Rod McPhee: Year of the wait

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We've been waiting for Armageddon since the credit crunch bared its teeth.

Yet, as we emerge from the recession and look to a new year, we're still drumming our fingers when we were supposed to be having them burned.

Warnings of impending doom continue to echo but, unless you're one of the growing band of poor souls made redundant, things aren't that bad.

I won't do a Lord Young and say that most people have never had it so good, still, it's fair to say things could have been a hell of a lot worse.

The financial downturn feels like just that: a downturn of finance. It doesn't feel like the 1980s when society was plunged into a state of flux by a step change in the economy.

There's no seismic switch as there was from Keynesianism to monetarism, no destruction of manufacturing in favour of a dash to services.

And there's no sense that we're all going to have stop doing the kind of jobs we've been doing and consider something completely different in order to stay in work.

There are, as yet, no battle lines drawn up as there were 25 years ago. No real north/south divide, no class war, no industrial dinosaurs locking horns with the establishment.

Yet think back just two years. On New Year's Eve 2008 it was a given that we were sailing into the perfect storm.

Now it feels like we might just ride it out.

So, far from waiting for the worst to happen, more and more people are now waiting for that corner-turning moment.

Maybe that's a delusion, but as we brace ourselves for a meltdown that never quite comes, it's a growing sense too.

In Leeds there's certainly a belief that we're about to take a step back up – and it's not just blind hope.

The arena, the expansion of Leeds/Bradford airport, the Trinity shopping/leisure development, the arrival of Leeds's first real department store in decades.

Collectively they represent a multi-billion pound investment in the city and they are all going to happen.

Civic leaders have been talking all these schemes up, and so they should.

The question is whether they will be enough to offset the effect of austerity measures, reduced services and any rise in local unemployment.

The spending cuts hitting local authorities and the resulting threat of thousands of public sector workers losing their jobs is the biggest danger as we enter the new year, there's no ignoring that.

Another inescapable fact as we go into 2011 is that none of the aforementioned schemes will be coming online imminently.

Work will continue on them, but it will be another two years before any opening ribbons are cut and we start to feel the benefits.

Until then 2011 may well feel like a holding year, recovery time.

Which is preferable to 2009 and the last 12 months when we were all convinced the world was going to end.

Trouble is that until 2012 it might just feel like the world has stopped.

Cue more waiting, but at least there's finally something worth waiting for.

Where's the rage now?

SO, what do we think of Matt Cardle getting the Christmas number one?

Personally I think it's fair enough, but then it would only have been fair if Joe McElderry had done the same last year.

There's a certain amount of snobbery attached to Cardle's relatively untroubled ascension here. He's a slightly cooler winner of X-Factor and he's released a more credible single, so there hasn't been quite the same backlash against Cowell's annual bid to reach the top of the festive charts.

But if the self-righteous bandwagon that was last year's anti-X-Factor campaign was so self-assured why didn't they marshall the same forces they did in 2009?

Surely, the same principle applied to this year's competition? That big money and

record companies shouldn't dictate what we're forced to listen to.

But no, the middle class man from the home counties is allowed to triumph, while the working class teenager from Tyneside has his dreams of a Christmas number one crushed.

I hope all those cyber-rebels who downloaded Rage Against the Machine last year feel big about themselves. They did nothing but fuel their own self-satisfaction.

"The financial downturn feels like just that: a downturn in finance. It doesn't feel like the 1980s, when society was plunged into a state of flux"

Christmas finished early

DESPERATE to buy Christmas presents (like every man who always leaves everything to the last minute) I took to the streets of central Leeds last week confident I could get hold of whatever I wanted with just a few days to go.

But when I got there on Wednesday I found large parts of the city centre were, by 6pm, either closed or in the process of closing. To be fair, footfall looked meagre so I concluded business couldn't have been good either.

Returning on Thursday – the last shopping night before Christmas – I assumed it would be a late-night affair where I could nail those last few gifts. No way.

Although there were quite a few stores opening late and town was busy, there seemed to be an equal number of shops who were shutting at their usual time, which struck me as bizarre.

There were hundreds of people milling around who, I can only guess, were just looking for places to spend their money.

It's particularly embarrassing in a city which is supposed to be a retail mecca, it's also insane at a time when businesses are supposedly trying to get back on their financial feet.

I hope those businesses that didn't make the most of the busiest shopping time of the year don't complain when leaner times come.

A BRIGHTER FUTURE ON THE HORIZON?: Expectations of a financial meltdown turn to real hopes of a recovery

leeds city centre: All lit up with nowhere to go

CARDLE: Untroubled ascension

HELPING HAND: Ben Wilson, MD at MPM, with Victoria Hopkins, MD at Hopkins Catering. PIC: Tony Johnson

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