Shortages. Inflation. Maybe we should all hibernate until spring 2022!

Containers at Felixstowe

A shortage of HGV drivers has led to an increase in the number of containers that are stored at Felixstowe. - Credit: The Port of Felixstowe

If the national reports are right, we're in for a pretty difficult winter with shortages and raging inflation in the energy sector. It will be interesting to see how that affects the government's popularity!

Because frankly the response we've had from ministers to the growing sense of crisis has been pretty shoddy - ranging from blindingly complacent to grossly tasteless by trying to treat the whole thing as an enormous joke.

And yet according to the opinion polls this hasn't really harmed the government's national popularity which seems extraordinary given the incompetence we've seen - and must be worrying for the Labour opposition.

After all, if they can't be leading in the polls now, when ARE they likely to be ahead?

The origins of the current crises we're facing are many and varied - but all could be seen coming from a long way out. That is my real gripe with ministers - a total lack of planning.

Some people blame Brexit for the labour shortages seen in the haulage industry, the country's abattoirs. and in the fields of fruit and vegetables where crops could be left to rot.

It is clear that Brexit is a major factor - making it difficult for hauliers, food processors and farmers to recruit the European members of staff that have been their mainstay for years.

But it isn't the only issue - there have been labour shortages in other countries on the continent that are members of the EU, although their problems have been nowhere near as serious as they are here.

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The fact is that Covid-19 and the restrictions on travel around the continent have also had an effect - but by then adding further limits on immigration it is making life doubly difficult for UK employers.

What is interesting is that government ministers seem to have factored these problems in and decided that the electorate would rather have fewer Lithuanian abattoir workers even if that does mean they might not have a turkey for Christmas.

That was then backed up by Norwich North MP and junior minister Chloe Smith on the BBC a couple of weeks ago who pointed out that British voters have voted for Brexit because they didn't want uncontrolled immigration and if shortages were a result of that then so be it.

What I find irritating about this is that at the time of the referendum, the Remain side did point out that shortages were likely if we didn't have free movement - which merely prompted cries of "Project Fear!" from Brexiteers, including the current Prime Minister.

Now they're absolving themselves of responsibility for these shortages by saying: "It's what the British people voted for."

Yes it is, but only after the British people were told by YOU that they'd be no shortages!

The other appalling thing we are seeing is the lack of support or even understanding shown by the government towards those caught up in these shortages.

Boris Johnson, being interviewed at the Conservative Party Conference, seemed to think it was funny that people were upset because pigs were facing culling without entering the food chain.

Pigs in Suffolk

Boris Johnson's comments about the crisis in the pig industry has angered many farmers. - Credit: SARAH LUCY BROWN

"I hate to break it to you, but the food business does involve killing pigs," he told an interviewer. That's true, of course, but what was angering farmers (and many others) was that a valuable food resource was being thrown into the ground without providing an income or helping to feed us.

His response was crass and showed a total lack of respect for an important industry. It takes a lot to put the farming industry off the Conservatives - but he managed to achieve that!

Then we had the ludicrous spat between Industry Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and Treasury over talks about support of industries that use a lot of gas - with Treasury officials effectively accusing Mr Kwarteng of being a serial liar.

Again that would have been quite funny had not so many people's livelihoods depended on it.

And if I hear one more time that the government is trying to drive workers' wages up, I think I'll scream - all they appear to want to do is stoke inflation.

If you are going to attract more lorry drivers/fruit pickers/abattoir workers by paying them more (even though some are quite well paid already) how are employers going to afford to pay them more?

By putting up their prices. And who has to pay these increased prices? Those of us who were around in the 1970s know all about inflation!

We are now seeing ministers and officials running around like headless chickens, but not apparently pulling in the same direction. But as long as no one goes on TV to tell the British people not to panic I suppose we should be all right in the end!



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