Have a drink, have a drive, go out and see what you can find.

What better way to rekindle the sexism, summer heatwaves, sporting failures and economic stagnation of an era when going for a drink and a drive was celebrated in the pop charts? That louche, morally compromised tune makes a perfect soundtrack for Boris Johnson’s retreat to Chequers to lick his wounds and look for a new wedding venue.

Once Parliament breaks up next Thursday for its six-week summer recess, we won’t have Johnson around anymore to host photo opportunities, sorry, cabinet meetings and bluster through prime minister’s questions. Instead, he can turn his attention to booking up his after-dinner speech calendar and enjoying a final few weeks at his grace-and-favour prime ministerial country seat.

For many accountants, too, this summer offers a chance to relax and take things easy for the first time in three years.

Several years ago, AccountingWEB ran a quarterly confidence survey with Bankstream, now part of Intuit. The exercise showed how the profession’s mood ebbed and flowed through the year. After practitioners recovered from their winter slump around self assessment season, we could see their optimism growing as their workloads eased and they started making plans for improvements and renewal.

But the Bankstream Index also revealed how some of those good intentions faded away over the summer as other distractions got in the way and practitioners slipped back into old habits.

Reality bites back

Thanks to the post-Covid flexibility of hybrid working, I got the chance to go out and see what I could find this week by jumping on a train to Edinburgh. Looking out the window at blue skies, lush greenery and ripening summer crops, I felt like I could get a fresh perspective.

It proved not to be such a comforting experience after the trip was disrupted for five hours by a fallen tree in Northumbria. As the time ticked by, our new friends on the train kept spirits up by swapping tales of other hellish journeys they had endured on the country’s underfunded and understaffed transport network.  

Throw in a few strikes, airport chaos, see-sawing petrol prices and a dose of stagflation and all those 1970s memories came flooding back, buoyed by the loping, jug-band beat of Mungo Jerry.

But things are different now than when Britain decided to join the Common Market rather than leave it. A bit like how the heatwave we’re now experiencing is less a source of “Phew, what a scorcher!” jollity and more a matter of existential angst.

Part of the Union

Once we made it to Edinburgh, however, there was some good news for Johnson. At least the prime minister had the support of our cab driver, who was incensed by the Scottish government’s ban on retail sales of alcohol after 10pm: “Boris would let you buy a bottle of wine.”

Elsewhere, the portents were not so rosy for the Union. As Johnson prepares to bow out, he appears to have done more than anyone since Bonnie Prince Charlie to dissolve it.

Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party has won the Scottish Parliament’s support for a new independence referendum and is turning the political screws on Westminster to honour her mandate.

Across the Irish Sea, the Northern Ireland protocol is hanging by a thread. The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill is earmarked as one of the few existing government policies that Johnson is permitted to pursue, and is on the agenda for the committee stage and further readings in the House of Commons over the next week.

But will Tory MPs really vote through this hallmark Johnson measure to rewrite the EU withdrawal agreement before their leadership race is resolved? I’m even curious about how the candidates are so busy burnishing their “more neoliberal than thou” tax-cutting credentials that none of them found the time to mention the protocol.

Sadly what started as a quest to uncover the mood of the nation ended up more like a catalogue of chaos and continuing variations on the breakdown of civilisation as we know it. For a fleeting moment, I can almost feel a little bit of empathy for our soon to be ex-prime minister and his successor.

Replies (28)

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By DavidWinter
15th Jul 2022 09:30

Existential angst is right. 5 degrees hotter than '76 potentially - it's a little bit worrying. I do note aswell that within a certain demographic there are many convenient contrivances, at the heart of which is their memory of the 70's. The 70's and 2008 are etched upon the mind as something that excludes any external forces i.e. it was all labours fault, can't ever trust them again etc. This crisis? It was covid and the war, and it would have been worse without Boris. All the while everything is underfunded for 12 years to the point of not working, companies get a 50% tax cut, and we're herded towards a US system of education and healthcare where you'll be stupid and/or die if you're poor.

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By ColA
15th Jul 2022 09:34

Having left professional office life in 1972 my work cycle alternated through month-end/year-end management throughout my 5-decade careers.
Roles in industry rarely have the luxury of peaks & long troughs and I was never more incensed several years ago when no-one from accountancy practices or a professional body could arrange a 2-hour meeting any time in August within the confines of sunny Sussex.
The real world has never gone away, ‘summertime’ or no summertime!

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By johnjenkins
15th Jul 2022 09:49

OK, John, let me give you my take on what "has happened". This applies to all sectors, not just Accountancy.
When the coalition was formed we had to endure a period of austerity. Towards the end of that coalition things started to come together, albeit slowly. We then had the push for Brexit, which has been rumbling on for a few years. Then, of course in fighting between political parties with a cross current of remainers and leavers. Boris took upon himself to "get it done", which, of course was hurried, which inevitably brings us to this present impasse. Then of course the pandemic, with lockdown. I must admit the first year was exciting and temperate. The second year absolutely destroyed many good business from which there is another 18 months at least to recover from.
Now we come to Mr. Putin and his attack of Ukraine. He may even have the attitude that if I'm going to die I'm going to take everyone with me. Let's hope there are people in the Kremlin that won't let that happen. The signs are all there, West against the East. Perhaps with Boris charm he may be able to calm things down. So there you have it in a nutshell John. Capitalism and Communism aren't working because they have the same outcome. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer in volatile times. Have I forgotten anything? No don't think so. Oops nearly forgot the little thing called MTD.

