Hold Your Nerve – More Individualised Solutions to Structural Problems!

Millions of UK homeowners face huge increases to their mortgage repayments as interest rates continue to increase (1)

According to the Office for National Statistics, the average monthly repayment for a mortgage on a semi-detached house in the UK rose 61% to year ending December 2022.

This increase will be even greater now… the news over the last week has focused on how another 2 million people are coming off lower fixed rate mortgage deals between now and 2024, meaning their interest rates are going to increase from around 2% to 6%.

I’m one of these people, my current 2% rate ends in September this year, and I’ll have to switch onto a higher rate, which with my current provider is 6% or 5% on a two year fixed deal. I might of course switch, but that gives me a bench mark, I don’t imagine I’ll get much better than that.

Thankfully my current mortgage is so low that it’s not a big deal for me to manage the increase in repayments In fact if I just extend the mortgage by a few months I can keep my repayments level, which for me means pushing it back from 5 years of repayments to around 5 years and 3 months.

However, obviously I’d rather pay less than more over the next five years or so and it’s difficult to make a judgement as to whether I’m better of fixing now at say 5% for three years, or slightly higher at 5.5% for the full five years, or just going onto the 6% variable rate.

Obviously fixing for a longer period is the strategy IF interest rates are going to go up, while going on the variable rate is best IF interests rates are going to come down.

The problem is I don’t know what’s going to happen to interest rates, but it’s 100% on me to make a decision and 100% on me to bear the consequences of paying more in mortgage interest if I make the wrong the decision.

What’s causing inflation?

The bank of England keeps putting interest rates up because of high inflation, inflation being the rising cost of living.

The government put this down to a squeeze of food and energy because of the legacy of covid and the war in Ukraine putting a squeeze on supply chains, and all of this hasn’t been helped be Brexit making it more difficult to trade with the EU.

Personally I also think there’s a longer term trend of the rise in middle class consumers in countries such as India and China, which will increase demand for all goods and services

neoliberalism is also a problem – as increasing inequality means more wealth sits in tax havens not being used for innovation and more money gets sucked upwards, increasing inequality meaning a higher proportion of our resources go on meat and yachts for rich, which also pushes up prices.

Finally, the UK government has been printing money for years in response to various crises, which reduces the value of the pound. It’s printed almost £1 trillion since 2009 in Quantitative Easing Measures.

In short, there is no obvious immediate end to this inflation crisis because all of the causes are outside of the Government’s control, and many of its responses to global forces over the last decade have made matters worse.

Individualised solutions to Structural Problems (Again)

As to the solutions to the current mortgage crises, all that the current super-rich PrimeMinister Rishi Sunak has is to suggest people should ‘hold their nerve on interest rates‘.

In short, ‘just suck it up’, you’re on your own, deal with it, folks.

Signposting and Sources

This post is really just a general reminder of how damaging neoliberal economic policies are to ordinary people in the long run.

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(1) https://www.theguardian.com/money/2023/jun/17/uk-homeowners-face-huge-rise-in-payments-when-fixed-rate-mortgages-expire

Why is Phillip Schofield Trending News…?

The scandal surrounding Phillip’s Schofield departure from This Morning has eclipsed many other news items over the past week.

The scandal is that several years ago Schofield had an affair with man 30 years his junior while at This Morning who he’d initially met when the younger man was just 15 years old, and then he had lied to This Morning bosses and everyone else about having had the affair when questioned.

So he held his hands up last week and quit, not only This Morning, but he says his TV career is now over.

This whole event has been headline news for a week. It’s a very popular news item, according the the BBC’s most read item list Philip Schofield’s career ending is more interesting than the government potentially losing its legal battle over breaching covid rules, for example.

The above screen capture was taken on Friday 3rd June, the same day Schofield did a brief interview with the BBC in which he was questioned about his relationship with the young man, it was emotional, but content thin.

Interestingly around the same time the BBC also did a similar style interview with the scumbag Andrew Tate, in which he is challeneged about his misogynist views, but that is nowhere in trending.

