CPI increases, squeezing wages further

Inflation up, real wages down.

Inflation in the UK has come in slightly below expectations, with the headline CPI increasing by 2.9 per cent in the 12 months to June 2012. The consensus forecast predicted it would come in at 3.0 per cent. The final count is below the level at which Mark Carney, the new Governor of the Bank of England, would be required to write to George Osborne, which will be a relief in Threadneedle Street, even if it's cutting it a bit fine. But it's also well up from last month's count of 2.7 per cent.

The main drivers increases of the increase were clothing and fuel costs, particularly motor fuels, while the falling costs of air travel added the biggest downward pressure.

The release also saw the introduction of CPIH, a new measure of inflation which includes the housing costs of owner-occupiers. That grew by 2.7 per cent in the last year, and the difference is due "principally to owner occupiers’ housing costs increasing more slowly than overall inflation for other consumer goods and services". That fits with the surprise finding last month that private sector rents aren't rising as fast as we think. The correlation is to be expected, since the rental dataset is only made possible thanks to the information gathered for CPIH.

Hovering in the background of every inflation release these days is the knowledge that real wages are being crushed, and that's no different now. In April, the latest month for which figures are available, wages grew by just 1.3 per cent. In real terms, that's a 1.6 per cent cut. The squeeze continues.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Why do the words “soup, swoop, loop de loop” come to mind every time I lift a spoon to my lips?

It’s all thanks to Barry and Anita.

A while ago I was lending a friend the keys to our house. We keep spare keys in a ceramic pot I was given years ago by someone who made it while on an art-school pottery course. “That’s er . . . quite challenging,” the friend said of the pot.

“Is it?” I replied. “I’d stopped noticing how ugly it is.”

“Then it’s a grunty,” she said.

“A what?” I asked.

“A grunty. It’s something you have in your house that’s hideous and useless but you’ve stopped noticing it completely, so it’s effectively invisible.”

I was much taken with this idea and realised that as well as “grunties” there are also “gruntyisms”: things you say or do, though the reason why you say or do them has long since been forgotten. For example, every time we drink soup my wife and I say the same thing, uttered in a strange monotone: we say, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop.” How we came to say “soup, swoop, loop de loop” came about like this.

For a married couple, the years between your mid-thirties and your late forties might be seen as the decade of the bad dinner party. You’re no longer looking for a partner, so the hormonal urge to visit crowded bars has receded, but you are still full of energy so you don’t want to stay in at night, either. Instead, you go to dinner parties attended by other couples you don’t necessarily like that much.

One such couple were called Barry and Anita. Every time we ate at their house Barry would make soup, and when serving it he would invariably say, “There we are: soup, swoop, loop de loop.” After the dinner party, as soon as we were in the minicab going home, me and Linda would start drunkenly talking about what an arse Barry was, saying to each other, in a high-pitched, mocking imitation of his voice: “Please do have some more of this delicious soup, swoop, loop de loop.” Then we’d collapse against each other laughing, convincing the Algerian or Bengali taxi driver once again of the impenetrability and corruption of Western society.

Pretty soon whenever we had soup at home, Linda and I would say to each other, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop,” at first still ridiculing Barry, but eventually we forgot why we were saying it and it became part of the private language every couple develop, employed long after we’d gratefully ceased having soupy dinners with Barry and Anita.

In the early Nineties we had an exchange student staying with us for a year, a Maori girl from the Cook Islands in the southern Pacific. When she returned home she took the expression “soup, swoop, loop de loop” with her and spread it among her extended family, until finally the phrase appeared in an anthropological dissertation: “ ‘Soup swoop, loop de loop.’ Shamanistic Incantations in Rarotongan Food Preparation Rituals” – University of Topeka, 2001. 

This article first appeared in the 21 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The English Revolt