Those who have read around the minutiae of economic disasters past will recognise the words used by the economist and commentator J K Galbraith to introduce the first chapter of his seminal work The Great Crash 1929, on the events that led up to Dark Thursday in October of that year, and which blighted not just the US economy, but many others around the world, including Britain’s, for many years afterwards.
Then, there was an air almost of euphoria: all was well, there was a belief that the good times might never end, and those dissenting voices were drowned out, derided, marginalised. So it is again after Theresa May gave her speech to the Tory Party conference yesterday afternoon. And, just as it was in the USA of the late 1920s, the detachment from reality is all too clear, for those who might look for it.
Our free and fearless press could not get enough of the upmarket mood struck by Ms May: the Telegraph set the tone with “‘We must look beyond Europe’ … PM sets out Brexit blueprint to make Britain ‘truly global’ … There will be no border deal to keep UK in single market”. Metro simply says “PM reveals she will trigger Brexit by the end of March … MAY: IT’S APRIL”. Before April, actually, folks. You just said so.
And the increasingly downmarket Express, aka the Daily UKIP, is in triumphant mood, telling “EU EXIT WILL BE TRIGGERED BY MARCH … And no surrender on migrant curbs”. This, though, is a mere taster for the hysterical tone struck by the Murdoch Sun: “PM sets date for Brexit … MARCH TO FREEDOM … May will trigger 2-year exit in spring”. Ah, freedom - free to watch as the rest of Europe just rolls right along.
But it is the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre who have gone OTT in no style at all, eulogising “In historic speech, PM says she WILL trigger Brexit by next March … vows to control our borders … and slams Remainers ‘subverting democracy’ … THIS LADY’S NOT FOR TURNING!” Ah, if only Theresa May was another Margaret Thatcher. But she is not, and never will be.
Mrs T., it should never be forgotten, was the one who courted employers like Nissan, getting them to set up factories in the UK because … we were in the EU, and were part of the Single Market. She was at heart an arch-pragmatist: if our EU membership could be used as a means to bring investment and jobs, then she would use it thus. All Ms May is doing is to emote soundbites and meaningless phrases instead.
Exactly what business, and the rest of the world, thinks of her speech can be seen by the overnight fall in Sterling: our currency, already significantly devalued since the referendum, has sunk to a 31 year low. Worse than the aftermath of Black Wednesday in 1992. That is the reality of “truly global”, the “march to freedom”, and having a Lady who is “not for turning”. You can’t buck the market. Margaret Thatcher said so.
All we need now is a stock market crash. There can be no complaints when it hits. After all, we were warned, but some of us chose not to listen.