Around the world, the cost of living is rising. The UK inflation rate is in double digits at 10.1% – the highest for more than 40 years. Here in Sri Lanka, it has hit a staggering 60.8%. In Britain milk is £1.15 a litre – that’s almost LKR 500. Energy bills are rocketing almost everywhere. They have more than doubled in the UK, with householders having to find an average of over£4,000 a year, to keep the lights on and stay warm. The 75 percent overall electricity price hike in Sri Lanka is bad enough – but imagine ordinary families having to pay LKR 1,750,000 a year?
Most people in Britain can just about manage in the summer – but come winter, a top health official is predicting an ‘unprecedented’ risk of death from cold weather. Matthew Taylor, the Chief Executive of the UK National Health Service Confederation, said: “The country is facing a humanitarian crisis.
“Many people could face the awful choice between skipping meals to heat their homes and having to live in in cold, damp and very unpleasant conditions.
“This in turn could lead to outbreaks of illness and sickness around the country and widen health inequalities, worsen children’s life chances, and leave an indelible scar on local communities.”
These outbreaks of illness will strike “just as the NHS is likely to experience the most difficult winter on record”, he added.
“NHS leaders have made this unprecedented intervention as they know that ‘fuel poverty’ will inevitably lead to significant extra demand on what are already very fragile services,” he added.
“Health leaders are clear that, unless urgent action is taken by the Government, this will cause a public health emergency.”
UK household bills are set to soar from October when Ofgem, the energy regulator, raises the cap on prices.
The opposition Labour Party has called on ministers to freeze bills, while others have demanded more support for the vulnerable.
Government ministers have said the Finance Ministry is working on the issue, but no action can be taken until a new Prime Minister is unveiled in September.
After the ousting of Boris Johnson, who was forced to resign for lying, it will fall to barely 0.3 per cent of the adult British population to choose who leads the country through the cost-of-living crisis and international tensions unleashed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Johnson’s chaotic resignation as Conservative leader means that more than 150,000 party members will now vote to choose his successor, with the result due be announced on September 5.
Members must choose from a two person shortlist decided by Conservative MPs: either foreign secretary Liz Truss or former chancellor Rishi Sunak. The winner will go on to be Prime Minister – with more than 99 per cent of the electorate excluded from the electoral process. After Boris Johnson’s elevation in 2019, this is the second time in three years that a UK Prime Minister has been chosen in this thoroughly undemocratic way.
The current front runner is Liz Truss. She has spent weeks pandering to a narrow and deeply unrepresentative slice of voters. A 2020 study found Conservative members are older (39 per cent are over 65), richer, more male, more southern-based and far more predominantly white than the general population. The longer the campaign goes on, the more the leadership contenders are sucked in to populist pitches aimed at this micro-electorate.
People might have expected something better after the lies, moral incontinence and extravagant waste of the Johnson years. But don’t hold your breath. Truss is likely to be as divisive and incompetent. This is how the distinguished Times columnist Matthew Parris describes her:
“Liz Truss is a planet-sized mass of overconfidence and ambition teetering upon a pinhead of a political brain. I’ll wager that at the outset most readers thought Liz Truss a bit weird, curiously hollow and potentially dangerous. This summer a short period will see such rushes to judgment revised. Then government will descend into a huge effort to contain and defang an unstable prime minister; and we shall revert to our first impressions. Save yourself the detour and stick with them. She’s crackers. It isn’t going to work.”
Good luck Britain. Maybe the best thing to do is pack your bags and head to Sri Lanka – at least there is no risk of freezing to death here.
By Michael Gregson