Despite the miserable rain and stories of unpaid stewards being forced to sleep under London Bridge, the United Kingdom has just finished four days of non-stop celebrations relating to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year. The event received blanket television and newspaper coverage, meaning many important stories were pushed off the news agenda completely.
British Prime Minister David Cameron even gave an interview to Channel 4 News
last night on the condition that he would only talk about the jubilee celebrations; the interviewer was told that the PM would not discuss politics or the economic situation. So why is Cameron making Hollywood diva-type demands during press engagements when Europe teeters on the brink? Such deflection tactics will not mask the reality of the deepening economic gloom for long. Although, we can no doubt expect a similar ruse during the upcoming European football championships and the London 2012 Olympics.
But, we may just have entered the next phase of the eurozone crisis without anyone in Britain knowing it – the political and media elites aside. We could be at a critical juncture where dysfunction in some of the single currency's peripheral member states threatens to transmogrify into eurozone collapse and European Union disintegration, followed by a global economic downturn. No reason not to have a pageant to celebrate the monarch on the river Thames and to ensure it entirely dominates the UK media though. Right?
So what are the headlines that the British press missed, or at least ignored, during the jubilee pomp and ceremony? Firstly, Spain can no longer afford to borrow on international markets. Then you have German and Austrian banks being downgraded by Moody's. Meanwhile, Egan-Jones Ratings downgraded the UK from AA to AA- and Standard & Poor's issued a report stating that the ratings agency believed there was "at least a one in three chance of Greece exiting the eurozone in the coming months'. Even little old Cyprus may require a bail-out of €1.8bn to meet new EU capital requirement rules , according to the country's president Panicos Demetriades. And Eurostat has revealed that gross domestic product growth rates, in the first quarter of 2012, were negative at -0.3 per cent for both the eurozone and the wider EU. Quite important stories, you would have thought.
Indeed, yesterday we felt compelled to run a lead story headlined Has Europe 'lost all hope' of recovery?
. It was a report from the Brussels Economic Forum
and here is a telling extract, evaluating the debate among politicians and officials and the perilous situation Europe finds itself in: "While the commission tried to accentuate the positive, the mood on the sidelines was bleak. 'I've come here to find out if anyone actually realises what is going on,' an analyst from Absolute Strategy Research, a British company, said over coffee before the forum began. By lunchtime he had his head in his hands. 'I've lost all hope,' he said. 'These people complain that the markets concentrate too much on the short-term. Well that's true: they do look at the short-term. The crisis is happening right now and the question is - what are you going to do about it? No-one has a clue.'
So amid the enthusiastic flag-waving in Britain and rather relaxed approach to crisis management in the rest of Europe – perhaps, it is time for politicians and officials to wake up and smell the coffee. Their determination to hold their noses and focus on distractions like the diamond jubilee, Euro 2012 and the Olympics in London project not just a failure to prioritise but also a vacuum of leadership. You have to wonder – how bad do things have to get before we see some radical measures and our leaders step up to the plate.