Feel-good factor of Royal baby during a fractious election

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital in London with  Princess Charlotte
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital in London with Princess Charlotte

It’s been very difficult to get this past week into perspective.

On the one hand we had the electioneering circus on virtually every television channel with few decent viewing alternatives. And then there was the birth of the new Princess to remind us that, yes, most of us like a good Royal story, this one just in time to distract us from the awfulness of an election where would-be politicians would have sold their granny to get elected.

Sandra Chapman

Sandra Chapman

A new Royal baby has a feel-good factor about it, adding to that sense of history and continuity that is part of our Britishness. Whatever political group we have governing us for the next five years, we know that if we don’t like them we can get rid of them eventually. The Royal family on the other hand is here to stay.

Whatever their ups and downs there is no feeling in the country that we can do without them. They may be hated by Irish republicans yet prominent amongst them, our Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, was quite happy eventually to shake hands, even dine, with the Queen.

New life, as delivered by William and Kate is, in a sense, a metaphor for what is happening in Northern Ireland where, according to Asda’s latest Income Tracker, families were £12 better off in March than they were during the same period last year, an increase which equates to a 14.8 per cent rise in the average disposable income.

This is the largest percentage increase of any other area of the UK. Families here have been feeling the benefit of lower petrol and heating oil prices. Overall, though, families in NI have just £92 a week to spend once taxes and bills have been paid – this is almost half the UK average of £185, but inflation remains low which keeps the cost of borrowing down.

Property prices are rising here too. This is good for those trying to sell after years of low prices but not so good for first-time buyers - though they are a long way off the days in the 1970s when mortgage interest rates were in double figures. Whatever party gets into power at Westminister interest rates are certain to rise sooner rather than later.

Here we still have the crisis over welfare reform which is costing us £2m a day. Sometime, not too far down the line, we are going to have to face the effects of that no matter what Sinn Fein says. In the rest of the UK welfare reform has driven people to find work. Overall this has to be better for families than a life lived on benefits.

Under the coalition at Westminster the lot of pensioners was improved with annual state pension rises above inflation. Previous Labour governments did very little to help pensioners instead squandering money on increasing jobs in the public sector, not to mention the money lost in Tony Blair’s vanity project, the Iraq War. Is it any wonder they lost the grey vote five years ago?

Ahead though are many uncertainties not faced before, one of the most urgent perhaps being what will we do with all the immigrants who want to come to the UK, yes even to Northern Ireland? This will have an economic cost which frightens some people.

Immigrants are seen to be taking up NHS resources, school places and are prepared to accept lower pay just to have a job. Yet, Northern Ireland has always been a place where immigrants felt welcome and apart from the actions of a bigoted few recently that is still largely the case.

Homophobic issues will also lessen as we are, in the main, a tolerant people. If we are seeing the beginnings of good times ahead, with more money in our pockets, then we must be doing something right.