IT is difficult at times to escape the notion that the cast of a Carry On film, in full character mode, had a more serious grip on things than the Boris Johnson administration does on the UK economy.

So it was at the weekend, when the Prime Minister proffered his view on pay rises and inflation.

For anyone who does not know, and it is certainly not clear that Mr Johnson and some of his senior Cabinet colleagues grasp the true gravity of the situation, the UK is facing an extreme cost-of-living crisis.

Annual UK consumer prices index inflation had by May climbed to 9.1 per cent, its highest since 1982, and the Bank of England is now forecasting it will rise to “slightly above” 11% in October. This would be more than five-and-a-half times the 2% target set for the Bank by the Treasury.

Household finances are – as should be clear to anyone with even a basic grasp of arithmetic and not encumbered by an ideological aversion to pay rises to keep up with increases in the cost of living – under severe pressure.

However, Mr Johnson does not appear troubled at all by this.

The comments he came out with at the weekend seemed in many ways typical of Tory detachment from the everyday financial realities facing ordinary households but they were nevertheless utterly remarkable in terms of the apparent lack of any grasp of the situation. They were offered in response to a question about whether teachers, nurses and doctors should receive pay rises of only 3%, a figure that, it appears, is being bandied about increasingly by the Johnson administration in relation to public sector awards.

Speaking from the summit of the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations in Bavaria in Germany, Mr Johnson told ITV News: “What I would say to you is that, at a time when you’ve got inflationary pressures in an economy, there’s no point in having pay rises that just cause further price rises because that just cancels out the benefit.

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“So I know that people will find that frustrating but I’ve got to be realistic with people about where we are. I think – I’m pretty certain of this – that our inflationary pressures will abate over time, and things will start to get better.”

“Frustrating” is a bizarre word to use, and signals a complete lack of understanding of the reality for ordinary households. This reality appears to be quite different from the one in which Mr Johnson is living.

What a 3% rise would equate to is a massive real-terms cut in pay for public sector workers.

In an overall context, for many lower-income workers in the private and public sectors, the UK’s cost-of-living crisis is all about whether they are able to heat their homes and buy enough food. The troubles go way, way beyond mere frustration.

Mr Johnson’s comment that he is “pretty certain” inflationary pressures will subside is cold comfort to households facing a crisis right now. In any case, the Prime Minister would surely not be the first port of call for many if they were seeking a prediction on inflation, or on the economy in general for that matter.

The Johnson administration has seemed at pains to portray the inflation crisis as a global phenomenon.

Of course, there are huge inflationary pressures around the world, with energy prices having surged as economies reopened. Russia’s awful invasion of Ukraine has pushed energy costs even higher and also fuelled food prices.

However, the UK has its own specific issues which have fuelled inflation, including Brexit and associated skills and labour shortages and supply-chain disruption as well as woeful inadequacy when it comes to energy security.

The UK’s headline annual inflation rate is the worst in the G7.

Annual inflation in France, where President Emmanuel Macron has taken serious action to limit electricity price rises, was 5.8% in May. Italy, in May, recorded annual inflation of 7.3%.

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What is entirely unclear from Mr Johnson’s comments is how he expects households which are already facing huge financial pressures, and there are so many of them, to make ends meet with a dramatic real-terms cut in pay.

Mr Johnson and other senior Tories do not seem that bothered about this, of course. And the Prime Minister’s comments at the weekend reinforce this impression greatly.

However, from the perspective of the overall economy as well as the millions of individual households affected, the Conservatives should be very concerned indeed. If lower and middle-income households have to deal with massive real-terms cuts in pay, what is surely an obvious and clear extension of this is that consumer spending will come under severe pressure.

Official retail sales figures published last Friday signalled consumers were cutting back on food shopping amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Retail sales volumes in Great Britain dropped by 0.5% month-on-month in May, according to the seasonally adjusted data from the Office for National Statistics. The decline was the third drop in four months. Food store sales volumes tumbled 1.6% in May.

And UK consumer confidence dropped even further last month to a fresh record low, according to a key survey.

Pollster GfK’s closely watched consumer confidence index fell by one point to -41 in June, dropping below what had been a record low in May. Comparable records began in 1974.

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GfK client strategy director Joe Staton flagged the prospect of a “summer of discontent” amid strikes and spiralling inflation, and highlighted the fact the mood among consumers was “darker” than in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic in the first half of 2020 and at any stage during the global financial crisis. That is surely a big deal.

The performance of the UK economy has, of course, been dismal for years now, hammered by the Tories’ savage austerity programme that began in 2010 and exacerbated hugely by Brexit.

And with runaway inflation threatening to bring on another recession, Mr Johnson and his Cabinet colleagues should reflect seriously on the grave consequences for the economy of extremely sharp real-terms cuts in pay for many millions of households.

The Prime Minister’s glib comment about there being “no point” in pay rises to keep up with rising living costs is just not good enough.