Sucking the Oxygen

10 March 2022

Sucking the Oxygen

And facing the aftermath.

By Robert Kilconner

The theory that by sucking up all available oxygen a fire can stifle those near to it probably belongs to science fiction. Yes, there are plenty of ways in which a fire can kill you but the creation of a vacuum is probably not one of them. Still, the war in Ukraine seems to be having an analogous effect on our politics and those of our allies where all the energy is focused on the one issue and everything else seems trivial and irrelevant.

From Sir Keir Starmer’s reply, on being asked whether he considered that Johnson should go, to the effect that Johnson had a job to do and Labour was giving support, to the comment by Rory Stewart, no Johnsonian fan, that so far he had done all right on this issue, normal politics are off and the Government has received a generous measure of support from all sides. No question of letters being handed in to the 1922 Committee now. Not for a while anyway. We all want the Prime Minister’s full attention on the issues which count.

All of which leaves something of a vacuum for those who write opinion pieces. Write about the Ukraine and you find there are many, far better informed, already doing so. Write about anything else and nobody wants to read it. Who cares whether some statue will be removed from a niche? Who cares whether the cricket team is in disarray? Who even cares very much about the latest Covid figure? All the energy is submerged in Ukraine and its ramifications.

But it isn’t just the lack of oxygen that makes it difficult to write about other issues. Waves from the present conflict will change things at every level. There is a new refugee crisis for example.  How grave it is will depend upon the outcome but over a million people have left Ukraine to date. Then there are inflationary pressures, increases in the oil price and in wholesale food prices. Wherever you look there are pressures but the greatest challenge will be how to unwind Western economies from their dependence on Russia and China. For a long time we have supported our living standards with money and oil from countries who in geopolitical terms are our competitors. The Nord Stream pipeline that was due to deliver Russian gas direct to Germany is an obvious example but the financing of our universities through joint projects and fees racked up in the City from the handling of Russian money are others.  Much of that will change now but economies which have become addicted to these sources of income are going to suffer serious cold turkey as it is withdrawn. And the voters who will in the end be left with much of the pain, how will they react?  With acceptance that belt tightening is necessary or by simply voting for those who say that it is not? Leadership is going to be necessary right across the Western world. It really would not do if and when the Russians wreck themselves over the Ukraine for us to wreck ourselves over the aftermath.

Tile photo: Daphne on Unsplash

Follow the Shaw Sheet on

It's FREE!

Already get the weekly email?  Please tell your friends what you like best. Just click the X at the top right and use the social media buttons found on every page.

New to our News?

Click to help keep Shaw Sheet free by signing up.Large 600x271 stamp prompting the reader to join the subscription list