The past few days have had a hint of the late 1970s about them. A shortage of lorry drivers has led to fears of food shortages. Nurses are thinking about taking industrial action over pay. The Bank of England has been fretting about rising inflation.
Holed up in Chequers, the self-isolating Boris Johnson has been as unconvincing as a bronzed Jim Callaghan was on his return from Guadeloupe in January 1979, when he was misquoted as saying, “Crisis? What crisis?”.
This, though, is not a rerun of the period that helped propel Margaret Thatcher into power and ushered in 18 years of Conservative rule. It doesn’t herald the start of an era of hyperinflation, nor is it the dawn of a new golden age for workers.
The economy has changed in the past four decades and any echoes of the 70s are faint, especially in the case of the labour market, where fears of an imminent wage-price spiral are overblown. Most of the factors driving up pay are…