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One of the pleasures of spending Christmas on Saddleworth Moor, better even than the wonderful beer, is being able to run in the bleak but beautiful countryside. The other day I admitted to someone that one of the main reasons I run regularly is that it means I can feel less guilty about drinking and eating more than I should. I suspect that the health consequences of over consuming and exercising are no different to consuming less and being more sedentary but the former makes for a more interesting life. I ate the equivalent of several horses yesterday, behaviour I was able to excuse by the 45 minute run up and down hills on Christmas Eve and the propect of its repeat this morning.

As anyone reading this blog all week (and I'm not sure I can even rely on my mum) will know I have been focussing on poltics; voter volatility on Monday, Cameron's faltering rise on tuesday, Brown's fragile recovery on Wednesady and the Lib Dems undeserved doldrums yesterday. One question to be asked of all our poltical leaders is have they prepared us for what lies ahead?

The current recession is not yet as bad as that of the early nineties but not only do most experts think it will turn out to be worse, the bigger probelm is how unprepared we now are for the depredations of a downturn. I only come to Saddleworth once or twice a year and nowhere else to do I take on hills as steep and frequent as round here. But becuase I run twenty miles or so every week in london I set out from the cottage reasonably confident that I'll make it back. 

For the family finanances of millions of people 2009 and 2010 are going to be a long uphill struggle.  Like embarking on a marathon most of us think we will somehow get to the end but we know there is going to be a lot of pain and self doubt along the way, and inevitably some people won't make it. After the years of excess and debt we are very badly prepared for the rigours ahead. We could do with some last minute coaching and then strong encouragement along the way. Politicians aren't the only coaches we need but we do listen to them sometimes, esepcailly if they are saying something brave. But the political class as a whole seems to lack the self confidence, sense of responsibility or vision to give it to us straight; telling us how hard things are going to be and convincing us that good can come out of the struggle ahead. Like other bloggers I was dismayed a few weeks ago when Andrew Lansley was forced to apologise for pointing out that one good consequence of a recession may be that we are less prone to over consumption of food and alcohol.

Society needs a broad and deep debate about how we should tackle the financial downturn marathon. We need words that can ring in out ears when we hit the wall. We need to beleive that we can come out of this fitter, stronger and wiser. But in the absence of the leadership we need, too many people are embarking on 2009 feeling nervous, pessimistic and alone.


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