Just how screwed are we?

We’ve been short of good news recently. The world has been looking distinctly grim. Not only that but we’re going into unknown territory. I think that there was a general feeling that when Putin invaded the Ukraine, the war might last a week, and then after making a few token gestures of disapproval, we’d go back to business as usual.

The problem is that the Ukrainians didn’t roll conveniently over. They fought back and the dead civilians in Bucha, bodies lying in the street, in shallow graves, or in cellars, have explained exactly why the Ukrainians were so keen to fight. I saw it pointed out in a paper recently that a lot of Ukrainians, some still in the armed forces, served in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. They know what happens when it’s felt that a civilian population needs to be taught a sharp lesson. They were determined that it wasn’t going to happen to their people, their families.

So now what? A month ago, I could have imagined that the gas taps would be fully on and trade links would be resumed. Politicians with insincere smiles would have kissed and made up. But now things are different. Even if the politicians want to kiss and make up (and too be fair to most of them, they realise that that time has long past) there are already war crimes investigations starting. Already evidence is being gathered, witnesses are being interviewed. Will this just be brushed away with a wave of the hand? It will be difficult to have the investigation under UN auspices because the Russians can just veto it, but there are other bodies who can ensure that cases come to trial.

Even if the Russians pulled out completely, tomorrow, Bucha and so many other places have left their scars on the psyche, on prime time TV. The electorate is not going to unsee this even if our political masters wanted to ignore it. The gas doesn’t burn properly, contaminated with innocent blood.

So the problem is that from now on, whilst the current regime is in power in Russia, the sanctions will continue. Already various people are biting the bullet. The Germans are obviously assuming the situation is not going to improve, they’re already planning the rationing of gas for next winter. The opposition in this country suggest that we ought to be doing the same. It’s a valid position to take up.

So where does that leave farmers and consumers in the UK. There is talk that milk will have to increase by 50% in the shops. It will, either it’ll increase because nobody can afford to produce it, and you have scarcity; or it’ll increase in an attempt to ensure production stays up. It’s the same with the Glass House industry.

As early as last September, the price of gas was hitting the Dutch industry

In the UK a few days ago it was reported that in “Southeast England, vast glasshouses stand empty, the soaring cost of energy preventing their owner from using heat to grow cucumbers for the British market.

Elsewhere in the country growers have also failed to plant peppers, aubergines and tomatoes.”


“While last year it cost about 25 pence to produce a cucumber in Britain, that has now doubled and is set to hit 70 pence when higher energy prices fully kick in, trade body British Growers says. Regular sized cucumbers were selling for as little as 43 pence at Britain’s biggest supermarket chains on Tuesday.”

Remember industrial users have not had their gas price capped, last year producers paid 40-50 pence a therm for natural gas. Last week it was £2.25 a therm, having briefly hit a record £8 in the immediate aftermath of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

Obviously some of these greenhouses will probably plant something when the warmer weather comes, but forget out of season vegetables. They’re going to be expensive.

With regard to the staples it’s estimated that the price of bread could go up by 20%, pasta by 50%, potatoes by 30% and beer by 15%.

The problem is that this comes on top of an increase in the price of domestic gas and fuels such as petrol and diesel. People are inevitably feel the pinch as summer turns into winter. There again we’re not as badly off as those in North Africa and the Middle East who depended on Ukrainian grain and similar. As the price goes up we will see a lot of genuine hunger around the world. Not just a few less unseasonal veg on the supermarket shelves.

But how bad could it get here? If we have fuel rationing, if factories have to close because they cannot use gas on three days and cannot afford to use the gas on the other four, what is going to happen to jobs. People will already have been laid off from the glass house industry.

We have a lot of people in this country on the edge of hunger as it is. When I googled for a picture of men queuing for a soup kitchen, I wanted the one at the top of the page. But all the pictures I initially got were from the UK. We already have a ‘flourishing’ soup kitchen sector.

In one way we’re lucky. The churches and other voluntary groups have built up a pretty solid foodbank and soup kitchen sector. We’re well provided. We’ve got a good solid foundation on which to build.

