Martin Bright

Britain: the Coming Crisis

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Do we really have any idea of how serious this is about to become? As I sat watching BBC 2's recesion drama Freefall tonight I realsied that we are beginning to get an inkling. This was a quick-hit drama intended as an immediate response to the recession and it was very rough at the edges, but it showed how quickly the culture has grasped that this getting very grim indeed. It was a conventional enough story of an aspirational family wanting to move to a new private housing estate, but it sent a chill through these bones.

There was a fascinating set of statistics in Nick Cohen's Observer column this weekend, which should send a chill through everyone's bones. I'll leave it to Nick to explain:

"[The government] plans to intervene directly and create a minimum of 100,000 jobs for young people who have been out of work for more than a year via its Future Jobs Fund. However admirable the government's break with supply-side economics is, the assumptions behind it are breathtaking. At the last count, the Department for Work and Pensions said that a mere 7,100 18- to 24-year-olds had been unemployed for one year or longer. Now ministers are quietly predicting that long-term youth unemployment will increase 14-fold.

Obviously, you cannot speculate that long-term adult unemployment will increase by 1,400%, as recessions hit the young disproportionately hard. Equally obviously, the worst of this recession is not over but just beginning."

I sat next to someone on the tube this week and had the sort of conversation I used to have in the late 1980s. I'd met him a couple of times before at the sort of social-political occasions where one's status in society is assumed. "How's things, I said. "Well, I'm between jobs at the moment," he said. "I'm doing some pro bono stuff. Helping people out. But it's quite hard actually." I remembered why I liked him: brutally frank. No pretence. It was unusual because he was so candid about his situation, but it was not the first time I'd had a similar conversation recently.