Imperfect it may be, but Labour’s manifesto recognises the economic status quo can’t be kept going for much longer.
Ten years ago this month, Britain was on the cusp of change. Two things were about to happen, one planned and one unexpected.
The change everybody knew about was that Tony Blair was going to stand down as prime minister after 10 years in the job, during which time he had won three elections on the trot.
To mark his going, Dan Atkinson and I wrote a book summing up his legacy. Fantasy Island, as the title suggests, was not exactly flattering about Britain’s departing PM. It painted a picture of Britain as mired in debt, where the public sector was on the brink of meltdown, where the country was trying to play the part of world policeman on the cheap, and where the growing size of the trade deficit exposed the perils of allowing manufacturing to shrivel.
Fantasy Island was not exactly a bestseller but it sold reasonably well. The reason for that (apart, obviously, from the book’s razor-sharp analysis and polished prose) was that the biggest financial crisis in a century erupted within two months of its publication and a month after Blair’s departure from Downing Street. This was the unexpected event.
Britain, as a result of what happened between the first inklings of trouble in July 2007 and the bottoming out of a deep slump in the early part of 2009, is an utterly changed country. There has been a lost decade of living standards. Dismal productivity growth and the proliferation of low-paid, insecure jobs have made a mockery of the idea that Britain was forging ahead in the knowledge economy. A decade of investment in the public sector has been followed by a decade of cuts. Without sounding unduly boastful, quite a lot of what was predicted in Fantasy Island came true.