"I'm sorry, I don't know the meaning of the expression" replies his boss.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard presents a litany of economic gloom in this morning's Telegraph:
- Industrial output down 27% in Ukraine
- Industrial output down 10% in Russia
- Latvia's GDP contracting at 29% pa
- Ireland job losses 36,500 in January
- Spanish unemployment now at 14.4%, to go to 19%
- German industrial orders down 25% year on year
- French house prices down 9.9% in 4th quarter, steepest since 1936
- Japan exports down 35% in December
- Japanese economy contracting at 12% pa
- China, Pacific tigers dump $190bn in bonds in past 15 weeks
By the time of the G20 summit in April, things could be a great deal worse. The spectre of civil disorder is growing. Spain's labour minister said yesterday that the country's economy could not "tolerate" immigrants any longer after suffering "hurricane devastation". To steal Sir Edward Grey's phrase, the lights are going out all over Europe, and I doubt we will see them go on again in our lifetime.
Pundits are predicting a rise in nationalism as a response to the crisis as though this were an irrational response, but I actually think it's quite a rational human response; that the strength of the tribe is greater than the strength of its individual members is a truth that's hard-wired into our DNA. There's no room in the United Kingdom for sauve qui peut; we stand together now or we fail.