With talk of WWIII and a cost of living crisis, race to elect yet another dysfunctional government failing to inspire
You’ll forgive me if I don’t get over-excited about the forthcoming Stormont election.
But with the Russians talking up the possibility of a Third World War I find it hard to get worked up about the protocol; Brexit; Irish border polls and Irish sea borders or who’s going to be first minister in an Executive that mightn’t even get down to business.
Some politicians say the aforementioned concerns are what they’re coming across on the doorsteps but the main things I hear people talking about are the bread and butter issues around the cost of living and where the next crust is coming from.
Straight off, I have to say that I’m lucky, I’m not on the breadline but I know plenty of people who are.
And they like me are wondering what the MLAs are going to do in the face of the storm and whether or not they will return to a functioning Assembly and Executive and unlock the pots of money that are said to have been log-jammed by the DUP walking away from Stormont.
I’m aware that many folk say they can’t be bothered casting their votes on Thursday and a former politician insisted he won’t be going to the polls because he believes Stormont is doomed and its mandatory coalition is and always will be unworkable.
But leaving the politics aside, the stories of hardship as the cost of living soars, are all over the newspapers and websites with some families saying they are struggling to survive and having to choose between eating and heating.
Last week I spoke to a nurse who worked flat out during the pandemic to save lives and now has difficulty making ends meet.
She told me she could just about manage to keep her head above water before the latest price nightmares but now she staggers from one horror to another. Life’s little luxuries, she said, were now a distant memory.
And even people with a few bob in the bank are noticing the difference. I don’t think it’s just me but everything seems to have been shooting up unrelentingly cost-wise in the last few months.
I realise that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a massive factor in fuelling the spiralling prices but I just hope some businesses aren’t Putin the arm in.
A petrol outlet that I drive past every day put up their unleaded fuel by 10 pence in just a couple of hours last week before dropping the cost quickly after a nearby supermarket slashed their pump prices.
Heating oil in our house is more than double what it was a year ago.
Food shopping is also costing more and more for any number of reasons including Brexit but a takeaway from where I regularly get a delivery on a Sunday stung me for £37 last time compared to £26 a few weeks earlier with prices for main courses having risen by a third in the blink of an eye.
And eating out is fast becoming a luxury that is beyond a lot of budgets and beyond a joke.
At one restaurant the other night my wife and I were presented with a £123 bill which had more extras than a movie set.
Obviously the legacy of the pandemic has been a curse for the hospitality industry with staff hard to find and reports that chefs are so thin on the ground that the ones who are in the kitchens can name their fees.
As for drink prices, it’s nothing new to watch them climb to astronomical levels.
But a friend who has just returned from a conference in a Co Down hotel was shocked to be asked for £12 for a gin and tonic.
Taxi fares are accelerating too with the higher petrol prices blamed but friends who travel regularly by cab from the centre of Belfast to Dundonald have a feeling that they’re being taken for a ride.
Last week they paid £4 more than a fortnight ago, representing a 25 per cent hike.
But the stark reality is that we probably ain’t seen nothing yet.
The experts tell us that inflation will continue to surge for at least the rest of the year and insiders are predicting that jobs will vanish as increases in energy, national insurance, transport, business rates and interest rates hit home.
The only things that aren’t rising are wages and the unions are warning that strikes are inevitable if Putin’s strikes don’t come sooner.