Something is in the air. Change doesn’t happen very often, but now it is hard to find anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the following premises:
1. The UK is too centralised and power needs to be handed back to cities.
2. The mainstream economy appears to be devoted to much to the task of creating billionaires, and not enough to spreading prosperity (see my book Broke).
3. The best – and possibly the only way – of saving our public services is to invest in prevention.
We are still a long way from practical, mainstream policies that can make these changes to the way we are governed a reality, but when every party subscribes to them – and only old-fashioned economic policy-makers and the lunatic fringe fail to agree – you know change is on the way.
A new settlement is required – and one that can include people again – and, history has a habit of providing these things once the situation is really desperate, but int he UK we also have a habit of only shifting when we absolutely have to.
But those moments of reboot seem to happen pretty regularly every 40 years or so. The last one was in 1979/80. The one before was the rapid political and economic shift in the UK and USA in 1940/41. Before that, it was the new settlement ushered in by the People’s Budget of 1909 and Teddy Roosevelt’s busting of Standard Oil, which ended finally in 1911. The big political shift before that came in the mid-1860s.
We are not quite overdue for a major reboot, but it is coming and – by my 40-year pattern – it should emerge around 2020. We don’t know how it will happen, or what constipated failure to tackle the underlying forces at work will provoke it, but we can be pretty clear already the kind of shape it will be.