But in another way we’re unlucky. Government, with our agreement, poured an unimaginable amount of money into dealing with covid. They weren’t alone, a lot of other governments did it. But it does mean that the government is going into the crisis pretty much on its uppers. Also if unemployment grows and interest rates increase, governments will get less tax income, and have to pay back more on the money it borrowed.

What is going to happen? God alone knows. Personally I suspect it’s going to be a good and bad time to be an environmental campaigner. Good in that there is a very major push to renewables and nuclear. Bad, it that if you start lecturing people about cutting back, you’d be wise to do it from a safe distance, that way they’ll only laugh in your face.

One big issue could be social unrest. If we have a bureaucratic class who are still ‘working from home’ and agitating for inflation linked salaries, I can see people losing patience with them. There is only so long people are willing to sit on hold with a repeated message telling you that ‘because staff are working from home you might hear unaccustomed noises in the background.’
But at least, working from home in a nice suburb, you’ll not have to pass the queue for the soup kitchens.

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45 thoughts on “Just how screwed are we?

  1. Eddy Winko April 5, 2022 at 5:24 am Reply

    Radio 4 did a spot about a food bank up North that was only getting its deliveries from supermarkets every two weeks now. They used to get a couple of vans every other day. In part they put it down to the switch of charitable focus to Ukraine, but it still highlights how vulnerable the systems to help the vulnerable are.
    Time to run a ‘Dig for Britain’ campaign I think 🙂

    • jwebster2 April 5, 2022 at 6:49 am Reply

      Yes, during the pandemic the supermarkets were very supportive of foodbanks, and to be fair to them, in a quiet way.
      One thing we’ve noticed here is some people treat the foodbank as a bank. In good times they put in, in bad times they take out.

      We’ll regularly get clients who’ve got sorted out and are back in work again turn up with generous donations

  2. Jack Eason April 5, 2022 at 5:53 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    Not good times folks…

  3. Jack Eason April 5, 2022 at 6:17 am Reply

    Looks like we’ll be going back to seasonal rather than hothouse forced growing. Not a bad thing. Besides, I doubt many have ever known the taste of unforced foodstuffs…

    • jwebster2 April 5, 2022 at 6:47 am Reply

      I think some things will be positive in the long term. Energy use will doubtless drop, but unfortunately some people will have the harsh realities of life brought home to them.

    • alphaandomega21 May 19, 2022 at 4:04 pm Reply

      Seasonal growing extremely sensible. I have always tried to avoid buying out of season (although I struggle to get my wife to think this way) but in the UK it has been many years since we were self-sufficient agriculturally.

      Still we do grow more ourselves because we can.

      Meanwhile they build yet more houses on productive fields. It is unsustainable.

      • jwebster2 May 19, 2022 at 5:24 pm

        It is indeed 😦

  4. M T McGuire April 5, 2022 at 8:13 am Reply

    I think we’re going to be wearing a lot of jumpers and many people will be opening up their chimneys and spending next winter in one warm room. As that would be £200 for opening up the chimney and £10k for the scaffolding for us, we probably won’t. 🙂 but yes, a lot of people are going to have to discover how to cook with dried pulses to save cash and learn to love cabbage. On a serious note though, I could see things getting very grim. It’s not like they’ll have a revolution in Russia and stop the wore, they’ve only had about three years of democratic government in their history, they are totally resigned to being governed by rapacious despots, whether they be Czars, Stalin or the current ideologically dysmorphic Nazi-who-identifies-as-a-Communist.

    • jwebster2 April 5, 2022 at 8:39 am Reply

      I think it was lenin who said that all the Russian peasantry (the vast majority of the people) wanted was a good harvest under a good Tsar
      It’s probably still true but it’s sad that their low expectations cannot be met.
      But yes, a friend of mine got a poncho for his birthday and loves it for warmth
      Could be the way to go

      • M T McGuire April 7, 2022 at 10:29 am

        I have a poncho and can totally back up your friend’s view, they are really warm and you can tuck your hands in and make a kind of fug trap in there that keeps your whole body warm! Mwahahahrgh!