It seems people are much more interested in trivia compared to critical issues of power and politics.

Why is Schofield Trending?

I think probably the pluralist view is the most applicable here: Schofield has been a presenter on national British T.V. for decades, many people grew up with him, and here he is having his career ending early.

And it’s a tragic end in real life to a great career, brought down by one mistaken relationship and one little white lie, it’s a real tragedy, a real life drama.

People love this kind of thing, this is just pure demand for drama and entertainment and so the media provides.

I don’t think we can find any support here for the Marxist theories of the media which argue this is all about media manipulation of content and agenda setting to keep people stupid, this event just happened too quickly for that to be the case.

Of course maybe the public have been trained to need this kind of content over the longer term, so this could be a result of a long term drip-drip effect of trivia in the mainstream media, which may offer some support for Marxist theories, but this is very difficult to prove empirically!

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The online safety bill: get ready for life without WhatsApp!

The online safety bill currently working its way through parliament is set to undermine the privacy of individuals using currently encrypted apps such as WhatsApp.

At the moment if you use WhatAapp or Signal your communications with whoever else via the app are private, they are protected through encryption so third parties cannot easily access them.

However the online safety bill does not include any specific protection for encrypted apps such as WhatAapp and effectively gives government agencies such as OFCOM the right to demand that such companies who are operating the UK monitor their user’s communications.

Because they can’t currently do so, because of the encryption in place, this means WhatAapp and similar communication apps would have to stop encryption in the UK, thus undermining the privacy of all peer to peer communications.

The theory behind the online safety bill is to be more able to track communication related to child abuse, trafficking and terrorism, but to be able to do this you literally have to make everyone’s communications potentially open to government surveillance.

This is an interesting example which reminds us that the Nation State is in some ways still more powerful than global companies, at least sort of….

If the bill goes through then WhatAapp will probably just stop operating in the UK, as the UK only represents 2% of its global user base, it is a global company after all, showing us just how small the UK government is in relation to global forces.

The only other countries which outlaw encryption are China, North Korea, Syria, UAE and Qatar, all countries with not the best human rights record.

So this is what’s becoming of the UK… it is becoming a surveillance state. The real losers are ordinary UK citizens….

Another problem with banning encryption and giving the government more power to store private data is that it makes data breaches more likely. The chances are that if you are surveilling possible criminals, you are probably going to catch some non-criminals in the surveillance net too, exposing their data to potential hacks.

It’s literally another case of the UK government trying to undermine individual human rights, in this case the right to privacy.

Find out More

The Guardian.

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Should Britons just accept they are poorer?

Consumer price inflation has been floating at around just under 10% for a year now, since May 2022, and this means that people in Britain are, on average, worse off financially than they were a year ago.

A survey by the Office for National Statistics recently found that seven in ten adults are spending less on non essential items and a recent IPSOS poll found that half of us are worried about our finances.

The Bank of England’s chief economist has called on workers to stop asking for wage increases and for companies to stop passing on their increasing costs to consumers by raising prices.

In short he thinks that Britons to accept the fact that they are getting poorer and are just worse off and that this will lower inflation.

An individualised solution to a structural problem?

This strikes me as possibly the ultimate example of what Bauman would call an individualised solution to a structural problem: one of the global elite asking individuals to solve inflation.

Whereas in reality the cause of the current inflation is structural: it is 40 years of neoliberal economic policy which has sucked hundreds of billions, probably trillions of dollars out of the UK economy over those 40 years and into tax havens, benefitting the global elite (and many non-British people).

Of course the elite themselves blame our current ‘cost of living crisis’ on Covid and the Ukraine War, but Britain’s economic decline predates both of these events.

In a neoliberal system it becomes easier for investors to extract profit from state enterprise because of deregulation, and so what we’ve seen now for 40 years is lack of investment in infrastructure and education and health and social care and huge profits getting sucked out the country.

