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What did Britain do to deserve this? Come July, apathy will be the only winner

(Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images)


May 23, 2024   4 mins

As Westminster’s rumour mill thrummed to the possibility of a snap election, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak walked into yesterday’s PMQs with a spring in his blue-suited step. High on the falling rate of inflation, it seemed the long overdue summer months may just lift the national spirits. And then it started to rain. Like the English football fans once again building up their emotional fortitude, knowing full well it’s not the disappointment but the hope that causes the greatest suffering, the dampening weather system blowing back into Downing Street suggested that, as far as the many are concerned, the future will be gloomy.

Political historians are wont to point out that there are occasions when a public becomes so dissatisfied it simply wants change. When this happens, the policies and electable candour of the opposition become less relevant. With Labour following the golden rule that it is better to let the government author its own demise than say anything meaningful, it certainly feels like we are in such a moment now. Whatever we thought of Johnson vs Corbyn, at least there was clear water between what they stood for.

Yet if we were to dig deeper into those feelings of dissatisfaction, we would see just how low the public mood is. Indeed, rather than turning a corner, as Sunak would have us believe, the nation is at a crossroads — with one path leading to continued misery and another to other abject disappointment. Who is to tell whether we have chosen well or not?

There will be a lot of bluster and promise over the next few weeks as both parties try to tap into that crucial insight first understood by Tony Blair: that elections are won just as much on feelings as they are substance. In the coming weeks, all parties will speak in the promissory rhetoric of better prospects, better policing, better regulation of borders, better health care, better education, and a better betterment. But we are a world away from the Nineties. The national mood is positively pessimistic, despite the interjection of D:Ream’s “Things can only get better” during Sunak’s big moment.

As we enter campaign season, we ought to remember another rule of British politics: that while London and privileged parts of the South may be basking in the sun, at the same time, communities in the North East of England or South Wales are being continuously rained upon.

Take the valleys of South Wales, an area I know intimately well. Whether we consider the lasting unemployment, the child malnourishment, the widespread addiction, or the disturbing levels of depression, suicide and domestic abuse, these communities are a melting pot for Britain’s most pressing social concerns, which statisticians show are only getting worse. And while these “pockets of poverty” may appear more afflicted than most, the picture for much of post-industrial Britain — from Durham to Derbyshire, Kellingley to Kirkcaldy — has taken on the dejected look of a tragically updated series of Lowry paintings. Placed in sequence, they offer a damning depiction of want and destitution: nationwide, levels of poverty are around 50% higher than they were in the Seventies.

“Industrial Britain has taken on the dejected look of a tragically updated series of Lowry paintings.”

But the growing sense of despondency that follows doesn’t just affect the poorest of this nation, even if their existence is markedly bleak. Since the times of Thatcher and her social revolution, free marketeers have been fond of talking about the logic of trickle-down economics, which hold that the poor will eventually reap the rewards or the lucky few. Today, however, the sand timer in Britain has been inverted, as the fading optimism of the poor now seeps into the emotional economies of the middle classes, who are equally beset with a non-committal sense of political dejection. Turnout, one suspects, will not be high come July.

Nowhere has this been better illustrated than with the widespread embrace among the middle classes over the past decade with the doctrine of resilience. It is impossible to turn on any news item, educational or cultural programme today and not hear the term being deployed. Resilience, however, is nothing more than an acceptance that things are fundamentally insecure by design. Translated into politics, it means that we should no longer expect the state to provide any measure of security, whether it comes in the form of social security or security from existential threats.

In security’s place, what has been served up is a banal shift towards a desire to apply a therapeutic model to everything, and the necessity to learn to “bounce-back” from inevitable crises. While Chancellor Jeremy Hunt consistently speaks of the UK’s “resilient economy”, for example, the Labour Party launched into own Resilience Framework in 2022, and placed the doctrine at the heart of its policymaking. While we don’t know what that looks like, it invariably includes words such as “robust” and an acceptance of “vulnerabilities”. Yet what resilience really points to, by contrast, is the utter failure of the political imagination. Who, for instance, really found anything to be inspired by in Labour’s new pledge card?

There once was a time when politics seemed to matter; when the future direction of nations was held in the balance. Hope, back then, couldn’t be ignored, and neither could our political decisions. Looking at the lived reality of so many in our country today, it’s hard to locate anything similar. All we face is an impending choice, which, in the end, will only lead to further apathy. And as history shows, it is precisely in such wells of apathy that monstrous political ideas can start to take hold — which, maybe not this time, or the next, but sometime in the future will properly throw up a political choice that is as seductive as it is devastating.

Needless to say, the British people deserve better. They deserve a serious choice that’s not painted for the many in the light grey of insecurity — and for a growing few in a far darker and grimmer shade.


Professor Brad Evans holds a Chair in Political Violence & Aesthetics at the University of Bath. His book, How Black Was My Valley: Poverty and Abandonment in a Post-Industrial Heartland, is out in April.


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Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago

Poor old Rishi! Who would have thought it would rain on his parade?

