2020 - The next decade


Traditionally, we mark the end of one decade and the beginning of another by reflecting on what has happened in the past and what is likely to change in the next 10 years.  We might even celebrate the change. Well, quite a lot has happened in the period since 2010 dawned. The year 2008 had seen the financial crash brought on by recklessness in the banks. And so the end of the first decade of this century was taken up with attempts to prevent the banks’ foolishness from affecting the lives of ordinary people. It was not though something easily achieved and so the aftermath of the crash continued well into the next decade.

Indeed, it continued until 2019. We were told that austerity was the key to our survival and that public expenditure had to be cut, and cut quite savagely in some areas. Which, of course, had an effect on the lives of those same ordinary citizens, if not on those of the billionaire bankers who had caused the problems in the first place.  And so the decade we have just lived through did not start well. Neither did it end well, bearing in mind the upheaval caused by David Cameron’s decision to hold a Brexit referendum which he, and so we, lost.

But what now? To the relief of most in the country, Jezza will not be our Prime Minister for the first half of the twenties. It is unlikely either that he will ever make a comeback, although Jezza 2.0, in the form of Rebecca Long-Bailey, will apparently put herself forward as Labour’s new leader. It would be rather like when Dr Who regenerated as a woman. In Rebecca’s case, though it seems unlikely that she would attract much of a fan-base, at least outside the policy wonks of the hard left.

But why has all this happened? After all, we had a Conservative government incapable of doing anything to move the country forward for over 3 years and yet now, under their new leader, Boris the Narcissist and King of the World, suddenly they have a huge majority, so biggly big that even Trump must envy it. Boris the Popular is now in charge.

The voting figures, however give us a slightly different take on things. The Conservative share of the vote, actually went up by only 1%, but they gained 48 seats.  Labour’s share though went down by 8% and they lost 60 seats. The SNP gained 13 seats and the Lib-Dems share of the vote went up by 4%, but they had a net loss of one seat. Such is our electoral system. So then it isn’t so much 'Boris the Popular', as 'Jezza the Disaster'. Boris won against the worst Labour leader since Michael Foot. And what we now know is that a lot of Labour’s lost votes were in what were previously its heartlands, meaning that Conservatives won where they had never in modern times won before.

So what caused this to happen? Many opinions have been aired. Jezza somehow believes that ‘he won the argument’, but was beaten by Brexit. Talk about self-delusion! My view is that it was a combination of factors. Many people were indeed attracted by the slogan ‘Let’s get Brexit done’. There was a Brexit fatigue to which this appeared the only practical answer. Boris had tuned into it and those wanting to remain seemed unable to put together a convincing coalition.

Labour’s financial policies were regarded as a joke, or if implemented, a disaster. People wanted an ‘end to austerity’ but didn’t want Jezza’s fantasy economics or an extreme left wing government. They didn’t want to be the guinea pigs for a new economic order that John McDonnell told us had never before been tried in the Northern hemisphere. Neither, I think, did they want a leader who had sided with the Russians in the Skripal affair or with the IRA during the troubles. Jezza is not seen as patriotic. He had an image as a life-long protester but not one who had ever done anything constructive. He was not seen as having a coherent plan for governing.  You felt he would have had to protest against himself in order to be consistent. The Labour party was always saying how bad things were, where Boris was continually emphasising the positive and saying what a marvellous country we lived in. At the same time he was saying that he too would spend money, lots of money, but not need to pluck the fruit from nearly as many magic money trees as the Labour Party. This meant that regardless of logic, by contrast, he had the upper hand in the debate.

I have no idea what Bozza will actually do now. A trade deal with the EU will be possible but, in the time he has given himself for its negotiation, it will necessarily be very thin. Although it may allow the import and export of widgets, it will not include services in any meaningful sense, even though these account for the majority of our trade with Europe.  Will he extend the time for its negotiation? I suspect that even BoJ doesn’t know.

What he does now have to do is feed red meat to the constituents in the North and the Midlands whose votes he has – for the moment. A failure to do this will result in catastrophe at the next election. In turn, this means providing improved transport links for the North, which may only be possible, financially speaking, if the £100 billion budget for the white elephant which is HS2 is put on ice. He will need to accelerate the concept of the Northern Powerhouse and the equivalent for the Midlands, all of which will take shed-loads of cash. And all of this against a background of Trump induced trade-wars with China, Europe and anyone-else who displeases him.

And, of course there is also the minor question of the adaptations we shall have to make in order to hold back global warming. Australia is badly suffering from just its early stages and so we are left wondering what will happen if the Americans, the Brazilians and the Australians continue with their policy of denial; if China and India, although admitting the problem do far too little to address it. Not only would there be the physical adaptations necessary to meet the challenge, but the immense cost of dealing with it all.

Of course, we could just ignore it and decide that the resulting mass movements of populations are what we have to absorb. At a time when countries are becoming more and more isolationist, however, this does not seem to be the best time to be a refugee. As it is likely that coastal regions will be most badly affected as a result of sea-level rises, perhaps we could instead give aid to the countries affected so that they could create new villages and towns further inland? Not cheap. And past experience does not make me think that the international will exists to do this.

When I sat down to write this I felt somewhat relieved because at least Jezza was not in charge...but of course, now we have BoJ instead, so my joy is rather confined. Then again, looking on the bright side, with Bozza in charge, as someone reputedly the life and soul of the party, might we now have a repeat of the carefree ‘Roaring Twenties’ of the last century? If so, we shall all have to brush up on the Charleston and the Black Bottom.

A Happy New Decade to us all!

Paul Buckingham

Tuesday, 31st December 2019 

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