If only it were 1940

By Elissa Bayer, December 1, 2011
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Winston Churchill and the decision that the War Cabinet had to make about doing a deal with Hitler, and effectively ending England's participation in the War.

The French Prime Minister, who was preparing to capitulate, slipped into the UK unnoticed and quietly had a meeting with Churchill to discuss the agonising decision. Imagine that. The War Cabinet made their decisions without the distractions of the internet, social media and more importantly, public knowledge. What was at stake then was no easier than the challenges we face today, but the way in which the matters were handled could not have been more different and the current leaders of Europe might feel that being part of that scenario - and trying to sort out Europe without being in the constant glare of the media - would make their lives easier.

We stagger from crisis to crisis. Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Portugal are all in deep debt with no defined or workable plan as to how to get out of the excesses of the past decade.

The thought of elections in so many of the Eurozone countries, as well as the United States, means that no politician wants to get it wrong or make a decision and consequently be rejected at the polls.

Silvio Berlusconi hung on for some time after it was decent and even following resignation from political power he remains a media mogul with questionable beliefs and a powerful empire that he still controls.

Not having social networking sites must have been useful

All this is causing volatility in the markets but it is the bond markets that are really feeling the pain.

Uncertainty surrounding each country's future makes bond yields soar sky high as there are constant and justified fears that these countries will not be able to pay off their debts in the near future - or ever in some cases.

Despite government changes Italy has seen its bond yields rise above seven per cent, a level widely seen as the point at which refinancing of the country's debt becomes unsustainable. Germany's rate is less than two per cent and the UK is about half of Italy's.

Certainly Winston Churchill seemed a more effective politician than many we have now but there is no doubt that having thinking time - and no social networking sites covering your every move - must have been useful.

Maybe the next six months will be less challenging but without leadership and motivation it seems unlikely.

Elissa Bayer is an investment director at Williams de Broë

    Last updated: 12:50pm, December 1 2011