A few days respite for many to enjoy their families and forget about work and politics before it all starts over again! This, apart from my usual end of year remarks on December 30th, this will be the last that I write this year. So, at this point, may I wish all of those reading this a very Happy Christmas and New Year. To the 8,7772 ‘Commentary, recipients on my various lists and who receive this in one form or another aby email and particularly to those who for whatever reason choose to respond, be this in appreciation or just as often, in order to challenge my remarks or add further value to an argument, you all have my sincere thanks. This is what makes writing these so very worthwhile and make no mistake, your responses are all read and very much appreciated – even if sometimes I am not able to respond.
February next year will mark the 30th anniversary since I started writing what was originally known as ‘Letter from London’ following a request from my US colleagues at Prudential Bache back in 1993 who wanted a regular view of what was going on in European capital markets. At the time, I was senior European Strategist working out of the London office and as ever, I continued to have responsibility as an equity analyst for providing views and stock recommendations on companies within the aerospace and defence sector. More about that when we get into February next year! The title changed to ‘Commentary’ in 1998.
By any imagination, from a professional aspect, 2022 has been a very much better year than either of 2020 or 2021. Of course, we may well have very different opinions in respect of how the so-called pandemic changed our lives just as we probably do in respect of how the government chose to place so much reliance on SAGE for advice that allowed it to make decisions in respect of the lockdown. We may well believe that the Government was wrong and that subsequently, advice from SAGE was found wanting but even if that is the case, there is nothing we can do about that now. Whatever notion you choose to believe, I am in no doubt that the government of the day did what the did because they truly believed it was the right course of action. The Public Inquiry will, in due course, enlighten us but for now, what is done is done and the billions of pounds that may or may not have been wasted will very soon have drifted into history.
2022 was always going to be the year that the negative elements of leaving the EU would start to be felt before, it was hoped, the economy started to hopefully begin to show the beginnings perhaps of positive benefits in subsequent years. Again, all that I can say is that we are where we are now and whether I like it or not, there can be no turning back of the clock.
This time last year very few of us could have imagined that by March 2022 Russia would have invaded Ukraine and, in the process, created massive inflation across most western nations as the price of oil, gas and other commodities, food and much else that we have for too long perhaps taken for granted, rose dramatically. The result for us is that we now have to fight that battle with inflation and the rising cost of living by squeezing the economy with further tax cuts and higher interest rates. Again, we are where we are and nothing that I could say will change that.
I will make no comment here in relation to Ukraine save to say that I continue to believe this will be a protracted war that no-one will win. One’s admiration for Ukraine and of how they have challenged the might of Russia know no bounds and in how the US, UK and other European government have risen to the challenge of supporting Ukraine in its hour of need is commendable to say the least.
Meanwhile, the UK economy is now in shall we say, special measures and the very least to say at this point is that following the idiotic policies adopted by Liz Truss we are, following her removal back in as good a set of hands that we could be to face up to the issues we face with Rishi Sunak in Number 10. As to Boris Johnson, we are the better for his removal from office and I for one do not believe we will see his return to front bench politics. As to whether the Conservative Party will be seen as a spent force by the electorate when the next General Election must be called (very early 2025 at the latest) I am not prepared to comment – yet!
That from an economic point of view we are not in a very good place is surely a given but I would suggest that we are nowhere near being in such a bad position as we had been during the 1970’s. If only we could all pull together and, on that subject, allow me to repeat – ‘why do we go trouble to destroy what we have put so much effort into creating? – and to follow this up by suggesting once again as I have so many times past, that with a little more hard work and effort, what a wonderful place this could be!
We all knew that the death of Queen Elizabeth would eventually occur but when it did come in September, we were all so very shocked. She was the rock that held the nation together and as Head of State and Head of the Commonwealth she did all and more than was ever asked of her and she did so because it was her duty to so do. As with that of her late father, King George the V1 in 1952 and that of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth the second was quite remarkable. To say that there will never be another like her sound trite but it is also surely true. She had been a part of my life for all but three years and there was no-one outside of our immediate family who could and did earn our respect as Queen Elizabeth. But of all the fine words said following her death it was the French President Emmanuel Macron whose fine words stand out most when he said:
Dear citizens of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth,
Aujourd’hui, nous sommes tellement tristes. It is with great sorrow that the French people have learned of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll.
Her wisdom and empathy have helped us all to steer a path through the historic ups and downs of the last seven decades. With her passing, we all feel an emptiness.
Millions of people around the world discovered the images of her coronation, and were immediately captivated by the young leader who already exhibited such strength and courage.
The courage of a life marked by the war, and soon the courage to uphold, from one century to the next, the values of freedom and tenacity.
Her rare and powerful words, her unwavering dignity made her the constant symbol of the United Kingdom.
We are grateful for her deep affection for France:
Elizabeth II mastered our language, loved our culture and touched our hearts. From her coronation on, she knew and spoke with all of our presidents. No other country had the privilege of welcoming her as many times as we did
In her, I have known a great head of State, a unique example of devotion to her people, and a very close ally.
With her, France and the United Kingdom shared not just an “entente cordiale”, but a warm, sincere and loyal partnership.
To you, she was your Queen. To us she was THE Queen, To us all she would be with us forever.
We will remember and perpetuate the values she never ceased to embody and promote: the moral fortitude of democracy and freedom.
At this sad moment, we send our heartfelt condolences to His Majesty the King, the Royal Family, the British people, and all those who loved the Queen and will miss her so deeply.
Nous sommes avec vous
At the end of what has been a fairly traumatic year for all of us I should say here that of all the commentaries that I have written this past year the hurt was when I felt the necessity of challenging what, in my view, were misguided policies and strategy in relation to diversity and inclusion that over the past near three years were adopted and pushed through and often I fear, without true recourse to promotion based on merit and achievement, by the current Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston and some of his senior team and that while fast forwarding careers of a few left too many others serving within the Royal Air Force to feel abandoned and left out when it came to achieving promotion and moving their careers forward. The Royal Air Force always needs the best and the best can only be found on the basis of merit. Be assured that I hated writing what I felt that I needed to do and that I did so out of the enormous respect that I have for serving members of the Royal Air Force. I have no regrets and in the literally hundreds of responses that I received, that only two were adverse surely says it all.
CHW (London 23rd December 2022)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785