Sunday, 12 October 2008

Ten Days That Shook The World

Hovering on a precipice is never an easy thing to do, at the best of times. When you're a newspaper editor faced with day after day of imminent financial apocalypse, however, it must seem near-impossible.

Staring into the abyss can get a bit monotonous when it's a daily feature of life. After all, there are only so many times readers want to know that their savings in some obscure Icelandic bank have gone down the plug hole. When we've already been told that we're on the brink of disaster, only the actual disaster is 'news'. It must all start to feel as if you're one of those chaps who used to parade our town centres carrying billboards proclaiming that 'The End is Nigh'.

For most of us mere mortals, it's easier to just switch off and watch The X Factor than to try to understand the intricate details of multi-billion pound bail-outs of our financial institutions. Gordon Brown, meanwhile, is demonstrating the kind of firm leadership we all wished he'd shown from the day he became PM. Anyone who was around during the last big market collapse (under the Tories) might be forgiven for feeling more reassured that we have a dour Scot at the helm in these difficult times. I know I am.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Brown seems to have an instinctive grasp of economics, even if his political judgement hasn't always been what it might be - witness his dithering over any number of issues over the past year. Well, now that the chips are down, he's rising to the challenge. I suppose a decade or more of privatisation and deregulation has taught us that the market doesn't always know best and, suddenly, nationalisation doesn't make us feel dirty any more. Still, I can't help feeling that £50billion of taxpayers money shouldn't really be 'injected' into institutions that have hardly demonstrated they can use money wisely. Far better to invest it in some decent, green, infrastructure.

It's not all doom and gloom, however. There are an awful lot of estate agents out there getting very good at Solitaire, I hear. After years of making a mint by doing err... not a great deal, really ... their chickens have finally come home to roost. According to the Daily Telegraph, they're now selling, on average, just one house a week. Such a shame.