We could have, over the past 40 years, invested more in green energy, more in local food production, more in creating a highly skilled, high wage workforce, but the neoliberal Tories (and New Labour) chose not to, and hence we have inflation and the ordinary people suffering.


The Guardian April 2023 Britons need to accept they’re poorer

Gov.uk accessed May 2023: Consumer Price Inflation, March 2023.

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The arrest of anti-monarchy protestors: another state crime!

Six anti-monarchy protestors were arrested at the Coronation of King Charles III on Saturday morning.

The six were arrested as they were unloading placards and loudspeakers from their van close to route of the coronation procession where they had planned to stage their protest. They were detained for 16 hours under the very new Public Order Act 2023 which allows the police to arrest people if they have equipment that could be used to lock onto buildings or vehicles in order to cause disruption to the public.

However, there was no such lock-on or other significantly disruptive action planned by the six people arrested, and there was no lock-on equipment in the van.

One of those arrested was the CEO of anti-monarchy group Republic and he believes that the police had planned to arrest them in advance of the protest even though they knew they were planning a peaceful event. His suspicions come from the fact that they’d had 4 months of prior conversations with the police telling them what the protest would entail, and the police had said they’d been fine with it, right up until the stealth arrest on Saturday.

Of course some people made it to the protests and in reality, all the protestors did was gather in a relatively small group sporting anti-monarchy placards and T-shirts and shout ‘Not my King’ as Charles went past in his gilded coach.

There were more widespread arrests of protestors during the day, 52 in total, 60% of which were arrested under suspicion of causing a public nuisance.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This is a good example of a state crime: here the police are preventing people from exercising their right to protest and free speech which is against the UN convention on human rights.

So the Tory government no longer respects human rights and the MET police are prepared to abuse human rights to attempt to make the monarchy seem more loved than it is on the global stage.

It shows us the power of the media in relation to protest. In reality, had the police done nothing, the mainstream media probably wouldn’t have even shown the protestors. It was a relatively easy thing to cut-out of footage, given how small it was.

But now these arrests have been made and the state has shown itself to be against human rights, this is becoming big news, as is the anti-monarchy debate that’s being represented!

It’s kind of ironic.

Why don’t young people like the Monarchy?

Young people are twice as likely to NOT support the monarch as old people, but why is this?

Attitudes towards the British monarchy vary significantly by age.

According to a recent YouGov survey commissioned by the BBC’s Panorama (1)only 32% of 18-24 year olds think we should continue to have a monarchy compared to 67% of 50-64 year olds.

So more than twice the proportion of 18-24 year olds are against the idea of continuing the monarchy compared to 15-64 year olds.

When you stretch the age gap further you find the difference is even greater: Only 26% of 18-24 year olds think the monarchy is good for Britain, compared to 72% of over 65 olds:

The difference is certainly significant, but why is there such a remarkable difference in attitudes towards the monarchy between younger and older Britons?

Lifecycle or Cohort Effect?

Is this stark difference in attitudes towards the monarchy down to a lifecycle or cohort effect?

  • A lifestyle effect would mean that all younger people in general, from any generation, start off viewing the monarch less favourably and as they get older view the monarchy more favourably.
  • A cohort effect would mean that there is a difference in attitude across the younger and older generations, in which case we can expect younger people to keep their more negative attitudes towards the monarchy as they get older.

Of course it is also possible that BOTH of the above effects are at work: intuitively it makes sense that the monarchy is becoming less relevant over time AND that as people get older they are more likely to defer to authority.

One way determining the relative strength of each effect would be to ASK older people whether they used to support the monarchy or not (although there are potential validity flaws related to memory in this), so a more valid measure would be to look at PAST opinion polls on the monarchy.

If we go back to this 2020 survey on whether Britain should have a monarchy the results for the older age groups are slightly higher to that of the 2023 survey suggesting what we are seeing here is a cohort effect, rather than a lifecycle effect.