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 month ago

‘widespread addition’ in Wales? Is this a comment on poor Maths skills?
De-industrialisation was Thatcher’s way of neutering the working class that she hated. As a policy it is now supported by both parties as they cling to Net Zero and fear that rebuilding industry would give men some jobs that give meaning to their lives. Better to import everything we use and close our minds to the working conditions in the slave labour camps where the goods are made.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 month ago

De-industrialisation started long before Thatcher and continued long after. In 1966, the “secondary sector” (manufacturing and construction) employed 40% of workers. Employment began an almost uninterrupted straightline decline throughout the remainder of the 1960s, all the 1970s, all the 1980s, all the 1990s, and all the 2000s. It reduced by an almost constant 6 percentage points per decade from 1966 onwards irrespective of elected governments and PMs.
This decline was due to major increases in manufacturing productivity thanks to automation. Unfortunately, UK maufacturing output barely grew over those four decades. With stagnant output and rising productivity, the labour force had to reduce.
The same pattern is seen across the West with the only difference being when the trend begins and the impact on manufacturing output. Perhaps counterintuitively, the manufacturing share of employment in former West Germany peaked and started falling earlier than the UK – approximately 1960 versus 1966. This was not a measure of failure, but future success. Germany was faster to increase productivity than the UK. In turn, it had a head start in productivity gains that meant employment inexorably shrank but this secured competitiveness and future growth of its manufacturing output.
The reason why UK manufacturing productivity lagged Germany’s at the critical turning point of 1960 was not because of a lack of investment (although that was to become a problem in later decades) but a steady supply of cheap labour and a social compact between unions and government and the public that promoted full employment above all else. The UK had governments of all stripes literally buying companies to prevent major job losses. In contrast, Germany was far more economically conservative and the Mittelstand (small and medium sized) business groups had much more influence over public opinion. Compare with the UK where the most recognisable industry lobby group of the last 40 years is the CBI which represents the far narrower self-interests of big business and therefore has little appeal with voters.
Source: Long-term trends in UK employment: 1861 to 2018, ONS.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 month ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Very informative thanks.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
1 month ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Far more informative than the article, Nell (as usual).

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 month ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Someone should give thought to the Chinese solution to economic malaise. Tall apartment buildings are built creating thousands of jobs and then are sold as investments or for second or retirement homes. They remain empty, forming eerie ghost towns, until time passes and they are torn down allowing the process to begin all over again.

Adrian C
Adrian C
1 month ago

California Dreaming…..

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian C

Quite; I’m running a book on how long after the defeat before he disappears to Silicon Valley.

Mesdames et Messieurs, faites vos jeux.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

The only way to make the whole election experience tolerable is to “gamify” it. Full marks for such a creative version !

D Glover
D Glover
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

I’m increasingly feeling as though being a voter is like facing the ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’
Do I co-operate with a politician (vote for him) in the hope that he’ll reciprocate this time by doing what he said he’d do?
Do I accept that the politician will betray me and minimise my losses by not voting?
For example; I know that the ‘Border Command’ won’t be any different to the ‘Border Force’ and I know that it won’t have any jurisdiction in France.
Is there any point to this game?

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  D Glover

I’ve called them “Border Farce” for years now. It’s another one of those symbolic roles where it’s deemed that we have to see the illusion of action, even if nothing is ever done. Apart, of course, from inconveniencing the legal traveller.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 month ago
Reply to  D Glover

It passes the time like pinochle.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

Yes, idea that someone with Green Card while working in the Tresury and non dom wife (I am Indian, poor me) is committed to this country was always preposterous.
The only thing he achieved in government is too flood uk with millions of low IQ savages from shite countries.
Sorry students, brain surgeons and scientists. What am I saying?

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 month ago

Needless to say, the British people deserve better. They deserve a serious choice that’s not painted for the many in the light grey of insecurity — and for a growing few in a far darker and grimmer shade.

What choice is that then?
The problem for Starmer is he is now going to have to make some actual policies and stick to them for more than a few weeks, with the reality of his shadow cabinet of horrors. It’s going to unravel.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
1 month ago
Reply to  Robbie K

There is no ‘choice’ … our political parties are bereft of any credible policy or leader.
#Disrupt #LibLabConGrn
#Disrupt #GE2024

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 month ago

On the bright side (desperately seeking optimism) ordinary politics will take a breather in the run up to the General Election and be slow off the mark afterwards. The perils of proportional representation, where a new Government may not be formed for months, seems strangely attractive.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
1 month ago
Reply to  AC Harper

I see only an inconclusive result, with Labour at best ending up with an unworkable majority.
It could be 18 months of stagnating politics before we are faced with another general election.

