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News of Queen Elizabeth II’s death and funeral procession made headlines for nearly two weeks, thanks in large part to Britain’s long reign. period of national mourning.
Some of the people lining up to visit the Queen’s coffin and lining up along the funeral route described the moment as offering a much-needed dose of community and positivity amid challenges like COVID and the war in Ukraine.
But it has also been a source of frustration for people who say the extent of focus and coverage distracts from other important topics – like, for example, the hurricane that caused the blackout. through Puerto Rico Queen’s funeral.
Closer to Home: The Queen died just two days after Liz Truss was appointed as the UK’s newest Prime Minister to face Economic and energy crises. King Charles’ decision to make Monday a bank holiday Faced a violent reaction From the British about closing food banks and hospital services. and many Young Londoners tell NPRElaborate funeral arrangements cost a lot of money at a time when many ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet.
NPR interviewed nearly a dozen people across London about what they had in mind throughout the mourning period, now that the funeral is over, and what they hope to see next. Almost everyone had the same primary concern: the economy, and in particular the decline in disposable income known as the cost of living crisis.
“How will I just live?” I asked 22-year-old Attia Chowdhury, a recent MSc graduate about Talk to NPR over the weekend. “I feel like a child who came out of an egg and the sun is so bright, and that sun is the cost of living.”
Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR
Prices are high and morale seems low
The cost of living crisis in Britain began in late 2021, driven by high inflation and exacerbated over the past year by tax increases and skyrocketing energy prices. According to the think tank Institute of Government. Wage growth has not been able to keep pace with record inflation, and the tax increases announced last year were the largest (as a share of national income) since the early 1990s – dramatically weakening the purchasing power of people across the UK
The Consumer Price Index (which measures the average change in the prices that consumers pay over a period of time for a basket of household goods) rose 8.6% in the 12 months leading up to August. This is according to UK Office for National Statisticswho says the rising cost of electricity, gas, car fuel and food is to blame.
The cost of gas is increasing for a number of reasons, including supply shortages and disruptions caused by the Russian war in Ukraine. Most Britons depend on it to generate electricity and heat their homes, and they are already worried about the cold months ahead.
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The British government has I took some steps To try to tackle the crisis, such as giving all UK families Discount on energy bills As of October, one-time benefits for about 6 million people on disability payments Tuesday start.
But there are concerns that it is not doing enough to help those who need it. After Truss announced last week that it plans to implement energy price freezes and tax cuts, Resolution Research released a report saying its strategy would give the richest tenth of households, on average, Double financial support as the poorest tenth.
Young people in London told NPR that as much as they would like the government to take stronger action, they are not optimistic given the Conservative Party’s record.
Rachel Triesman / NPR
“I can’t see them relying on welfare and giving alms, but it’s what they have to do to allow people to live,” said 20-year-old Sarah Mughal while waiting at Victoria Station for her train to return to university. “Otherwise there will be drastic changes in people’s lifestyles, which I don’t think are very good for the country.”
While she hopes that her family’s fate will be fine, she is concerned about what the crisis will mean for the public at large, especially in the winter.
“No matter how much income you have, it’s really going to affect everyone,” she adds.
Crisis affects people differently
The cost of living has become unreasonable—his rent has increased again this month, and he hasn’t gotten the increase he had hoped for, says Dorian Mills, thirty-years-old, COO of Cocktail Company.
“If I spend my money on food and rent, I’m fine,” he says, adding that he’s lucky that as part of his housing arrangement (called guardianship scheme) Pays rent only and not utilities.
Rachel Triesman / NPR
However, even visiting his parents in Brighton – about 70 miles from the coast – as often as he would like can be a financial and logistical challenge. Mills says train tickets can be priced as high as 40-50 pounds ($45-60).
“It doesn’t make sense to get an easyJet or Ryanair flight to Spain or Malaga for 40 or 50 Egyptian pounds,” Mills adds. “Getting from here to Brighton costs pretty much the same as moving from here to Spain.”
Mills doesn’t think government is the answer, because he believes the Conservative Party – which has ruled for more than a decade – has failed to invest in infrastructure and help anyone other than the wealthy. What would he like to see in the future?
“Rent cap, ceilings on energy, ceilings on food, ceilings on everything,” he says.
Mills believes that nationalizing energy and rail could be a solution, or at least one worth trying. He adds that people are more and more aware that the current system needs to change.
“I’m all for capitalism and stuff if you sell the right way,” he says. “I think people should be able to make their money…but not when all the money just goes to two people.”
Bonmi Mog, 33, says the cost of living is one of her top concerns. You run a custom printing business and need to make sure the business stays up and running so you don’t have to worry too much in the winter.
But she, like many of the other people NPR spoke with, also tries not to worry too much.
“I take each day as it comes,” she says. “But I know other people, it affects them a lot…a lot of their bills are going up and there is a lot of concern about how to pay it.”
Some people have different views. Frida Cakmak shares her car from behind the counter of the ice cream truck where she works, parked at the tourist destination in Piccadilly Circus. She moved to London eight months ago from Istanbul, where she used to work as a principal in a law firm.
Kakmak has always thought about leaving Turkey due to the state of its economy, especially the weak lira. She says she is only planning to return as a visitor.
Rachel Triesman / NPR
“I’m here and I’m so happy living in London, really,” she says. “Social life is better, work life is better, and of course money is really good here.”
The economy is just one of Britain’s problems
Some people told NPR about other issues on their minds, including climate change and public safety. Many said that all the problems facing the country can be frustrating if we look at them head on.
“I think there are a lot of political challenges going on with the war in Ukraine, energy prices, domestic issues,” said Maddy Baker, another recent graduate. “I think all of that comes together, it makes for a very bleak picture of a young man… It’s kind of hard to be optimistic right now about things like that.”
Mughal, the undergraduate, is not planning to stay in the UK for long. She has her sights set on Dubai.
“I think it’s very frustrating right now,” she says, adding that Britain appears to be dealing with economic issues that its European neighbors have handled better. “I turn on the news and all there is is just sad stories and depressing news all the time.”
As Mills sees it, there is a lot of discontent in the country but not a lot of activity. He says people aren’t protesting anymore, “like we’re sitting ducks.”
“We’re very good at being minorities and kind of pushing for individual things,” he explains. “But when it comes to fully working together, we’re waste.”
NPR spoke with Mills on Tuesday, after crowds lined the streets and parks for days on end to pay tribute to the late Queen. People came together during those days, and many said the highlight of their experience was the shared community.
How does it reconcile? The “collective delusion” laughs, but says in all seriousness that it was a good idea for people to come together to mourn – regardless of their personal feelings about different parts of the Queen’s legacy. As for his feelings, he says, he can’t figure out why the country’s royal family is so important.
“They continue … stability, stability, stability,” he says. “Who? What is this?”