As people lie in ambulances waiting for treatment, the sound of squabbling politicians rings in their ears.


If it’s not the NHS, it’s the economy. We got four or five rebuttal and counter rebuttal documents from the Conservatives and Labour on Monday about each other’s spending plans.


The electorate is already mightily disillusioned with the Westminster game. Four months of this will not just have them turning off in droves, it will make them angry.


Political reporters have already been overusing the phrase “the election campaign got under way today”, when we know that there will be multiple launches around the spring party conferences and when Parliament is dissolved. Oh for the return of the short sharp campaign. There is a view that people generally form a view two years out from an election. It is difficult to achieve significant changes in opinion amid the sound and fury of the last few weeks before polling day. To inflict this early period of claim and counter claim on a weary electorate is a mistake.



For business, the approaching election means the thing it hates most, uncertainty. The possibility of a change of government might mean that investment plans will be put on hold. This is compounded by the prospect that forming a new government might take weeks and involve multiple parties. Discerning what that will all mean for taxation and business incentives is very difficult, hence the Prime Minister comes up with his plea for continuity under the Conservatives.


But away from politics there are a number of other business related questions for the year ahead. How much longer are the workers going to settle for 1% pay rises and zero hours contracts? With unemployment dropping and the economy improving, are we going to see more robust demands for pay rises? These may particularly come in the private sector where there is some evidence of skills gaps developing. Public sector workers may be less likely to take part in a wage push because remorseless cuts are set to continue whoever is in power.




Uncertainty at home and uncertainty abroad. The slump in the oil price in 2014 took everyone by surprise. Whilst it provides everyone with lower costs in the short term, what it is telling us about the health of the world economy is another matter.


The American economy is surging ahead but the Euro zone’s performance continues to be an embarrassment for those of us who want it to succeed.

The Russian economy is tanking because of the oil price and sanctions, but how will Vladimir Putin react? Will he bow to the pressure or stoke up the fear that Mother Russia is under attack from the West.


A few years ago China’s rapid expansion sent raw material prices soaring. Growth has slowed. What effect will that have on China’s policy of increasingly investing in western infrastructure? Questions are being asked for instance about progress with the development of Wirral and Liverpool Waters.




As we mark the 800th anniversary of this shake up in English governance, it would be nice if we could take a fundamental look at how we are ruled from parish council to the House of Lords.


It doesn’t look as if that is going to happen. Instead we will have to concentrate on incremental change. In that respect the question for this year will be whether Leeds, Sheffield and even Liverpool will be getting the Greater Manchester devolution deal, with or without elected City Region mayors.


History is my passion so my thoughts are constantly going back to what people were thinking and doing as the summer of 1914 started.

They certainly weren’t thinking that an a world war would be under way before the leaves fell. The conflict they were worried about was in Ulster where the loyalists were threatening rebellion over Irish independence. At home the suffragettes battle for the vote commanded the headlines.

Very few saw the danger presented by an interlocking series of treaties between the Great Powers. There hadn’t been a general war for a hundred years since Napoleon’s time.

Now let’s come forward to this summer. Once again there is tension in a part of Europe most people know little about. We are focused on the economic recovery, the rise of UKIP or just running our lives. We have had peace for 70 years, partly because of NATO, an interlocking treaty that guarantees mutual support for the Baltic States and Poland should they be attacked.

Where is our Gavrilo Princip, the obscure Serb who’s assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne triggered the huge conflict? He may be found amongst the pro Russian militias currently destabilising East Ukraine. One of them bragged on TV the other day about not only taking East Ukraine but eventually taking Brussels.

A foolish and ludicrous piece of bravura of course but it made me wonder if we are fully aware of the potential danger we are in a hundred summers on from 1914.

Russia wouldn’t be reckless enough to invade East Ukraine would it? Well don’t be so sure. The Ukrainian army is showing signs of getting off its knees. If it inflicts serious casualties on the pro Russian militias, will Russia stand back?

Well Vladimir Putin has already annexed the Ukraine and lost his place at the table of the G8 world leaders.

Most significantly of all he is leading a country that is relying on military shows of strength to mask economic weakness at home. It is the classic formula for recklessness.

So suppose he seized East Ukraine. NATO would not react because Ukraine is not a member. What might well happen is a destabilisation of the Baltic States. Russian minorities in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia could well start clamouring to be reunited with Mother Russia. What happens if those revolts are put down by force. Would Putin be deterred from intervening by the fact that they are members of NATO? Probably, but only if America, Britain and France made it clear we would be prepared to start World War 3. Would our politicians have the mandate from the people to make such a threat? Can you see St Peter’s Square in Manchester or St George’s Plateau in Liverpool full of people singing “We don’t want to fight them, but by jingo if we do?”

No, me neither. After all this is 2014 the age of the computer, social media and comfortable living. The army does our fighting. The days of mass mobilisation are over. But if Putin truly believes this, then we would be in great peril. The dangers of miscalculation that were present in that summer a hundred years ago are present this summer.