THERE'S a novel by an author I love, Kate Atkinson, called When Will There Be Good News?

This phrase chants on a loop in my brain every day as I watch television or listen to the radio or pick up a newspaper or scroll through social media.

The talking points are all gloom of a style that feels freshly unrelenting.

During the pandemic there was an effort to tell the nice tales alongside the desperately sad and a purposeful attempt to uncover silver linings, such as improvements that might stem from the changes made to the way certain things were done.

Not this time. It has been said repeatedly that the cost of living crisis will require the same sort of rapid, mass political action as the pandemic. But where are the potential benefits here?

It's nigh-on impossible to see them.

You can tell a story of kindness, perhaps about someone with means batch cooking and delivering hot food to their neighbours who are struggling, but this isn't heartwarming. This is appalling.

Throughout the pandemic there were regular radio segments chewing over the pros and cons of working from home. Would the "new normal" usher in an age of blended working that would see employers benefit from staff rested and revived by the opportunity for flexibility?

Now the phone-in shows are asking workers if the energy crisis will prompt them back to offices. Will the lure of free heating, free phone charging and even free showers be enough to make reluctant office workers head back to city centres.

Woman's Hour is hosting debates about whether it's disgusting or not to shave in the shower at your gym to save money on bathing at home.

I listened to a show the other day that was speaking to community-based charities about how they were supporting people to cut down on energy bills and still eat well. One had held a fundraiser to buy CrockPots, an energy efficient way of cooking healthy food. They raised enough money to buy 250 of them.

It's astonishing, this. The UK in 2022. How swiftly have we moved from fundraisers to buy cooking equipment for families in developing countries to buying for families in Liverpool.

So quickly have we moved from foodbanks to warm banks. New phrases enter the lexicon as curiosities but quickly become standard, unsurprisingly understood descriptors.

In the pandemic we suddenly became fluent in aerosol transmission and social distancing. Now it's these warm banks - and the use of our workplaces as defacto warm banks.

This time we really must make an effort not to normalise these words. Foodbanks have become a fixed part of the third sector landscape but success for foodbanks is their demise, not their proliferation.

On the picket lines this week there was one response to the question of why workers were moved to take industrial action. The cost of living crisis. From east coast to west coast, strikers spoke of the fear of running out of money, of not being able to feed their children, of not being able to keep a roof over their head.

I spoke to several people with elderly parents who, they worry, will not survive. People are talking quite seriously about being afraid of those they love dying. Not in a hyperbolic manner, in a quite genuine, anxious way.

Fear, anxiety, feelings of being overwhelmed and no light at the end of the tunnel. The pandemic required meaningful, practical support but it was also largely acknowledged that mental health would suffer alongside physical health.

The same is true of the cost of living crisis. One of most vital ways of giving the country ease is effective leadership but, again, no light at the end of the tunnel there.

Had we noticed Boris Johnson was back from holiday? It's striking that his two overseas summers sojourns during a crisis went unremarked upon while Nicola Sturgeon's day in Copenhagen earned her pelters for turning her back while energy bills rise and the streets pile with rubbish.

Much of the ire is general opposition to the first minister but it is, also, because hands-on manoeuvres are expected of a competent leader. They are not expected of Johnson.

He's viewed as so utterly duff that comments he made as an analogy about long-term cost saving from nuclear power were misinterpreted as wildly poor cost of living advice. And almost no one thought to question it because the misinterpretation seemed just like something Johnson would say.

Surprising everyone by making a public statement, the prime minister had said nuclear is "cheap by comparison with hydrocarbons". He used then said, by way of explanation, that an old kettle might cost £20 to replace but it would save you £10 a year on your electricity bill.

Of course, replacing old and inefficient appliances is a good idea but perhaps he might have thought of something slightly less cloth eared. Or even chosen something that might make a meaningful difference to a household, such as a washing machine.

This current situation has echoes of the pandemic but with no glimmer of light. There is no financial vaccine coming and no focal point for hope. Those already struggling will suffer while The financially stable will experience instability for the first time.

Instead, this is a fiscal event that will takes years to resolve. A black hole of political leadership, while the current government is mothballed, has allowed TV personalities move into the space where a prime minister and her cabinet should be and charities to, yet again, bridge gaps in the social safety net.

What long term effect will this have on the national psyche? A certain portion of Britain loves a Blitz spirit, all make do and mend, and dig for victory. This is not a war, it's a crisis. Crises need leaders.

Our next prime minister is leaning towards tax cuts and away from green energy, moves counterintuitive to solving the country's current problems. Yet we need leadership that deals with immediate struggles while also looking forward to a long term future and backwards, to avoid repeating past errors.

We'll be asked to keep calm and carry on. Instead of calm, though, this may finally be the rock bottom reached before a rise of re-politicisation and organisation of a public that finally, finally has had enough.