ISN’T it marvellous – the season of mince pies and good cheer is almost upon us, and it’s so refreshing to receive an early dose of jolly greetings from the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney. But instead of bringing peace and goodwill to all men, and twelve days of lovely presents, Mr Carney’s blessings ring more like the Ten Myths of Project Fear, counted out as follows, and so thoroughly demolished by Professor David Paton in his Spectator article.
Under a No Deal (WTO) outcome, says Carney:
1. Economy to crash 8 per cent in one year
2. GDP to decline by 7.6 per cent by 2035
3. Trade with EU decimated
4. Not stumping up £39billion is damaging to UK credibility
5. Hard border between NI and the Republic of Ireland
6. Prices rise relentlessly
7. UK slowest growth in G7 since vote
8. Plummeting investment will continue
9. Border trade will grind to a halt
10. UK families will have to do without Christmas trees (or food, water, medicines, electricity, Galileo, Mars Bars, etc) Certainly there will be no partridges in pear trees.
Professor Paton and many other distinguished economists and business people not only reject this doom-mongering, but claim that No Deal is probably the best possible outcome for March 29 2019.
Well, just in case, we’d better get on with the Christmas shopping, while stocks last. The Lego and Pokemon and Paw Patrol are for the grandchildren now. But I fondly remember the delights of book-buying when ours were very little. All those lovely Ladybirds, and a particular favourite was Chicken Licken. I snuggled down with my two-year-old on the sofa, and every time I turned the page, he ‘read’ the text, having memorised every word of the story. Little did we realise that we were actually reading an advance copy of Project Fear.
Chicken Licken is a European folk tale about a chicken who believes the world is coming to an end (an acorn fell on its head – ooh!) The chicken sets out to warn ‘the King’ and meets all sorts of other fowl en route, and finally the treacherous Fox.
There are many versions of the tale, including some where there is a happy ending – for example, don’t be a ‘chicken’, but have courage. In probably more realistic versions, all the birds get eaten by the Fox, and the fable is a warning not to believe everything you are told.
The story’s central phrase ‘The sky is falling!’ has become an idiom indicating a hysterical or mistaken belief that disaster is imminent, and has been applied to people being unreasonably afraid, or trying to incite unreasonable fear in those around them. Fearmongering – whether justified or not – has been deemed to elicit a societal response called ‘Chicken Licken Syndrome’, described as inferring catastrophic conclusions resulting in paralysis.
In fact this is a timeless parody of irrational human behaviour. There have been many media versions of the story, not least one from Walt Disney. In 1943, Disney made an animated short at the request of the US government with the aim of discrediting Nazism. In it, Foxy Loxy takes the advice of a book on psychology (in the original wartime cut the book is Mein Kampf) by striking the least intelligent first. Dim-witted Chicken is convinced the sky is falling. Cue farmyard mass hysteria, and the Fox makes good out of it. Fearmongering weakens the war effort and costs lives. Strangely, it’s supposed to be a comedy!
I can live without the Disney interpretation, but what I really like is my own version, of the ‘Fantasy Westminster’ cast for the next Britain’s Got Talent. A cast to die for:
Chicken Licken = Theresa May
Henny Penny = Amber Rudd
Cocky Locky = Tony Blair
Ducky Lucky = Gina Miller
Turkey Lurkey = Nick Clegg
There’s quite a lot of competition for these roles in my fantasy team. I leave you to make your own selection. But without doubt, you have to agree that the starring role of Foxy Loxy has to go to our own dear Governor, Mr Mark Carney. He might even hope to add a BAFTA to his already splendid accumulation of winnings.