I get in trouble from readers if this blog gets too apocalyptic, so instead I'll quote Nick Drew writing on Labour and Capital:
How bad do you think the current crisis is?We face this crisis with a number of other insecurities; unlike the US we have no national vehicle or heating fuel reserve to meet supply shocks. 60% of our imported gas comes through just two terminals, at Bacton and St Fergus. We have no strategic reserves of gas - when was the last time you saw a full gasometer? Our LNG supplies are dependent on weather systems, the activity of Algerian rebels and world spot markets. Only a downturn in OECD demand has lowered oil prices; small downwards production adjustments can still easily push the price up to $200, never mind a jihadist war in Saudi or a US / Israeli strike on Iran. Half our food is imported and dependent on harvests half way around the world and on global markets. Our ageing and failure-prone electricity supply is maxed out with no reserve capacity. Supermarkets carry at most a couple of days of food stocks and are dependent on just-in-time deliveries from the distribution depots. The south-east is still chronically short of water. Our shrunken and under-funded army is deployed abroad, and our stretched police forces are barely able to contain current levels of social disorder. If the UK was a building, I'd condemn it as unfit for secure use.
Until recently I would have said much worse than most people think (see my posts for the past 15 months passim) but now I’d say: as bad as can be realistically imagined. Fighting-in-the-streets bad.
Outside London, things are already changing rapidly. the ES reported in last night's edition:
If the developers start falling and defaulting on their bank loans it may take even more tax capital to shore the banks up. There must be a temptation to allow the market to take its course and to allow a vulnerable bank to fall, but no certainty that it wouldn't lead to a domino collapse. And the risk of widespread social disorder.
The property market is in a far worse state than most Londoners think, says a Dresdner Kleinwort analyst who this week returned to his Gresham Street eyrie in the City after a tour outside the capital where he found "carnage beyond even our most bearish expectations".
In a research note entitled It's Grim Up North, Alastair Stewart reports "a near-apocalyptic landscape" in the four cities he visited. He found the six leading property agents in Leeds have shifted just six flats in two months. He also picked up a scoop: an internal Barratt sales brochure in which the housebuilder marks down prices by up to 43%.
After talking to consultants and agents in Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield, he found "prices of urban apartments appear to have fallen in many cases by 40% to 50%, volumes have dried up to virtually zero, many developers have gone bust and land in many cases appears to be worthless". The situation, Stewart says, is "far worse than even the most candid builders have revealed". He concludes that listed firms are on the brink of profit warnings and a widespread breach of banking covenants.
He found "developers selling at virtually any price to shift flats and virtually all forthcoming new developments mothballed".
Britain now has several million young men with no moral reference, no social restraints, that would prevent them from taking by force anything they want. So far its electronics and phones and iPods on the buses, on the streets and in the schools. The barbarians are no longer at the gates; they're inside the city.
Over a year ago an online friend, an ex Vulcan bomber pilot and accomplished yachtsman, described how a number of senior civil servants and military officers kept ocean going boats in the south-west fully stocked with supplies including water-makers, and ready for sea. This isn't 1940 and all-pull-together any more; it's sauve qui peut and the devil take the hindmost. The State's most highly paid functionaries, with access to true intelligence assessments of national risk, are ready to go.
My nose tells me the risk is higher than it's been in living memory - but it doesn't mean that catastrophic events are inevitable. But for someone like me who manages risk for a living, my anger at the incompetence and inaction, the vacuous imbecilic throwing of a trillion at lunatic social engineering schemes, the posturing, mendacity and empty rhetoric of this government, means that I'm determined, should we come through it, never to give these people the opportunity again to bring us so close to ruin.