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By mumpin
15th Jul 2022 10:36

Way before Mungo Jerry, the fish were jumpin and the cotton was high.
Don’t worry about the Union, John. Peak Nat was around 2014 and it was never more than 37% of the electorate, despite what dubious (Nat commissioned) opinion polls might suggest.
N. Ireland is a hangover from T May’s BRINO plan and we are going to have to tell the EU to get stuffed eventually and it wont really matter because they can’t hate us anymore than they already do.
You sound like you need a Boswellesque travelling companion to cheer you up!

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Replying to mumpin:
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By 123nugget
15th Jul 2022 12:06

Yes - I was like that with Brexit. I knew it would never happen. But it did, and it was a gamechanger. Suddenly Scots, who I think tend to be more pro Europe than our friends across the border (except maybe London)- were forced out of the EU against the majority view - Scotland voted no in the Brexit referendum. It might not be as simple as thinking about this through the lense of nationalism - some want the EU back :)

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Replying to 123nugget:
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By mumpin
15th Jul 2022 12:43

If it wasn't for your extensive posting history I would think you were a cybernat...

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Replying to mumpin:
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By 123nugget
15th Jul 2022 12:45

That did make me laugh :)

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Replying to mumpin:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
19th Jul 2022 10:18

I would worry about the Union.

In my experience a fair few who voted against independence in 2014 have now had enough of Westminster. In addition Brexit has shown that economic common sense just does not need to be considered.

37% of the electorate is all well and good but 2014 suggests that with those turning up to vote it is much closer.

In 2014 I actively campaigned against independence, now I certainly would not bother and if the opportunity comes again will ask my kids how they want me to vote and vote accordingly. (And they both now want independence though in 2014 that was not the case)

A lot of younger people(under 40) seem to have had enough and a lot of older voters no longer have votes, I would not be sure of any result.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By Hugo Fair
19th Jul 2022 17:38

Be careful what you wish for (or rather just accept by the sound of it).

It doesn't take much to join the dots between "a fair few who voted against independence in 2014 have now had enough of Westminster" and the earlier "a fair few who voted for membership in 1975 have now (in 2016) had enough of the EU"!

General dissatisfaction, stirred by a few, is not a great basis for long-term policy.

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Replying to Hugo Fair:
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By johnjenkins
20th Jul 2022 09:14

As in the vote for Brexit and indeed most elections, you have a strong core for either side including those that vote for a side just because that's what they do. Then you have the people who can turn something into nothing. The coalition is a classic example of this.
"General dissatisfaction, stirred by a few, is not a great basis for long-term policy."
The Tory party will find out soon just how true that statement is.

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By indomitable
15th Jul 2022 10:48

"That louche, morally compromised tune "

Has the author listened to the lyrics of many contemporary artists?

What a load of 'woke' nonsense!

What is the article about anyway

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Replying to indomitable:
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By Justin Bryant
15th Jul 2022 11:45

Yes; there's an annoying and rather idiotic modern day tendency to try to look right on and ultra woke by criticizing old song lyrics. Recent examples have included the Rolling Stones and some very old song about it being cold outside and I think "Oliver's Army" by Elvis Costello (where people are clearly too thick to understand the concept of context). What next? "Get Back" by The Beatles?

And you're right re contemporary artists - the recent Glastonbury festival had clear viewer warnings about all that.

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By Paul Crowley
15th Jul 2022 12:24

None of the Wokes liked Boris
Just the voters
He turned the tide on a crumbling unpopular government that was making no valid attempt to do what the electorate decided
And chances are that we will never see a landslide of that proportion again
PM4PM is probably their only hope of staying in power.
The other wannabies are just not credible.
Odd really as Biden and Son seem to have survived the evidence of their laptop

Back to UK
I may be wrong but have any allegations been proven in court or admitted? Could this be a bit like the Scottish alex position
Crucify by tabloid and public bias based on accusations, not evidence.
Self referral is defence mechanism no different to me telling the insurance company that a client has complained

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By Jimess
15th Jul 2022 13:13

We are looking at a very busy summer so no Seaside Shuffle for us just yet. It seems that everyone in the west of the country suddenly decides to visit the beaches on the east of the country on sunny Sundays and bank holidays - the result being a several miles long snake of traffic blocking access to residents wanting to go about their daily lives. I'll give the seaside a miss and enjoy the cool shade of my back garden in this upcoming heatwave - much better than sitting in an overheated car in a queue of traffic for four hours.
As for the rest of your article - Boris was voted in with a huge majority and a mandate to get Brexit done. The UK badly needed someone to take control after the dithering and weak bargaining position of the previous prime minister over the Brexit deal. I am terribly saddened at the behaviour of members of parliament across all parties and with the mainstream media over the last few years and particularly over the last few months. A good man's reputation has been sullied for no better reasons than someone else's desire for power and people pushing their own personal agendas. I think Boris deserves some recognition for what he has achieved, it is a sad thing that a person is never recognised for the good they have done, only for the mistakes they have made.