What is surprising is that 52% of 18-24 year olds reported wanting a monarchy only three years ago…

To my mind this possibly suggests what is known as a ‘period effect’ – where a significant event effects public attitudes, and this case the event was the death of the Queen and forthcoming coronation of the new King: people simply aren’t that keen on King Charles compared to the Queen, and maybe this has had more of an impact on younger people.

Also there is the negative press associated with Prince Andrew and his love of sleeping with teenage girls, which probably didn’t do the institution many favours in the eyes of 18-24 year olds!

If you go back further, you can find a lot of historical polls on public attitudes towards the monarchy, but it’s hard to find anything which is split clearly by age cohort, so we are left with national average figures.

In general there is broad support here for there being a cohort effect – if we go back 20 years we see nearly 80% supporting the monarchy, compared to just over 50% on average today, and given that we’ve got an ageing population clearly people aren’t changing their minds and becoming more pro-monarchy as they get older!

In some of these polls people are even asked ‘what should happen to the monarchy after the Queen dies’ and it’s clear that there was less support for the monarchy in that previous hypothetical situation compared to when the Queen was alive, and we see that being played out in the statistics now!

Why do young people show less support for the monarchy?

I don’t know of any research looking at WHY the younger generation are less likely to support the monarchy compared to the older generation, but decades of surveys give us some kind of idea and we can theorise about why more broadly, based on social changes over the past decade.

First of all it seems there has been an immediate decline in support for the monarchy based on the death of the Queen. We see this in the relatively rapid decline in pro-monarchy attitudes in 2023 compared to 2020.

This makes intuitive sense: even teenagers today would have ‘grown up’ with the Queen, and more so for older people. Media coverage of the Queen was always very positive and she’s been a mainstay of British popular culture for decades, whereas our new King Charles has received much more negative press (‘the crazy organic guy’) and Camilla isn’t that popular, and he simply doesn’t have the historical kudos of the Queen: he doesn’t link us back to this warm and toasty (albeit mythical) 1950s feeling like the Queen did.

And then think of the turmoil the Royal Family has gone through over the last decade: with Meghan and Harry leaving and Andrew’s taste for teenage girls, it’s all a bit sordid, they’re just a bit all over the place, they simply don’t represent wholesomeness in the same sort of way the Queen did.

So it kind of makes sense that once the Queen is dead, there’s not a lot positive within the monarchy to support anymore.

Younger generations may also be less inclined to support the monarchy because they haven’t grown up with just television: personalised feeds mean younger people are probably much less exposed to BBC representations of royalty, less likely to get news items about royalty and when they do they will be presented more as media celebrities rather than anything special.

Possibly national identity means less to younger people in a global age, and royalty are ‘British’, so maybe they are less supported because of this.

I’d like to think that there’s a sense of injustice about so much tax payers’ money being spent on this defunct institution when they are already so wealthy, but I doubt this is much of a thing, maybe for a few percent it is though.

Signposting and Sources

These statistics seem to be evidence of the broad shift towards postmodern society. The fact that young people have such different attitudes towards the monarchy than older people suggests a degree of social fragmentation, certainly not anything like value consensus.

Declining support for the monarchy also suggests we are less likely to defer to authority and hierarchy based on tradition, and presumably more likely to decide for ourselves what we should be doing with our lives.

BBC News (April 2023) How Popular is the Monarchy Under King Charles?

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The Tory Spring Budget

The Chancellor’s Spring Budget was a conservative and reactionary mixture of soft-policies which do little for ordinary people and probably won’t help sort out Britain’s economic problems…

The three main priorities of the budget were to

  • reduce inflation
  • Stimulate economic growth
  • Bring down government debt.

Taken together these are very conservative and reactionary goals, nothing at all radical.

The government repeatedly says that current high inflation rates of around 10% are due to Putin’s war in Ukraine increasing energy prices, but many people know this is just a simplification, as there are many other causes of inflation… such as Brexit pushing up the cost of doing business and quite possibly just the failings of the capitalist system in general.

