Why James O’Brien is wrong….Sigh….

Why James O’Brien is wrong….Sigh….

I listen to talk radio. Daytime talk radio. Doing dishes, folding laundry, packing kids’ sports kit (football boots or trainers? Shorts or joggers? Shin pads, gumsheild, check, check) and ok fine, sipping a post-school run cuppa and perusing Mail Online’s Sidebar of Shame. Oh heavens no, I don’t actually phone in… much. In any case, LBC is my poison, what I like to think of as the cerebral alternative to daytime telly. (There is little more humiliating than the white van man catching you in flagrante glued to Homes under the Hammer eager for how much the modernised semi in Swinton fetched.)

I’ve outed myself, haven’t I?

Moving on. Yesterday, during James O’Brien’s program one of the hot topics was Brexit. Yes. Again. The media’s gift that keeps on giving. Received with much applause and grimaced nodding from many a Remainer, O’Brien skewered yet another of his hapless callers, naming and shaming some poor fella for his sin of not knowing a single EU law that he would want repealed (the poor knuckle-dragging half-wit). With trademark withering disdain he baited and hooked an easy target from the home field advantage of his catbird seat as the smarty-pants he is. Now I get it, it’s a his job to be bombastic, provocative and opinionated (and when one runs smack into it like this schmuck, it’s easy pickings). It’s informative entertainment and not a little amusing to hear O’Brien tear some of his less informed callers to shreds. It’s what makes him so, umm, listenable. BUT. Something about the tone yesterday touched a nerve.

Running with the accidentally-on-purpose leaked economic impact study of Brexit (the one predicting such headline-grabbing forecasts of a 9.5% fall in GDP and £66bn of lost revenue annually in fifteen years. THAT one), a world-weary and decidedly edgier and more cantankerous than usual O’Brien had the bit between the teeth. This and the Sterling’s abysmal decline dominated his mid-morning rant. These are dire figures, huge, sensational apocalyptic predictions. Taking all the doom and gloom as gospel O’Brien reverted to type– “WHO ACTUALLY VOTED FOR THIS?? YOU’VE BEEN HAD!” He cries, mirroring the sentiment of many a (smug, sneering, elitist) Remainer, the kind who says “HA. TOLD YOU SO! You’ve made your bed you Brexit dolts. Now we all have to lie in it!”

Part of me understands the frustration, but I can’t help but think Monsieur O’Brien was missing the point. (Never mind that; it’s good radio.) On the spot, neither I nor many others could name a specific EU law to repeal. And maybe that’s part of the problem. We pay £9bn a year and don’t know what this bloated bureaucracy actually DOES?  Of course I’m oversimplifying matters. There are and have been many benefits derived from the EU, but off the cuff I can cite a number of serious, potentially seismic problems ready to erupt. Could it be Greece’s perpetual debt crisis and 50% youth unemployment? Or how about Spain’s 20% overall unemployment rate (alright, alright, down from 21%. Reach for the stars.) Or is it an Italian banking system on the brink of collapse? Portugal on the cusp of another bailout? A refugee crisis with no workable solution in sight? And who pray tell is my MEP? And on, and on, take your pick. Not one of the thousands of EU bureaucrats possess a clue how to tackle these and other issues aside from writing a big, fat check and kicking the can further afield. If there were shares in the EU, every analyst on the Street would recommend SELL. Why then do we aspire being shackled to a club of such ineptitude and economic mediocrity? We’re crying in our Cornflakes that we’re no longer going to be party to such lowest common denominator politicking and it’s baffling, it’s insulting, it’s… embarrassing.  For goodness sake, MAN UP, Britain!

To be clear, I voted remain, but am not a Remainer. Two words: Plausable deniability. Not for any great love of the dysfunctional economic union did I vote to stay, but to keep the status quo and in no small part avoid the typical ire demonstrated by Mr. O’Brien, that which I would almost certainly endure from some amongst my social sphere who would brand me a backward neanderthal were I to confess I had actually voted OUT. (Which I didn’t, you see?) This, and a better the devil you know, head over heart sorta thing. For some, admitting reservations over the EU is akin to saying you tear the wings off butterflies and club baby seals for fun.

But hang on, back to the numbers, the ones to which Remainers conveniently cling and insist we ought to accept as FACT. These are just forecasts. Forecasts which by there very nature are made to be amended.  As a former financial analyst, I know. We’re ALWAYS changing them. Up, down, sideways– it’s what keeps us employed. (Hint: It’s not so much about being right but making the most noise.) Judging from some of the more confounding and benign economic indicators emerging since the vote, it is not inconceivable some of these forecasts maybe a tad inflated. (Can we say, ‘talking their own book’?) Ahem. Then there’s the Pound. A point to which O’Brien returned time and again… and again… and again. Yes. It’s low. Painfully low, not great news for consumers but, happy days for exporters and tourism. Silver linings, and all that. Nine years ago it was the Dollar’s turn for a Pounding (Sorry. It was there.) In 2007 Sterling reached a near 30 year high and some forecasters feared it was curtains for the mighty Greenback as a major reserve currency. Crisis! Calamity! Oh wait… Well, nevermind. Anyhoo, just look where the dollar is now. Exactly. The pound is down today, but it will go up again. In the mean time, well yes, the economy will suffer, duh. But keep your panties on. What use is there indulging in the negative for the sake of an ‘I told you so.’

A little patience goes a long way. Cooler heads will prevail. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all those other pithy platitudes. A good analyst looks through the ebb and flow of market volatility and headline grabbing figures (no, I am no longer an analyst, make of that what you will), perhaps it’s time our journalists did the same. But then who would listen to that?

(If you’ve made it all the way down here, you understand there’s no way I could spit this out on a call, he’d rip me to ribbons before I could say Jean-Claude Juncker and then, crikey, it would be me ending up as some nonentity-blogger’s fodder.)


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