It has been said that a conservative is someone who believes that nothing should be done for the first time. Listening to the opposing views on how to handle the cost-of-living crisis, those not already consumed by worry could easily give in to despair over the games being played on all sides.
This is certainly not the first time we have faced rising inflation, nor will it be the last.
At all times, the most effective response for any administration is to do what it can to protect those most exposed.
The Government must demonstrate it recognises the problems people face and secure their confidence by setting out the measures they will take to protect them.
For, just as the Opposition is expending far too much energy promoting the pretence that the Government is responsible for all the factors driving inflation, the Government is devoting too little when it comes to showing empathy and understanding regarding the financial stress so many are facing.
The Tánaiste’s statement that the country could be grappling with the cost-of-living crisis for months, if not years, will have done very little for his cause. Deflecting criticism for not introducing relief measures before the budget, Leo Varadkar said the global inflation crisis would not end because of any budget, “whether it’s an emergency budget before the autumn or whether it’s one in the autumn”.
He could well be right on both counts.
But people need a sense that those in high office are in their corner – and have their backs.
“We want a set of actions that will take effect almost immediately in the days and weeks after budget day to help people through the winter,” he added.
But people need reassurance right now. Vague commitments to do something down the line when winter comes will not allay people’s growing anxieties.
The Cabinet’s default position is to assume the role of objective commentator.
We have moved beyond the point where bland pronouncements on the difficulties people are facing are sufficient.
Executive authority to act, albeit within limits, comes with the office. The longer it waits, the more it leaves itself open to Opposition attack.
This “arm’s length” perception, makes it easy for Sinn Féin to maintain it is the only party remotely concerned with the needs of ordinary people.
It also equips it to pose as the only one with all the quick-fix solutions at its fingertips.
Should the country have to “grapple” with this crisis for years, it very much behoves the Government to spell out its strategy.
Mr Varadkar said: “There’s only so much that any Government can do.” All the more reason, therefore, to spell out what is to be done – and when.
Haste, they say, is a hurricane, and patience a gentle breeze. But if people are made to wait too long, those roles can be rapidly reversed – and governments tend to reap the whirlwinds.