This and bringing down government debt are the government reacting to events that have already happened – the debt in large part being due to the government’s chosen response to the Covid Pandemic and Liz Truss.

This feels like a government catching up rather than driving the country forwards. If we use Anthony Giddens’ ‘steering the juggernaut’ analogy, it feels very much here like the global economy is out of control of the government, and there’s not a lot they can do!

One also has to question whether economic growth is the right strategy. Not only because the growth forecasts are dismal, but also because redistribution seems to be a more sensible goal.

Dismal Economic Growth Figures

There is plenty of money in the form of wealth out there, as the Equality Trust points out, what we need is for the government to tap into that and use it effectively to improve the quality of people’s lives through, for example, massive investment in education and green technologies.

At least one area of policy makes the rich richer: increasing the amount people can put in their pensions tax free from £40K a year to £60K a year: a really nice little perk for very high income earners, but 90% of population see no benefit from this.

The rise in Corporation Tax from 19% to 25% for companies making annual profits of more than £250 000 seems like a fair move to make, and the government have to be commended on this, it seems like a roll back of neoliberalism, but we will still have the lowest rate in Europe, and also remember that we only dropped it to 19% relatively recently, so let’s not get sucked into a false sense of this being radical, it isn’t, it’s just going back to a slightly higher version of a low tax norm!

The extension of childcare

This is a significant move – that 30 hours per week of free childcare will be offered for children aged one and two, rolled out gradually from 2024, extended down from the current age of three.

This should go at least some way to tackling the gender pay gap as it is mainly women who take time off work to look after younger children.

To my mind this is long overdue and should have been tackled many years ago, I know so many people with young children that struggle with childcare costs just because they are working and lack the friend and family network to look after them.

The Budget: Final Thoughts

There’s nothing radical or really big-picture in here, it just feels like a failing State struggling to keep up with global economic forces that are making a life a challenge for British people.

But most of what is being proposed is like a sticking plaster, rather than the government committing to really improving people’s lives in the long term.

Also consider that there’s no mention of funding public sector wages for teachers and nurses, for example, no mention of how to tackle soaring inequality, no real long term vision.

It’s just an epic fail on nearly every level.

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Coronavirus has made the rich richer and the poor poorer

30% of those with savings of more than £12000 before Coronavirus have seen their savings increase since the pandemic, compared to only 10% of those with no savings.

This is because the closing of so many shops and restaurants has meant high income households have had reduced opportunities to spend their money and so have been forced to save.

It’s also because those able to work from home are more likely to have higher savings rates and home-workers have been the least impacted in terms of income by Coronavirus.

Coronavirus has increased the debt levels of the poorest

21% of those in lowest income households have had to increase debt in the last few months compared to only 13% of those in the highest income households:

Relevance to A-level sociology

This is a good example of statistical research which suggests broad support for the Marxist view of society.


The above statistics are taken from a recent ‘Rainy Days’ report by the Resolution Foundation.

The report examines the long term trend in inequality in the UK and then the impact Coronavirus has had on inequality.

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Why is the Italian Covid-19 Death Rate so High Compared to Other Countries?

The Italian covid-19 mortality rate is so high because they record the number of people dying with the disease RATHER than deaths from the disease.

According to news reports Italy is the epicenter of Coronavirus deaths in Europe. Take this extract from today’s BBC News report as an example:

When you look at the Covid-19 death rate in Italy compared to other countries, the death rate is around 10-20 times higher compared to some other countries, if we look at deaths per million of the population. This to my mind is suspicious, by which I mean ‘possibly invalid’, as indicated below…

The graph below, of Coronavirus cases rather than deaths makes me no less suspicious of the validity of the Italian Covid-19 death rate. Admittedly Italy has the most cases, but not that many more than France or Germany, which have much lower death rates.

So how do we explain the high Italian Covid-19 mortality rate?

