(Economist) Almost nothing seems to be working in Britain. It could get worse

In southampton 20-odd people are picketing Red Funnel, a ferry company that carries people to and from the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England. The strikers complain about their pay and treatment. But they are most exercised by the rapidly rising cost of living. One young woman says that she went into debt to attend a friend’s wedding. A man describes watching his electricity meter in horror, knowing that a big bill is coming. “Everyone’s just had enough,” he says.

The sun pours down on the strikers. Britain as a whole has had a hot, dry summer; southern England extremely so. A weather station west of Southampton recorded no precipitation in July—the first zero monthly reading since it began operating in 1957. On August 5th Southern Water, the local supplier, banned residents from watering their gardens or washing their cars with hoses. Other water companies will follow.

It has not been a long, hot summer in the American sense—the country has thankfully seen no large-scale disturbances. Instead it is a season of drift and dysfunction. Dry weather has combined with inflation, industrial disputes, transport snafus and political paralysis. As Michael Gove, until recently a cabinet minister, admitted last month, parts of the state are barely functioning. It is Britain’s summer of discontent.

For the middle-aged and old, the inescapable comparison is with the summer of 1976. That year saw a lower peak temperature but a worse drought—in parts of Wales the water was turned off every day at 2pm. It was also a period of high inflation, industrial unrest and political turmoil: the prime minister, Harold Wilson, had unexpectedly resigned in the spring. The weather fused in people’s minds with other problems. Bernard (now Lord) Donoughue, a political adviser, lay awake at night, “too hot to sleep”, worrying about the pound….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, England / UK, History, Politics in General