Interest rates are going up, unemployment is going up, so too are taxes and domestic fuel bills. Little wonder that Britain's feel-good factor is down in the basement. Nationwide's consumer confidence index fell to its lowest-ever level in August, a drop of 17pc from where it was only 12 months ago. A quick recovery looks unlikely.
The building society's survey of 1,000 customers reveals that one third of us believe that the economy will deteriorate even further over the next six months.It's not just that summer is over – the long haul to Christmas starts here, and we've all got back-to-work blues.
The principal causes of people's gloom are very real. Worries about jobs, rising mortgage payments, fears over mounting violence in the Middle East and domestic terror plots are undermining our sense of well-being.
A BBC poll found that nearly half of us think this country is a worse place to live than it was 20 years ago. Issues such as crime, immigration, overcrowding and the high cost of living are a burden on our collective spirit.With its dodgy accounting and false promises, the entire New Labour Project looks increasingly like a political version of Enron: temporary prosperity, built on an illusion.
Enron fell apart when its true numbers emerged from a miasma of mystery. As the roof caved in, its directors, desperate to avoid blame, turned on each other viciously. Labour is already suffering the same fate.Gordon Brown's appetite for self-approbation – talking up his own talents – worked for a while.
But the bubble has popped; he's been well and truly rumbled.For instance, the unemployment numbers do add up, but not as he would wish. The total of those claiming various out-of-work benefits has risen to more than five million, one sixth of Britain's working-age population."Hello, hello, Mission Control calling Flash Gordon." To paraphrase Lyndon Johnson, your economic speeches now have the same effect as you wetting your pants. They may seem hot to you, but they don't to anyone else.
Under Labour, Britain's growth rates have been shored up, not by genuine outperformance, but by a combination of government profligacy, covert welfare dependency and reckless consumer borrowing.The extent to which Brown has fixed his figures with the glue of other people's misery was reinforced this week, when Debt Free Direct, the company which helps over-stretched borrowers, said that its profits would exceed City forecasts of £10m by at least 10pc.
Debt Free Direct specialises in individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs), which allow hopelessly indebted consumers to strike a deal with lenders to repay only a percentage of what is owed.Banks and credit card issuers see many of their customers drowning and take the view that getting back something is better than nothing.Debt Free Direct processed more than 1,500 IVAs in the quarter May to July – an increase of nearly 200pc on the same period last year.
Shares in the company have all but tripled in the past 12 months to about 500p.Not only has Brown not eliminated boom and bust, he's engineered conditions where they exist side by side.When trading Enron shares, the trick was to sell at the right time. As mug punters were being herded in, those in the know – the smartest men in the room – were piling out.Street-wise dealers gambled on put options, which enabled them to force less savvy investors to buy their Enron shares at high prices – well after the rot had set in.
This, in effect, is what Tony Blair is doing to Brown. The longer that Blair hangs on, the worse the British economy becomes and the lower Labour's notional share price falls.When Blair finally exercises his put option, obliging Brown to assume full control of the party and the country, the glory days will be long gone. From boom to bust.Blair will have enjoyed being chief executive in the best of times. Moreover, he will walk away, knowing that Brown's destiny is to be the discredited finance director who, as the new boss, must face the worst of times.
When Blair joins Bill Clinton, another flim-flam man, on the mega-buck speaking circuit, his legacy will, in many ways, be so much uglier than that left behind by Ken Lay and his team of Enron shysters.British troops are on a deadly goose-chase in Iraq and Afghanistan, but at home our streets are immeasurably less safe than before Blair arrived.Business is bound and gagged by red tape, increasingly unable to compete with international rivals.
The health service is awash with taxpayers' cash, yet hospitals are being closed and nurses sacked.Money is wasted on an unimaginable scale, including computer systems that do not work, and the hiring of consultants to sort out the mess.Civil servants' integrity is disgracefully compromised, as the machinery of administration is bullied into working for Labour's selfish interests.School examination standards are debauched and the quest for excellence at our elite universities is wrecked by demands for "greater diversity", aka social engineering.
Immigration is out of control, too. The only number we can be sure of is that this country's jails are holding 11,000 foreign nationals – one seventh of the total prison population.The honours system is dragged into the sewer by a process of buying and selling, haggling and short-changing, which even a street trader in Tripoli might find offensive.Never mind. At $100,000 a pop for after-dinner recollections of his finest hours, Blair will be too busy accumulating riches to reflect on his cost to the rest of us.Gordon Brown, meanwhile, will inherit the electoral equivalent of Enron share certificates, out-smarted by a more venal, less principled operator. Brown may be clever, but Blair would have made a terrific options trader.