Sam Hill
Sam Hill
1 month ago

It will be interesting to see how Starmer goes about it. Turnout will, I suspect, be below 60% and Labour, in private at least, will have to acknowledge that they are there almost by default. KS is still going to have to deal with the same issues the Conservatives did (and failed) – ageing population, free-for-all immigration, poor quality public spending etc. Plus he’s going to have to be the one that confronts probable defeat in Ukraine which will soak up time.
The temptation will be there, as it was for the Conservatives, to go hyperactive with initiatives as a poor substitute for policy – ‘those people don’t want stiff immigration controls, they want a metro mayor and a smoking ban in 40 years’ time.’ And, of course the identity stuff that Labour loves has the triple benefit: free, endless and gets clicks.
The best case I think is Starmer picks a small (maybe as low as three) areas and really focusses on them with a view to results within say three years, with all other areas left to wait and at least just stabilise. Worst case is he goes Blair-style hyperactive – I’m not optimistic.
And – it has to be said – maybe there is a discussion to be had about how far we the public need to sit back and think about what we really want too.

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 month ago

Whoever knew that there was such a thing as a chair in Political Violence and Aesthetics?

David Brown
David Brown
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew D

sounds more like a sofa, with Political Violence sitting on one end glaring at Aesthetics sitting on the other

Citizen Diversity
Citizen Diversity
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Is that the aesthetic of political violence?

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 month ago

Or maybe the violence of political aesthetics. Or the politics of violent aesthetics. Take your pick.

Brian Hunt
Brian Hunt
1 month ago

“one path leading to continued misery and another to other abject disappointment”. That sums it up well and makes Reform the only choice for me.
I watched Sunak’s speech but gave up trying to hear his voice competing against Steve Bray’s audio attack. In a democracy no leader should be silenced like that, and the police should have silenced Bray with the same force that they would use on Tommy Robinson.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian Hunt

And voting Reform will do what for the country or anyone in it?

What’s needed is a dose of reality. Public expectations are much too high compared with the amount of personal effort people are nowadays prepared to put into making Britain better, and more competitive against rising developing nations.

If we were more realistic about headwinds outside of Britain’s control and treated politicians with a bit more respect and understanding, we might get better ones prepared to stand.

Andrew S
Andrew S
1 month ago
Reply to  Deb Grant

It will open the way for a new party. It would be conservative and patriotic, free market but not globalist and it would control immigration which is the case of so much of our problems and no part of the answers to our needs.
Just continuing with the old two and a half party system has led to minority governments speaking for small proportions of the electorate and few of them enthusiastic about what was on offer; an ever further globalist politics and an ever more left wing Tory party.

None of the existing system works for us. It only works for them

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian Hunt

Reform as a serious political party, with serious politicians and sensible policies?
In that case Tory cabinet looks like convention of Noble Prize winners.

David Harris
David Harris
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Yet look at what they achieved… nothing except failure. Vote Reform in ’24.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 month ago

There is no real ‘politics’ in an EU or an EU legacy State. The System post 1990 has been designed to negate the emasculated Executive and to allow permanent Higher unelected State forces – the Supreme Human Rights Legal machine; the independent NMI administrators like Bank of England, the Blob of Regulators and Net Zero Committees – to coerce and govern tkp down as is the way in Western European Progressive States. No one can dislodge this Blob. No one can dislodge the extreme unmandated ideologies all parties bow too. This is why we are in a spiral of decline. This is why the electorate feel despair.

mike otter
mike otter
1 month ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Spot on – w/o executive power no legislature or judiciary has control either – its raw libertarian survivalism. The drug gangs, sex groomers, corporate tech-bro crooks and financiers hold what was the “executive” power. Eu (inc uk) and ANZAC are the worst case, USA heading south too, though IMO USA is perhaps the only place the rot can stop and be worked back. At least they have the constitution and bill of rights in place ATM. IMO the separation of White House, SCOTUS and Congress has only ever been a force for good in the last 150 years.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago
Reply to  mike otter

Most American politicians have enough justified fear of angry voters to not get too attached to ideologies. There’s also a back of the mind fear of civil war and secession that tends to temper the expectations of even the most driven zealots. As always, a fair number of American politicians are just opportunist careerists who don’t have any ideology or shame to speak of and just respond to whatever the voters want in order to win. You can already see it. How many mainstream Republicans have jumped on the populist bandwagon since Trump. People like Marco Rubio went from being establishment darlings to outspoken populists in a span of a few years because they want to win. There’s something to be said for finger in the wind politicians. Hard to steer the ship of state without knowing which way the wind is blowing.
I wouldn’t count out Australia or Canada either. Having half a continent’s worth of land and resources counts for quite a lot. Australia is already on the anti-China bandwagon out of necessity and Canada is getting there. Canada needs to get rid of Trudeau. True believers like him are going to become political dinosaurs within a decade.

mike otter
mike otter
1 month ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Also if they get too despairing you get Thatcher or a lefty version of the blue rinse haggard robot; They don’t want to save anything they’d rather see it break. Same for Labour and their fake Marxism/socialism. What could’ve saved Sunak and his Insane Clown Posse tribute act: Leave power with the same or less actual wealth than when you took power, and publicise it. Bring back Bojo – England’s Shaggy 2 dope to Starmers Violent J; LOLZ

