As we approach 2022, Ian King, host of his eponymous flagship business programme on Sky News, joined Pagefield for our final Meet the Editor session of the year. As part of a wide-ranging Q&A, Pagefield Chief Executive, Oli Foster, asked Ian about the events of 2021 and the challenges and opportunities facing business in the year ahead.
A running theme throughout the discussion was Ian’s concern that inflation could prove to be the biggest threat to the economy in 2022. He said it was “astonishing” that the rate of the Consumer Price Index is twice that of the Bank of England rate, adding that he was “amazed” that the European Central Bank was tolerating a similar situation.
Signposting February as the key point where we could see some tightening of monetary policy, he warned that there was a very real chance we could see wages outstripping inflation in the weeks and months ahead.
Turning to the impact of the pandemic, Ian said that “businesses had, overall, responded very well” to the challenges of the pandemic. He noted that the UK’s central achievement of the pandemic, discovering a coronavirus vaccine, was an initiative driven by the private sector. While there were clear losers over the period, namely the travel and hospitality sectors, he said it was clear that some in the retail sector – such as Marks & Spencer and Next for example – were on an upward curve.
Government could be the biggest blockage to growth
However, despite some encouraging economic signs, Ian said one of the main concerns in the City was the Government’s seeming eagerness to regulate and intervene at will. He added that “Conservatives used to stand for sound money and responsible conduct of the public finances and we’re just not seeing that at the moment.” Some investors and businesses are starting to warm to Labour leader Keir Starmer and Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves. Ian pointed to another challenge facing the Government from across the Channel: President Emmanuel Macron is taking steps to woo businesses in an attempt to get them to swap London for Paris.
Brexit benefits still to materialise
On Brexit, Ian said it was still too early to reach a definitive conclusion on what the endgame would be. Highlighting that it was in the interests of EU leaders to be seen to be “tough on the Brits” for domestic consumption, he said it was obvious the UK should be looking elsewhere for partners and should build upon the trade agreements which have been agreed over the past year. However, he cautioned that it is unlikely that Joe Biden would “rush a deal” anytime soon.
Climate change and sustainability were the other defining themes of 2021 for business said Ian, and that’s unlikely to change in the years ahead. While he welcomed the depth and breadth of initiatives being undertaken to ease the carbon transition, he cautioned that this would not be a pain-free process, citing the example of the German car industry which stands to face heavy job losses as greener but less labour-intensive technology becomes an integral part of car manufacturing.