I PREDICT an autumn of discontent. All the signs are brewing for a storm not seen in the UK since the catastrophic banking collapse of 2009.

Last week the Office for National Statistics revealed the UK economy contracted sharply in the second quarter of 2019. Brexit insecurities, a catalogue of redundancies and car plant shutdowns, as well as the running down of stock built up before the original March deadline for Britain’s EU exit, all resulted in gross domestic product shrinking by 0.2%.

Meanwhile, the Pound fell to a 31-month low of just over $1.20 against the US dollar, triggered by concerns the Government is preparing for a no-deal Brexit. Sterling has dropped by 3% against the US currency since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister last month.

Recession could – and will be – dismissed as a temporary setback by those determined to support austerity and its ugly bedfellow no-deal Brexit at any cost. Personally, I believe the political weather system hatching up a perfect storm in this country has far deeper roots.

Put simply, we have become a horribly divided nation of haves and have nots. Nor is that division all to do with households’ disposable incomes. Divisions in the UK go far deeper. Young set against old, healthy people against the disabled, well-housed versus badly housed, unemployed against employed, disadvantaged regions set against more historically affluent areas.

In Yorkshire, for example, per head spending was £8,969 in 2018 compared to London’s £10, 323. This on top of years of cumulative disparities in terms of public spending.

As ever, social class is the great divider. In the post-war era, Governments of all political hues acknowledged and tried to address this reality, guided by reliable academic evidence. Those compassionate days are gone. We have a Government of millionaires shamelessly dedicated to servicing the interests of the very rich. Hence Boris Johnson’s outrageous pledge to cut taxes for our wealthiest citizens.

Perhaps the greatest driver of an autumn crisis will be a moral one. Increasingly the question is arising, how did we become such a selfish, shallow, unkind and individualistic society? Brexit has nothing to do with solving that deep-seated sickness.

Generally downplayed by a media all too soft on the Government, things unimaginable when I was a child in the 70s are the norm. According to the Trussell Trust 50,000 hungry children will be fed by local schools over the summer holidays because their parents are too poor to put regular meals on the table. Indeed, many parents are skipping meals in an attempt to save their children from hunger.

As for the Universal Credit system devised by the Cameron, Lib Dem and May Governments, evidence is indisputable it is causing unprecedented hardship, misery and even premature death to some of our most vulnerable citizens. Lest we forget, with bad luck that could be any one of us or a member of our families.

Only those with a financial or political stake in misrepresenting history can deny that ten years of austerity, and before that, decades of public spending cuts, privatisation, laughably low taxes for corporations and the wealthy under Thatcher and her natural successor, Tony Blair, have left this country scarred – and, as the real possibility of a no-deal Brexit looms, genuinely scared for the future.

But I believe we can take courage from the past this autumn, as well as mourn our losses. Our once great NHS and welfare state, including affordable education and housing for all, can be rebuilt with the necessary political will.

Yes, it will necessitate redistributing wealth from those who already own more than any reasonable human should expect to possess. And yes, with a genuine respect for science instead of business interests, we can begin to address the climate crisis threatening humanity’s future.

It is too easy to surrender to cynicism and appeals to the lowest elements of human nature on which ten years of austerity were built. As we approach our autumn of discontent and a likely general election, we need to remember the best of British values, not take the easy road of division and pandering to those who have proved themselves, over and over, duplicitous, unkind and incompetent.