      • jwebster2 April 7, 2022 at 11:44 am

        Love the technical term ‘fug trap’ 🙂

      • M T McGuire April 7, 2022 at 12:26 pm

        🤣🤣🤣 I aim to please.

      • jwebster2 April 7, 2022 at 12:34 pm


  5. Stevie Turner April 5, 2022 at 8:27 am Reply

    I remember the food shortages and 3 day working week in the 1970s. My mum used to say ‘nobody needs to eat bread’, and so we went without. However, Sam said that at one point his mother had stockpiled 27 loaves in her freezer. Some people catastrophise and some don’t. We’re going to start growing more fruit and veg in our garden this year.

    • jwebster2 April 5, 2022 at 8:37 am Reply

      I know remember years where potatoes got short and we got bread at school dinners. I think it’s going to be a wake up call for a lot of people

      • Stevie Turner April 5, 2022 at 8:56 am

        Yes, it will be. I don’t remember potatoes being short though. I do remember a shortage of sugar. Mum told me we didn’t need sugar either, and now I can only agree with her – nobody needs sugar!

      • jwebster2 April 5, 2022 at 9:51 am

        I was at Junior school with potatoes, but I remember the sugar and remember I bought a 2lb bag and it lasted us through the shortage anyway
        The big issue was jam making

      • Stevie Turner April 5, 2022 at 9:57 am

        Mum, like me, would never have attempted to make jam. I make soda bread but that’s about it.

      • jwebster2 April 5, 2022 at 10:08 am

        my mother always made it. It was almost a sign of failure if she had to buy it 🙂

      • Stevie Turner April 5, 2022 at 10:21 am

        Lol. Mum always taught me that life’s too short to stuff a mushroom. I pick up a jar of jam now and then from Morrisons – it takes out all that hard work.

      • jwebster2 April 5, 2022 at 10:51 am

        She’s been through the war where you could get sugar for jam making but jam was on ration, 450g (1lb) every two months. Given the amount of bread they ate, jam was probably an essential 🙂

      • Stevie Turner April 5, 2022 at 11:32 am

        I’m from a long line of undomesticated women (on my mother’s side). My eldest granddaughter is the same.

      • jwebster2 April 5, 2022 at 11:47 am

        My mother was a farmer’s daughter. She loaded and worked as a teacher on the same day 🙂

  6. Stevie Turner April 5, 2022 at 8:30 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Stevie Turner and commented:
    Interesting post by Jim Webster. As I write this the garages around our way now have massive queues as panic buying has set in again. What’s needed is a shift away from me, me, me, and a move towards ekeing out what fuel is left and only filling up when you have to. But unfortunately me, me, me wins every time and now many garages have run out..

  7. beetleypete April 5, 2022 at 8:51 am Reply

    Jim, my biggest worry is that there is no longer a viable political opposition in this country with a genuine ‘for the people’ agenda that should involve re-nationalising essential utilities and making sure the elderly and vulnerable are properly looked after. I see Channel 4 is to be privatised now, so the news agenda on that TV station will no doubt change to reflect the big business buyer.
    If I was a betting man, I would place a big bet on the Tories being re-elected in 2024. But I am not, so I will just have to be glad I am old, and don’t have that much longer left in which to watch this sorry mess unfold.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • jwebster2 April 5, 2022 at 9:49 am Reply

      If Labour rises above what is commonly called the ‘woke agenda’ and gets back in touch they could do it. Indeed even if they are close and dogging the heels over government they could have a major effect
      So from that point of view I’m not as worried.
      I’m worried that we could see the nationalised industries moving away from the people, because they’re seen as ‘cosseted, doing OK, guaranteed money, even working from home.” We’ve seen some of that with people desperate to see a GP. Some areas have been badly hit, some haven’t for that.

