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Chaos, disappointment and farce


It’s not been a stellar year for quite a number of bits of the traditional British establishment. Chaos and disappointment definitely make their mark; farce – well, it kind of depends on your sense of humour and the extent to which you can insulate yourself.

Top billing must undoubtedly go to the government, or more precisely, the governing party. The UK Conservative party is one of the oldest political parties in the democratic world, and it has an enviable reputation for longevity in government. So, armed with the confidence inspired by that record, once Boris Johnson had run his course, they decided that what the country needed was a summer-long hustings-fest to choose his successor as party leader and thus Prime Minister. There was an obvious, logical candidate – one who understands international financial markets after a successful career therein – so, clearly, he wasn’t going to be the right person. After all, in a world dominated by the volatility and swings of precisely those markets, what is obviously needed is an ideologue, with limited international finance knowledge. So step forward Liz Truss, as the new Prime Minister. Now, actually, I do understand what she and Kwasi Kwarteng were trying to achieve, and I do agree with some of it. (Kwasi Kwarteng, incidentally, I have quite a lot of time for; I’ve heard him speak articulately, intelligently and amusingly – I’m sorry his career would appear to have taken such a turn for the worse.) However, the timing of what they tried to do was unforgivable, and rightly – in my view – they have gone; they turned a tin ear to the  realities of late 2022, and seemed unable to grasp why they were so wrong. So off we go again – instead of being all summer long, this time it’s just a matter of days. Well, that one certainly fits the chaos bill.   

Disappointment? Step forward the London Metal Exchange, that institution that has loomed so large in many of our careers. The year started well – prices firm, and rising, on the back of a post-Covid global recovery. But the war-drums in Ukraine were sounding quite loudly, even at the beginning of the year. And if you ignore those, and don’t make adjustments – like margin levels, for example – early enough, then you end up cancelling honestly traded deals, retrospectively. That leads to lawsuits; we don’t know the result yet, by I know which way my money would go…. Then we had the indefensible, disrespectful failure to close the market on the day of the Queen’s funeral. Definitely a disappointing LME year.

And farce? Well, this one’s slightly different, and not farcical for those who have lost their jobs,  but look at the state of rugby union in England. Two clubs, Worcester and Wasps, have been allowed to slide into administration, and others are probably looking anxiously over their shoulders. “There’s not enough money in the game”, we’re told. Mmm….I’ve just bought my Six Nations 2023 tickets: the games against France and Scotland cost me £153 per ticket, and that’s with a debenture-holder discount. Nobody else – apart from Wales in Cardiff – sets the price level so high, yet the RFU still like to plead poverty. There are lots of reasons behind the failures; players’ salary levels, incompetent management of clubs, failure of the RFU and the Premiership to work together, and others, but where the element of farce seems to creep in is that it somehow gets forgotten that it’s a game – it’s supposed to be a pleasure, to take one’s mind off the kind of stuff I’ve described above.  

There we are; it’s not a very distinguished year so far, but I’m afraid to say that the prize in all three categories has to go the the Conservative party; chaos, disappointment, farce – yup, you tick all the boxes.

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