To be a good Jeremiah, it’s all got to go wrong
By **Jeff Randall **
Last Updated: 9:26PM GMT 04 Jan 2009
By tradition, the first task of a business columnist in early January is to concoct some exciting predictions for the next 12 months.
In previous years I have happily played this game, but no more. The crystal ball has been locked away with other evidence of my judgmental frailties, including shares in a well known football club, a dozen or so “never-duff-it-again” golf wedges and a certificate of part-ownership in an astonishingly slow racehorse.
My reason for abandoning clairvoyance is that after years of forecasting disaster, I can reflect on the precipitous descent of Gordon Brown’s bubble economy in 2008 and say, albeit with perverse satisfaction, “I told you so”. From here, Nemesis beckons.
Britain’s lighter-than-air prosperity was really a flawed zeppelin, an economic Hindenburg, doomed to crash and burn. For too long, irresponsible lenders, reckless borrowers and complacent regulators had flown in a balloon of cheap and easy money. Finally: kaboooom! It exploded.
The problem with being a perennial Jeremiah is that in order to be proved right, everything has to go wrong. This, I confess, took much longer than I had expected.
On 23 November 2002, I wrote in The Sunday Telegraph that “Britain’s remarkable consumer boom is about to go bust”. Provoking my concerns were a “dizzying spiral of rapidly rising house prices, an unprecedented level of remortgaging and soaring consumer debt.”
In 2003, however, the British economy defied gravity. Far from ending in tears, the country’s orgy of unaffordable excess produced new forms of debauchery, such as equity withdrawal and 100pc-plus mortgages.
Undeterred by the failure of events to reflect my profound pessimism, I continued to warn (with ill-founded certainty) that the roof was about to collapse on the residential property market, crushing over-borrowed households and shattering illusions of wealth.