The energy regulator Ofgem has hiked the price cap on household bills by 80%, meaning the average bill will rise from £1,971 to £3,549 a year from October. The average bill is for 2.4 people living in a three-bed semi: if you’re a family of five in a four-bed detached, your energy bill is about to rise to about £7,000. And it is projected to increase again in January, when the average bill is likely to reach £5,000, and even up to £6,000 in April.
And the Bank of England’s base interest rate is likely to rise from 1.75% to 4% over the coming year, so people’s mortgage costs will increase just as energy costs increase. And business costs will increase, just as they’re recovering from the Covid pandemic and many are contending with the economic reverberations of Brexit. There will be home repossessions, bankruptcies, heart attacks and suicides. The costs will be real, and human.
Soaring inflation, pay demands, industrial strife and strikes, fuel crisis, rubbish piling up in the streets, mounting chaos. If bodies go unburied, it’ll be back to the Winter of Discontent, when Mrs Thatcher was calling for the Labour government to declare a state of emergency.
We are in a macroeconomic crisis which is likely to last two years. People won’t be able to heat their homes or feed their children. And not only lower-earners, but teachers and nurses on £45,000 a year are facing severe hardship. The disabled, elderly and vulnerable will be hit hard, and some will die. Many may die, especially if the coming winter is severe.
The cause is beyond the Government’s control: President Putin invaded Ukraine. Boris Johnson flew to Kyiv, hugged Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and assured him of the UK’s unwavering support to help defeat evil and liberate the country. Putin has now decided to use energy as a weapon of war: reduce the flow of gas, or cut it off altogether, and the price will soar, Europe will freeze, businesses grind to a halt, and economies will crash.
“We know that if we’re paying in our energy bills for the evils of Vladimir Putin, the people of Ukraine are paying in their blood,” the Prime Minister said in Kyiv this week. “That’s why we know we must stay the course. Because if Putin were to succeed, then no country on Russia’s perimeter would be safe, and… [that] would be a green light for every autocrat in the world that borders could be changed by force,” he added.
As Russian missiles were raining down, blowing train stations to pieces and children to smithereens, Boris Johnson made a Churchillian plea to the country, and to the free world: “To all our friends, I simply say this – we must keep going. We must show, as friends of Ukraine, that we have the same strategic endurance as the people of Ukraine.”
We’re paying higher bills – Ukraine is paying in blood.
We face mortgage arrears and fuel debt. Ukraine is facing the end of freedom and democracy.
We face a winter of crisis and catastrophe, with serious physical and financial damage to families and businesses across Britain.
Ukrainians are facing an entire future of oppression and persecution, with millions tortured, murdered, displaced or condemned to poverty.
If we are to love our neighbour, we must share in their suffering. If we care about freedom and democracy in Europe, we must weep with those who weep, and help to carry their burden, which is great.
We are effectively at war, and if we have learned anything from previous global conflicts, it is that we must stand without fear beside those who fight for freedom and democracy. There was nothing to compel the millions of non-Britons who fought to help save Britain during the Second World War – 215,000 from New Zealand, 410,000 from South Africa, 995,000 from Australia, 1,060,000 from Canada, 2,400,000 from India – except the defence of a way of life; the defence of human liberty.
There was nothing inevitable about the triumph of the Allies and the values we call Western, and there is nothing inevitable about the defeat of Vladimir Putin and the lifting of this present darkness.
There is nothing inevitable about democratic parliaments, habeas corpus, trial by jury, the rule of law, free markets, free press and media, freedom of religion, or the freedoms of speech, expression and assembly. As we have seen in Ukraine, these may be snuffed out by the oppression and arbitrary power of the autocrat. And so we must accept there is a price to pay in their defence, and that price for the moment is in going cold and having no money.
The mission of God to preach the gospel of salvation sometimes comes with opposition, arrest, flogging and death. We might hope and pray for goodwill and hospitality, but we are warned to expect rejection and persecution. It is a price worth paying. ‘Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one‘ (Lk 22:36).
“We know that if we’re paying in our energy bills for the evils of Vladimir Putin, the people of Ukraine are paying in their blood.”
The Prince of Martyrs on his white horse is the head of an army of conquest.
The rider’s robe is dipped in blood.
Those who have shed the blood of saints and prophets will find their own blood poured out on the earth.
We can endure a winter without central heating.