WE LIVE in strange times. Our very former deputy PM Nick Clegg has unleashed a phalanx of pithy untruths about the price of food upon leaving the European Union.
Our old mate Marmite hasn't had a good week. Threats of price increases blamed on Sterling's fall and Brexit thinly veiled the truth. A company wants to make more profits by putting prices up and finding an excuse... and that's absolutely fine. Tesco doesn't want to raise prices in a competitive market and has massive buying power to ensure this won't happen. That's great too. Welcome to free markets. When the price is too high, the price mechanism sends that signal, and it falls.
When the Royal Mail puts up the price of stamps we mock disgust in reflex and then think nothing more of it the next week. We prefer to receive our mail on time and with minimal losses. This is no different. We all want something and we find an optimum.
Some manufacturers have a diversified range of products thus production sites will be affected by the recent fall in Sterling. How best to adjust to higher costs in a competitive market? Raise prices for products with little competition and price elasticity. Marmite is a classic case. Few people treat it as a staple, it is a treat and is used sparingly, leaving it quite insensitive to price increases compared to bread or milk.
What is the price of Marmite? Does it vary between shops? Do we import it or is it made here?* Do food prices go up and down every week anyway? There's almost no point asking such questions of Nick, he clearly didn't bother asking them himself.
Brexit is Marmite but Marmite is not Brexit. For a start we haven't left the EU or the Customs Union or the Single Market. We won't for at least two years and when we do the idea we will put a 60% tariff on beef imports is risible.
Check out Singapore. A modern capitalist, free trading extravaganza. Tariffs on wheat imports from Chile? USA? Zero. A big fat zero. This is what sensible hmm... liberal countries do.
Has Nick never heard of the Corn Laws? The repeal of which created the Liberal Party? This obsession with Marmite prices feels very Liz Truss to me. The idea of importing cheese and 90% of our pears is a disgrace.
It's silly, far beyond most of the nonsense centrists trot out. We import 100% of our oranges and dates and when Gulf States think they can squeeze more out of us through higher fuel prices they have a go trying. That's life.
Our car industry, meat industry, soft fruit, pharmaceutical, and yes cheese sectors just received a currency boost greater than any WTO level tariffs the EU could impose.
Nissan, AstraZeneca, Mini, TATA Steel all on the up! Steel Nick, you know? That thing Sheffield is so famous for? We just made our steel more competitive than we could achieve quickly through tariffs and tax cuts.
No one is smiling but then again that's Marmite for you.
You either hate it or you love it.
*I know, I know, it's only made in Burton-on-Trent, but that wasn't my point.