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

I feel bad for you folks across the pond. As bad as it is here in the US, it seems like a stroll among the tulips compared to what your side is going through. I certainly can’t see any sort of gloom and doom article like this being written here, except maybe in the WSJ or the New Yorker or one of those other elitist publications that cater to the globalist elites who have finally figured out that they’ve lost and the only question left is how bad. I fear Europe, particularly the UK, will suffer greatly from the end of the unipolar era. It seems doubly bad that neither of your political parties seems to be prepared for or have a plan to deal with a multipolar world, and that’s what’s coming down the pipe one way or the other. The Titanic is sinking and both parties seem to be arguing over the proper arrangement of the deck chairs.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

I quite like the WSJ. I find it a lot less biased than publications like The New Yorker and the New York Times.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I find it a mouthpiece for corporate America and well, Wall Street bankers, which I thoroughly despise. I would agree they sound less biased, because they’re not pandering to ideologues of one side or the other, but they do have an agenda. It’s subtler and less obvious, but you won’t find many articles about the necessity of a hard or soft decoupling with China or the need to reshore American industrial capacity there, because those policies involve someone other than Wall Street bankers and corporations getting richer. To each his own I suppose.

Saul D
Saul D
1 month ago

I believe the answer is turn it off, wait a while, and then turn it back on again…

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
1 month ago

There is no ‘choice’ … our political parties are bereft of any credible policy or leader.
#Disrupt #LibLabConGrn
#Disrupt #GE2024

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

“Professor Brad Evans holds a Chair in Political Violence & Aesthetics at the University of Bath.”
Enough said.
Tired of saying it, but if you want to know how to improve Britain, start by correcting the gross misallocation of public resources into unproductive and value destroying activities. Including the University of Bath.
There’s so much low-hanging fruit out there.
This week’s Parish Council meeting: district councillor reports her frustration with fly tipping. Apparently SCDC has “only 1” “envirocrime” staffer. 500 reported cases of fly tipping over the past year. Prosecutions brought by SCDC over the past year: 1 ! What do these people do all day ?
Or the SCDC efficiency department whose budget is now larger than its projected savings !
Increase in “poverty” since the 1970s. Not really. Only if you use fake metrics.

A D Kent
A D Kent
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

Possibly, but I’d suggest his role at least isn’t doing active harm – nowhere near as much as that done by the various colleges of Oxford offering PPE degrees. Or indeed almost every single Economics degree in the country, the theoretical bases for which are little fairytales.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  A D Kent

It is doing harm. It’s “educating” young people with impractical and damaging views which create net costs for society. That’s also building up quite unnecessary student debt that will never be repaid (until we get to pick up the tab for this waste).
Besides which there’s the opportunity cost – he might be employable doing something productive. As might the students of “political violence”.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

Can you explain what “fly tipping” is to this American? I tried searching for it with no luck. Here, yokels do something called cow tipping, but tipping over flies in the same manner seems unsatisfying when you can just swat them.

james elliott
james elliott
1 month ago

Fly tipping basically means dumping your garbage in public places, or on private property which isn’t yours – generally large amounts of garbage.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  james elliott

Thanks. I’d never heard of this phrase either. So “tipping” means dumping and “fly” means on the fly, or illicitly?

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
1 month ago
Reply to  J Bryant

No ‘fly’ means dumping in an ostentatiously cool manner, like a rich, handsome black guy in a nightclub.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago
Reply to  Philip Stott

Well, I gave you an uptick. Nice one!

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 month ago

So did I 🙂

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 month ago
Reply to  Philip Stott

Very good. Don’t understand the down ticks, that was some top drawer wit there.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Philip Stott

I may not be black, but I am pretty fly for a white guy….

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  james elliott

Correct! A common practice in much of the world!

D Glover
D Glover
1 month ago

Yokels aren’t stupid. They know you can’t do ‘cow tipping’ because those critters that sleep standing up are horses.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 month ago

A few years ago I overheard my 8 year old daughter confidently explaining to her friend that fly-tipping was when they dropped rubbish out of aeroplanes.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago

A gratuity for unexpected protein in your soup.
Waiter!

Will K
Will K
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

A “Chair in Political Violence & Aesthetics”. I wish I had known about that job, I would have applied.

Edward Hocknell
Edward Hocknell
1 month ago

Mass immigration means that the possibility of moving up by moving from the provinces to London is gone. The millions are already there.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 month ago

Why do we deserve better? An apathetic, corrupt, lazy bebauched people who complain about the loss of their culture having ignored and neglected it themselves in favour of hedonism and a short term rentier economy reliant on currency and asset inflation, social security and the import of both skilled and cheap immigrant labour.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

Agreed.
“Needless to say, the British people deserve better.” Do they? People tend to get the government they deserve… particularly in a democracy. Politicians are giving the electorate what they want. If you want things to be different, you yourself must be different first.
If the author of this essay could identify the hard choices he would make to solve the country’s problems, then it would be possible to say whether he, at least, deserves better. (Let me guess… he would propose further dissolution of traditional British cultural norms, further taxation on the most productive members of society, further increase of bureaucracies to solve individual’s problems.)