To find out the full answer to this question, with lots of evidence and links, I recommend you visit this website – The Corbett Report: What’s up with the Italian Death Rate and watch the video below:

In case you can’t be bothered to watch the whole thing (although I recommend it!) the gist is as follows:

  • The Italians record the deaths of people with Coronavirus as deaths from Coronavirus. Dying with Coronavirus is NOT the same thing as dying from Coronavirus.
  • Most people in hospital with Coronavirus have 3 other diseases (yes that is MOST, as in over 50%), such as cancer, heart disease, and other fatal diseases. Many more have two or one other diseases.
  • Since most people who have already died during this phase would have done so before the lockdown measures were in place in Italy, the chance are that everyone permanently in a hospital with a would have contracted Coronavirus.
  • Long story short – many of the people who are recorded as having died from Coronavirus would have probably died of something else, e.g. Heart Disease, but IF they happen to also have Corona, they are recorded with that as the cause of death when it probably isn’t!

Other good stuff in the Corbett Report

This is an excellent source of ‘alternative news’ on the Coronavirus. This particular report is full of evidence of more than 20 experts (reported in The Guardian) questioning the official figures we are getting on Covid-19.

The current lockdown situation was based on projections of literally millions of people possibly dying of Covid-19, up to 500, 000 in the UK, BUT the ‘experts’ who made those projections have since retracted them, in other words admitting they got them wrong, but the lockdown remains in place.

There are plenty of people out there suggesting that the Corona statistics are meaningless, such as Steve Goodman, professor of epidemiology at Stanford University.

This is partly because of what I wrote about in this post – there are possibly millions of people who have already had it, but they had such mild symptoms, they never even really noticed, thus we don’t know how many people have had it, thus we don’t really know what the actual mortality rate is!

So why are we really in Lockdown?

This is something you need to think about very carefully. Possibly this is all about social control – through fear and using ‘protecting the health of others’ as ideological justification (hard to argue with that). The reasons why authorities might feel the need for more control is something I’ll come back to later.

In the meantime, please do watch that video.

And rather than staying safe, stay critical, society needs that more.

Why the Covid-19 Death Rate might be misleading

The latest figures show that 6% of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 die of the disease.

A 6% death rate, and only a 94% survival rate, I don’t fancy those odds!

However, writing in The Spectator, Dr John Lee points out that these death rates may be misleading, and that Covid-19 is possibly no more deadly than the flu, something we are all familiar with and which has a death rate of 0.1%

So far, relatively few people have been tested for Covid-19, and those that have are probably those displaying the most serious symptoms who have presented themselves at a hospital, or they’ve been tested because they were already in hospital, which means they’re likely to be more susceptible to infection because of being in sub-optimal health.

In short, the type of people already tested for Covid-19 are probably not representative of the wider population!

It could be the case, as has been suggested by Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific Adviser, that the actual infection rate is 10 to 20 times higher in the general population with most people displaying only minor symptoms, not getting tested and recovering without us ever knowing about it!

If it were the case that the real infection rate is 20* higher then the actual death rate would be nearer 0.3%, which is in the same realms as the flu.

Furthermore, Covid-19 has now been added to the list of ‘notifeable diseases’ (along with Smallpox and Ebola and other nasties), which means that anytime someone dies having contracted Covid-19, it must be recorded as the cause of death.

This isn’t the case with flu, so while someone in their 80s may well die of it, this may not be recorded as the actual cause of death.

Thus overall, while Covid-19 may be more infectious than the flu, it may not be more deadly!

Ultimately we need more testing for the virus to be done to get a more valid picture of how deadly it is.

Managing risk in an age of uncertainty

Having said that, even if the real death rate may be lower than reported, the extreme contagiousness of Covid-19 has still led to a rapid increase in the number of critical cases and deaths in a short period (as I understand it flu isn’t as contagious, so there simply aren’t as many people who catch it such a short period of time), so the extreme control measures we’ve put in place may just be worth it!

It may sound cold, but this is a great example of managing a threat in a risk society where we have limited available data.

NB – it’s worth pointing out that you have much less chance of dying from it if you’re young compared to if you’re old:!

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