      But to be honest, if I was going into a crisis, I wouldn’t start from here 😦

  8. Widdershins April 6, 2022 at 12:08 am Reply

    It’s not going to be pretty. 😦

  9. Doug Jacquier April 6, 2022 at 3:13 am Reply

    Sounds dreadful, Jim. Just let us know when to start sending food parcels. 😉

    • jwebster2 April 6, 2022 at 5:23 am Reply

      To an extent you all ready are. The UK government is negotiating trade deals which will allow more food in from Aus and NZ. There’s a lot of howling coming from various sectors of the farming industry because we have extra costs loaded on us by government, but frankly I don’t think government has a choice. Anything that brings food prices down, they’re going to jump at

  10. robbiesinspiration April 6, 2022 at 5:16 pm Reply

    HI Jim, you are right on nearly every point in this post. As a humble work from home professional, however, I must point out that my husband and I contribute a huge amount to charity and we’ve increased our donations now in this time of great need.

    • jwebster2 April 7, 2022 at 5:14 am Reply

      Hi Robbie
      With the working from home point, it’s probably a UK issue. Certainly that’s the one I know. During the early lockdown a lot of stuff switched to home delivery and the comment was made that the middle class hid and the poor brought them stuff. And it was the poor, and predominantly low paid men, who died

      I published some figures here https://jandbvwebster.wordpress.com/2021/03/13/about-this-lockdown-thing-everybodys-talking-about/

      The numbers have increased the the same trades were hit. (As a side comment I don’t think we’ve recognised the part played by female social workers who kept on doing their job, didn’t hide, kept looking after people, and died.)

      My dig was mainly at our civil service, during the collapse of Afghanistan, Afghans and probably others died because our civil service was working from home and couldn’t access documents.
      https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10076061/Home-working-left-Britons-Talibans-mercy-Afghanistan-Ministers-claim.html (just one of the papers to cover it)

      The total disgusting farce of how our civil service has dealt with getting visas to Ukrainians has shocked people. Civil servants expected Ukrainians to go back into the Ukraine, into cities being shelled, to get their biometrics done! The whole process was so slow and inefficient! Government was giving instructions, pulling the levers and nothing was happening

      So I do apologise if others have felt got at. I know in this country, people who are working from home who are donating time in the middle of the day to work on charitable causes, because now they don’t have three hours a day commuting. I know others who have given more financially, and yes, in the long run, for environmental issues, a lot of people will have to work from home.
      But every so often I have to rant 😦

      • robbiesinspiration April 7, 2022 at 5:44 pm

        HI Jim, ah, I understand the context of your comment now. We have had the same issue here. Because of total bureaucratic rubbish I now have to take my mother of 83 and my chronically ill child to Home Affairs to wait in a queue for who knows how long to renew their passports. I can’t apply on line because my mother was not born in SA (neither was I but I can apply on-line) and my son is a minor and can’t make his own application. Really!!! I get your irritation with government departments whose version of work from home seems to be not working at all. I have had to work myself to death at home because it is much less efficient for many people and I have to spend hours explaining things to people (sometimes more than once). A lot of people like me have really tried to keep things going and save jobs and help others, that is why I got a little prickly [smile].

      • jwebster2 April 7, 2022 at 8:41 pm

        I can understand. The endless zoom meetings where people obviously were neither there in body or spirit 🙂

      • alphaandomega21 May 19, 2022 at 4:07 pm

        Civil service is a misnomer nowadays. I call it uncivil service or even uncivil serpents.

      • jwebster2 May 19, 2022 at 5:25 pm

        There are good people in there but they’re trapped by a system and a culture 😦

      • alphaandomega21 May 19, 2022 at 5:27 pm

        Quite so. It has been said ‘The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy’. But not the nation as a whole.

      • jwebster2 May 19, 2022 at 5:31 pm

        It was always the way, I recommend Parkinson’s Law as the text to consult in this matter 🙂

    • jwebster2 April 8, 2022 at 2:13 pm Reply

      Glad you found it interesting

      • OIKOS™- Art, Books & more April 9, 2022 at 8:16 am

        Very interesting to overthink, and so true, Jim! Thanks for mentioning. Have a great weekend! xx Michael

      • jwebster2 April 9, 2022 at 5:50 pm

        Yes have a good one 🙂

  11. dgkaye April 12, 2022 at 2:13 am Reply

    Indeed scary times we’re living Jim. Great coverage on the state of things. 🙂

    • jwebster2 April 12, 2022 at 5:16 am Reply

      I think people have to grasp the seriousness of things so they can make what preparations they can

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