Jon Morrow
Jon Morrow
1 month ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Democracy – giving the people what they want, and giving it to them good and hard. H.L. Menken

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

I quite agree.

John Corcoran
John Corcoran
1 month ago

Whilst not wrong, this article could be summarised as, the country is in a mess, and no one can sort it out, so you’d better hunker down and take what’s coming to you.
I cling on to the hope that Britain will one day detach itself from its ruinous embrace of NATO. To see the UK immersed in trying to be the most militarily and politically studiously Russophobic, of the many virulently Russophobic nations of Europe, whilst back home, the country is going to the dogs, economically, spiritually, and culturally, is one of the most bizarre aspects of the current situation.

D Glover
D Glover
1 month ago
Reply to  John Corcoran

We’ve been fortunate enough to have lived in a Europe that hasn’t known war for nearly eighty years. Contra what the Remainers say, it wasn’t the EU that achieved that. The EU is only now beginning to become an organised military entity.
It was NATO that kept us in safety, not least because it kept the US militarily engaged.

Citizen Diversity
Citizen Diversity
1 month ago
Reply to  D Glover

The EU as an organised military entity would see Jean Monnet having kittens.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  D Glover

Not a fan of the EU myself, but having Berlin and Paris in partnership has fixed the biggest fissure point in European politics. NATO provided a counterweight to the Warsaw Pact… but now? The Ukraine situation is in no small part the result of NATO expansion.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

No, the Ukraine situation is entirely due to Russian expansion.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  John Corcoran

OK Iwan, clear of to Moscow.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  John Corcoran

I prefer to think that, no matter how bad things might be in the UK, they are nowhere near as bad as they are in Russia.

Howard Royse
Howard Royse
1 month ago

It would be good if the ballot paper allowed the option of “none of the above”. Then there might be a bit more scrutiny of those put up for election.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
1 month ago
Reply to  Howard Royse

I’m thinking of ‘spoiling’ mine with something suitably spicy.

JOHN KANEFSKY
JOHN KANEFSKY
1 month ago

It’s just not true that levels of poverty are higher than they were in the 1970s.
Poverty and income inequality are not the same thing.
Levels of income inequality may or may not be higher, depending on the definition used and the timescale over which you measure, but poverty has fallen steadily throughout the world since then, including the UK.
In fact on the metric used in the UK defining “poverty” in relation to 60% of median income means “poverty” falls if median income falls, as benefits do not fall pro rata.

D Glover
D Glover
1 month ago
Reply to  JOHN KANEFSKY

The author mentions ‘child malnutrition’ but elsewhere we are continually warned about ‘child obesity’. This suggests bad parenting rather than absolute want. Still, no-one would say that aloud during an election campaign.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 month ago
Reply to  D Glover

If you spend 60 years undermining the concept of “the family” then you’re going to end up with bad parenting. And a generation that doesn’t want children.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago
Reply to  JOHN KANEFSKY

Measuring poverty as a % of median income is a terrible way to track actual poverty. We do the same thing in Canada.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago

What did we do to deserve this? Well unfortunately we’re not entirely without fault are we. We voted in sufficient numbers for the chumps been running the show last 14yrs. We voted for the twaddle that was Brexit as well and thus ensured we spent more time on that nonsense last 8 yrs than half a dozen other more fundamental problems.
The apathy the Author refers to will also be laced with plenty of embarrassment.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

You seem to be forgetting that the only reason Brexit took so much time and effort was the deliberate attempts of those who promised to respect the people’s decision thyen deciding to do everything they possibly could to reverse, delay and undermine it.
As ever, those who oppose Brexit will never take any responsibility for their own culpability in losing a referendum they could easily have won.
And once again, it was David Cameron and him alone that promised to enact the verdict of the people. Before running away. If you’re looking for the guilty, I suggest you start with “Lord” Cameron.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

Comforting narrative PB but doesn’t hold. The reason Brexit burnt so much time was it’s exponents didn’t think it through sufficiently in advance and then couldn’t coalesce around whether a Hard or Soft version. It’s still a muddle now and the Tories had an 80 seat majority and a Cabinet packed with Brexiteers. The reason it’s still a muddle is because it was always going to be.
Convenient to hang it on those who continued to resist but it’s a rather pathetic excuse.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

Typical Brexiter hubris; again failing to accept responsibility for their failure. Instead, blame the people who warned you against being taken in by the Brexit scam. Own your mistake, own your failure.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
1 month ago

Sunak and his crew have to be sacked but Starmer and his crew shouldn’t be appointed. Lib Dem’s, Scottish and Welsh Nationalists and Greens are all ridiculous. Reform / Farage are really just a Tory splinter / protest group. For my part I will write across the ballot paper “None of these. The country needs better quality politicians and a real choice”.