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Replying to Jimess:
By coops456
20th Jul 2022 10:22

Jimess wrote:

A good man's reputation has been sullied for no better reasons than someone else's desire for power and people pushing their own personal agendas.

Seriously?! A good man?
Excluding his offensive "journalism", and his previous ethical and policy blunders as London mayor and Foreign Secretary, and his feckless, faithless philandering and fathering, during his premiership alone we have:

Unlawful prorogation of Parliament; ignoring Ministerial Code; PPE and other contracts going to cronies; repeatedly lying to Parliament over lockdown parties, and being fined by police for breaching his own lockdown rules; ignoring Paterson's lobbying breaches; promoting sexual predator Pincher.

There's a reason that he hasn't been able to keep an ethics adviser... Johnson probably thinks the Nolan Principles are a girl group.

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Replying to coops456:
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By johnjenkins
20th Jul 2022 10:54

Ottawan were better than the Nolans
S.I.O.A.O., S.I.O.A.O.
H.Lel, H.Lel.

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Replying to coops456:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
20th Jul 2022 11:18

Is an Ethics adviser someone from Billericay

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Replying to DJKL:
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By johnjenkins
20th Jul 2022 11:44

And I thought I was scrapping the Baron.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By Hugo Fair
20th Jul 2022 18:51

Only if they've still got a thick furry tongue from their previous night's activities.

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the sea otter
By memyself-eye
15th Jul 2022 14:18

Austin Allegro, Ford Cortina and VW camper parked in a street when there was somewhere to park.

Ahh those were the days....

Not very good days. mind.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
15th Jul 2022 14:49

Sheesh the comment section seem to be sponsored by the Daily Mail today.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
By coops456
20th Jul 2022 10:43

Depressing but hopefully reflective of the ageing constituency.

These rose-coloured specs for the 1970s must be being worn by the straight white males of this parish, since women and minorities could be patronised and ignored with impunity. Those of us within those groups are bloody glad to be living in a different age.

And for those slagging off "wokery", I'm with Kathy Burke: "It's much nicer than being an ignorant f***ing t**t".

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Intercity
By Mr Hankey
15th Jul 2022 16:08

As a keen tower block enthusiast, I can tell you the one in the stock image (right) is Balfron Tower, designed by Ernő Goldfinger, a great example of brutalist architecture.

It also has a sister, Trellick Tower, which looks pretty much the same.

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By Ian McTernan CTA
16th Jul 2022 14:33

Did we run out of accountancy topics this week?

Time to slag off some lyrics, attack the Govt, spout some politically inspired nonsense and show your political hue, and discover John is a 'glass 3/4 empty' type of guy (it's half full, but left wingers aren't good with numbers or facts).

Let's look at:
'Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party has won the Scottish Assembly’s support for a new independence referendum and is turning the political screws on Westminster to honour her mandate.'

Hmmm..last time I checked, the Scottish Assembly is run by the SNP so 'winning the support' is hardly surprising. As for 'turning the screws'...how, exactly? Launhcing a court battle and proclaiming if they don't get their way they will declare the next election a single issue general election in Scotland. Meanwhile back in the real world the majority of Scots would much rather the SNP dealt with the mess they have created in spite of huge piles of cash from the Barnett formula, and there is no mandate to even ask for a refereundum from the scottish voters.

I've no idea why this party political broadcast was published on accountingweb. Seems this platform is going downhill rapidly.

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Replying to Ian McTernan CTA:
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By DJKL
19th Jul 2022 11:00

This is of course no Scottish Assembly, that was the possible outcome of the 1979 referendum. (Scotland Act 1978) which of course never came to pass. (Interestingly if Brexit had been voted for on same basis as 1979 vote, requiring 50% of the electorate, it too would never have come to pass)

There is a Scottish Parliament consequent to the Scotland Act 1998.

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Replying to DJKL:
John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
22nd Jul 2022 10:28

Thank you for pointing that out DJKL. That error was pointed out to me during my visit to Edinburgh and has been corrected in the main text.

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Replying to J P D:
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By Hugo Fair
17th Jul 2022 12:40

If you want to wind-up a traditional 'leftie liberal', play them one of the many Youtube videos of early Thin Lizzy live in concert ... where Phil Lynott invariably uses the same intro:
"Anyone here got a bit of Irish in them? (pause) Well would you like some more? (fnarr fnarr)"

Outraged by the evident sexism, they're unable to say anything caustic because he was a black working-class icon (and from Ireland to boot)!
But it's a cheap way to get your fun - like shooting sitting ducks.

[For those that don't know me, this is evidence of my warped sense of humour - not support for racism, xenophobia or anything meant merely to demean others].

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Replying to Hugo Fair:
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By johnjenkins
18th Jul 2022 09:29

Great innit that these days you have to put a "warning note" on anything you say that you think others of the same mindset might like.
I love the "whatsapp" jokes. Some are really OTT but humerus.

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