The green shoots of economic recovery remain frustratingly elusive for Chancellor George Osborne who must be quietly horrified when he reads that Britain’s GDP has failed to recover to anywhere near 2008 levels.
Especially as all but Italy of the world’s industrialised nations have clawed their way back to where they were four years ago.
This situation has much to do with depressed levels of UK consumer spending although, ironically, the proportion of our income directed towards saving and reducing personal levels of indebtedness has risen sharply.
Keynesianism on a microeconomic level no longer appeals to UK consumers. Most are convinced that prevailing conditions and low interest rates represent an excellent opportunity to pay down debt.
Nevertheless, the fall in aggregate consumer expenditure, exacerbated by a recent drop in real incomes, is providing little in the way of good news for the Government, nor offering much succour to organisers selling tickets to major sporting events – as we saw this week.
At first glance, the latest opportunity afforded consumers to buy tickets to the summer’s Olympic Games appeared successful.
Around 120,000 new tickets went on sale on Tuesday morning and, despite fresh complaints over a slow, unwieldy ticketing system, London 2012 organisers sold tens of thousands more and claimed vindication over their decision to charge for sections of the road cycling races previously available to spectators for free.
Paralympics officials also expressed confidence the London Games could become the first to sell out in the event’s 52-year history, following another round of strong ticket sales.
Among the tickets to go on sale earlier this week were 25,000 for the steep climbing section of the cycling road race at Box Hill, Surrey, and the cycling time trial at Hampton Court.
Ordinarily, cycling enthusiasts can watch the sport’s major events such as the Tour de France, Spain’s Vuelta and the Giro d’Italia from the roadside for nothing, but the London Organising Committee announced that the men’s events had sold out in a single day.
Initial demand meant the much-criticised Ticketmaster website, which, it was claimed, could handle 250,000 simultaneous enquiries, again slowed to a crawl.
“The sheer volume of demand meant that we managed transactions slowly in the first twenty minutes. However, transactions are now flowing through in their thousands,” said a spokeswoman.
Few sports fans were enamoured when they then discovered that payment for tickets could only be made with Visa debit, credit or prepaid cards.
Nonetheless, the sheer volume of Tuesday’s sales activity means that LOCOG has comfortably exceeded its target of generating £600 million from ticket sales.
However, approximately 450,000 Olympic tickets remain unsold, plus there is a further 1.3 million football tickets which are likely to prove extremely difficult to sell. The likelihood is that entry to some Olympic football matches will be free.
Sales of tickets for the summer’s other main sporting event, football’s European Championships, are also proving sticky.
While an estimated 25,000 England fans flew to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup and more than 100,000 travelled to Germany for the 2006 World Cup, fewer than 3,000 are expected to head to Ukraine and Poland over the next month to follow the national team.