Santiago Excilio
Santiago Excilio
1 month ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

So what sort of prospectus would get your vote?

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
1 month ago

One which spoke honestly about the need to follow a long and difficult path back to economic sanity and freedom of the individual in an increasingly difficult world. A party which was committed to doing the relatively few but important basics of good government well and didn’t make silly promises on matters over which it has no control. A party which looked to create a stable and level playing field for British Industry – be it service, manufacturing, energy or farming. Above all one which looks to create real national wealth and not a country fuelled by and addicted to debt – and generally to spending other people’s money whilst pretending it’s their own. A country which protects its own , including the weak and disadvantaged , and does not make ludicrous claims about saving the planet or pompous speeches about moral leadership on the global stage. A government dedicated to mending our own place first before presuming to tell anyone else what to do.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 month ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

It’s a real problem that the brightest and best don’t enter politics. I barely dare think it, but maybe democracy just ain’t natural. You wouldn’t run a football team like it. I’m two large Jamesons in now. Might delete later.

George Venning
George Venning
1 month ago

Lot of words for not a lot of insight prof.
The country may be crying out for change but the party that is all but guaranteed to win is determined to run on “change” whilst steadfastly refusing to offer any examples.
This isn’t democracy, its psephology as crowd control.

William Cameron
William Cameron
1 month ago

We have politicians pretending to run things (they dont) while failing to do their job- vis make policy.
And a civil service out of control doing -or not- what it chooses -or not -regardless of politicians.
As an operational model it doesnt work.
We ran half the world with a couple of hundred civil servants – now hundreds of thousands of them dont even answer a phone.

James Jenkin
James Jenkin
1 month ago

You say ‘nationwide, levels of poverty are around 50% higher than they were in the Seventies’. I was shocked. I looked at the link. Sorry, where does it say that?

Edward Seymour
Edward Seymour
1 month ago

“People deserve better”. No they don’t. People don’t “deserve ” anything at all. People are just people. If they are frustrated about small boats, why vote Labour? If they are frustrated about mass immigration, why vote Labour? If they are frustrated about high taxes why vote Labour? Islamification? Woke woo woo, why vote Labour. People who put up with Lib Dem style Tories and then vote Labour – for a “change” do deserve something and that something is everything that’s coming down on them.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
1 month ago
Reply to  Edward Seymour

Indeed. Cue that most famous of H.L. Mencken one-liners that goes something to the effect of, “The theory of democracy is that the people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard!”
It’s hard not to believe that there is something to that: we get the vapid, uninformative politics we vote for, … and we keep voting for it. Hmm.
Another, complementary view expressed in the comments is that electoral process really doesn’t make much of a difference given we are already beholden to an oppressive and unelected administrative state.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
1 month ago
Reply to  Edward Seymour

They voted for Brexit, barely got it, and what they did get was a version those opposed to it have watered down wherever possible. They voted for Boris and got Sunak.
Who exactly should they vote for to fix the immigration problem? The conservatives have had over a decade in power and achieved absolutely nothing on that front. Nothing at all. Having run up the highest tax burden in post war history they’re now babbling about national service and a quadruple lock on pensions both of which will cost even more money. The conservative party is an old, rotted tree that needs to fall so something can take its place. Labour might be the shock the bloody place needs for people to realise that some really hard choices are necessary.

Citizen Diversity
Citizen Diversity
1 month ago

Apathy is very different from the realisation that there is to be no restoration of basic functionality.
Labour’s plan for the railways, an acknowledgment that privatisation has failed but there’s no money or institutional knowledge to do anything else, is just one indicator of this.
I keep being told by people I wouldn’t recognise in a lift that I am crying out for change. I attended a school prize giving in 1966 where the parent governor opening the proceedings said that while he recognised that change was necessary, and even occasionally inevitable, he sometimes wished that change would stop.
How about trying that – for a change.
And where is the change when the so-called mainstream political parties have all signed up to the same things? Labour is just as committed to the Ukraine war, a war in which, according to US generals, there is no path to victory.
Change is very different from a restoration of basic functionality.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
1 month ago

Don’t believe the nonsense that poverty is 50% worse. It wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny. Money buys much more in consumer goods than it did, due to advances in retailing, and levels of comfort in most homes are far superior.

Drug addiction is a huge problem, in that it makes people poor, keeps them poor and blights the whole lives of their kids.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

As a particularly odious president reminded us long ago, elections have consequences. We do not always get the govt we want, but we do get the one we deserve. The process has been co-opted by moneyed interests, power-seeking individuals who should be nowhere near it, and a public that too often sees things in the left/right binary.
The average person feels disenfranchised at best and condescended to, if not ignored altogether, at worst. Who in any party is working for his/her constituents? Office-seekers talk a big game, yet they are the ones largely responsible for creating the conditions that exist.

mike otter
mike otter
1 month ago

Surely Unherd can find writers who can report objectively on the UK’s realpolitik? This isn’t about right v left or DEI versus freedom to succeed. 60s to late 80s government with a small “g” was delivered by civil servants, mostly, old school, uni educated, some a bit leftist BUT in a “democratic socialist” idiom. They were balanced by the old school Conservative with small “c”, equally democratic, bit patrician and prone to classical Enlightenment liberalism. Toward the end of Thatcher’s reign civil servants got a lot more socialist and a lot less democratic – blame the Unis? Fashion? Easy Living, MDMA, cooler weather? All have some part to play. Any govt from 97 has had to rule via these activists – some may call them traitors or a 5th column of foreign interests. Either way that’s the news point here – not lienak – v smarmer in the WWC Payasos Luchos championship

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago

Could he not at least have had a butler standing next to him with an umbrella? Dignity, man, dignity!

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 month ago

The rots started in 1939. Civilisation needs tough innovative people, people skilled who take risks. These people were killed and emigrated post 1945. From 1939 Britain was run by civil servants and shop stewards of un and semi skilled unions who failed to perceive the rest of the World was innovating and developing industry where resources were cheaper and there was no over manning.
The civil service as shown by blood scandal, Mid Staff, Grenfell, Post Office, Covid, Brexit favours people who are academically bright but neither innovative, tough or risk takers. In Switzerland barely 20 % go to university but a lorry driver is practically a diesel mechanic and a someone starting an apprentice as an electrician or mechanic has far higher levels of maths, science and language skills.
To make matters the civil service refuses to accept responsibility and take risks. Outside of the SE England many managers in civils service are better paid than those in private industry with practically no need to take risk or accept responsibility. The vast numbers of  accountancy and legal jobs are involved in laws which are not needed to run a civilised nation. The laws are created by civil servants to justify their existence.
The standards of basic skills and attitude to work have been degraded since the late 1960s. Consequently, as shown by Post Office disaster , many managers do not have the skills needed to understand the basics  of the job. Compare with a Midshipman if the early 19th century; they were given a thorough training in the practical such as climbing rigging, splicing knots, leading boarding parties and the academic, navigation and surveying. They then had to pass a rigorous examination by three captains to make lieutenant. Can anyone who was a captain of a ship in the RN up to 1815 showing such venality, laziness and cowardice as the various managers and directors have shown of the various organisations such as NHS, Post Office, kensington and Chelseas BC- Grenfell, Civil Service ?
In 1939 there were 200,000 in the Home Civil Service and by 1950 there 680,000.

Will K
Will K
1 month ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

I have been horrified to read how the Head of the Post Office didn’t understand the business, and got away with that for years. If that’s typical of the UK, it deserves to be a poor Nation.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 month ago
Reply to  Will K

It is why the nation has become poorer.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 month ago

Except, Brad, while Tory voters in England certainly want change, I don’t see any sign of the people of those impoverished S Wales valleys changing from voting Labour. Why not, do you think?

Dengie Dave
Dengie Dave
1 month ago

DO NOT DESPAIR. I’M FORMING A NEW POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE WITH THE AIM OF BRINGING HONESTY AND INTERGRITY BACK INTO POLITICS. IT’S CALLED THE INERTIA PARTY AND WE PROMISE TO LIVE UP TO OUR MANIFESTO. OUR MOTTO IS “WE WILL CHANGE NOTHING.” WE HEREBY MAKE A SOLEMN COMMITMENT TO THE PEOPLE OF BRITAIN THAT WE WILL DELIVER ON EVERY WORD OF THAT PLEDGE. VOTE NOW FOR THE HONEST ALTERNATIVE.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Dengie Dave

The honest (AND SHOUTY) alternative….

Simon Templar
Simon Templar
1 month ago

Reform UK seems to be the only party offering plausible hope for economic recovery.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago

Problem with author argument is that regions and industries always declined over any nations history.
If one Google 10 uk cities with most population in each century, we can see how patterns of trade and industry changed.
People either stayed or move elsewhere including emigration.
Only after ww2 we are supposed to do something about it.
What is author suggestion for changing Wales lot.
Apart from English giving Wales (and Scotland and NI) even more subsidies?
Realistically, Wales is not best destination for investment for geographical and human capital reasons.
What is the USP of Wales?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

Quire so but never mind eh!
At least there’s a really big remembrance junket coming up in June providing yet another opportuniity for the English elites to tickle the tummies of their obsequious, brexit voting working class enablers.
Unfortunately there is unlikely to be anything positive to say about post-brexit England for the foreseeable future, if ever.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago

“Since the times of Thatcher and her social revolution, free marketeers have been fond of talking about the logic of trickle-down economics, which hold that the poor will eventually reap the rewards or the lucky few.”

Grrrr! No we haven’t! There is no such thing as trickle-down economics, never was in modern times, and the only people who ever claimed such a mechanism supposedly existed are those who wanted to smear the actual policies and ideas associated with right-wing thinking.

Modern free market capitalism started at the end of feudalism. Feudalism was indeed a time of trickledown economics, because all the wealth and power was owned aristocratically, and economic opportunities lay to a great extent in servicing the consumption of the landed aristocracy, the only people in possession of significant disposable income: patronage, in other words.

But that all died well over 250 years ago and nobody has seriously proposed since that making a small bunch of people richer so that they’ll spend more money will make the rest of us better off. What right-wingers do say is that people capable of getting rich are almost certainly better at investing, speculating and managing risk than a bunch of bureaucrats who are simply spending other people’s money, and the history of consumer capitalism and the more recent bloating of the State supports this view.

When rich people get richer in a free economy, it’s because of how they invest, not how they consume. And how they invest determines what gets innovated, how much it’s worth, how many jobs it creates and how much bigger the economy becomes. It is something that governments do not know how to do and will never know how to do.

Alex Colchester
Alex Colchester
1 month ago

If only we had the collective will to stop buying shiny new things we don’t need, the whole debt-fuelled subservience machine would grind to a halt overnight. Politics is increasingly a distraction from where the real power lies- oligarchic commerce. As the saying goes: ‘follow the money.’ If everyone decided to stop buying anything but essentials for just one week the entire system would be brought to its knees and the shadowy political donors would grant more than we can imagine, just to get our hands back in our wallets.
We need to step back from our modern ultra-processed lives, digitally isolated and controlled. People need to band together in small ‘maker-communities’ which through shared experimentation will foster a community spirit. Let people use your garage or basement. Share skills and equipment. You want a beer? Brew it. A pizza? Make it. A new IPhone? You don’t need it.

O'Driscoll
O'Driscoll
1 month ago

Sorry, but I – like most people of my class and my age – have never had it so good. There’s no doubt in my mind that the gap between the haves and the underclass has never been wider, but those who have, have plenty.
I live in the sunny uplands of the south, but I also regularly travel to Liverpool – a city I’ve known for over 50 years. Outside of the grim pockets of deprivation in places like Walton and Croxteth, it is absolutely booming. I’ve never seen it like this before. The middle class areas are awash with gleaming freshly painted houses, and most drives have at least two high-end cars in the drive. The city centre is full of tourists, newly opened hotels, restaurants, entertainment and – here’s the thing – jobs for the young. The optimism compared to the 80s and 90s is staggering.
The only reason everyone is miserable is because they are being told to be miserable by the media. If you are in the, say, 20%, who struggle to pay bills and put food on the table, you have my utmost sympathies and you have every reason to complain. Everyone else, shut up.

Peter Drummond
Peter Drummond
1 month ago

When I reached ‘Since the times of Thatcher and her social revolution, free marketeers have been fond of talking about the logic of trickle-down economics’ except they haven’t; the only people who talk about ‘trickle down economics’ are those disavowing the notion. TDE is one of the ultimate straw men and that this author has bought into this myth tells you all you should need to know about the quality of his analysis.

David Harris
David Harris
1 month ago

“The national mood is positively pessimistic, despite the interjection of D:Ream’s “Things can only get better” during Sunak’s big moment.”
Vote Reform in ’24.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago

While the overworked NHS and other public services struggle to meet the needs of the native Britons, while the available housing is insufficient to house the current population, while the available jobs are too few for the people, still the illegal migrants swarm in in their hundreds of thousands, taking jobs, housing, and medical care from those who need them desperately.

I hope that the future leaders of Great Britain show great wisdom in leading the nation toward a brighter future ……..


Mark V
Mark V
1 month ago

No, the problem isn’t ‘trickle down economics’, as though such a thing exists. The problem is the money printer and its consequential cronyism, including welfarism and the parasite classes who live at the expense of everyone else.
Decades of low interest rates, bailouts and quantitative easing have unshackled assets from underlying rational valuation, and a era of repricing is set to continue where wages will struggling to keep pace with the commodities boom. This is an international problem and the root cause is primarily the Federal Reserve. The hapless chumps at the Bank of England merely swim in its wake.
One saving grace is that boomers can’t live forever and so they can’t continue to hang on to assets that have appreciated unfairly beyond all recognition from when they were originally acquired, so far pricing a generation or two out of home ownership.
The state however is positioning itself to tax away these gains from the next generation, for the greater good of course. You know, like spending on massive moonshot projects like dodgy vaccines and unnecessary £36billion handouts to contractors for surveillance technology nobody needs or wants.

Edward St Aubyn
Edward St Aubyn
1 month ago

Misery monologues aside, suggesting that there is 50% more poverty now than in the 1970s is laughable. And the source for that is a Labour Party post! Shoddy journalism. Seriously questioning why I pay £1 a week for this nonsense. For what it’s worth, my money is on a high turnout with a hung parliament (smart phones now have everyone engaged in politics on some level).

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
1 month ago

‘Take the valleys of South Wales, an area I know intimately well. Whether we consider the lasting unemployment, the child malnourishment, the widespread addiction, or the disturbing levels of depression, suicide and domestic abuse, these communities are a melting pot for Britain’s most pressing social concerns, which statisticians show are only getting worse.’
Maybe us voters should look as to who’s been running Wales these past few years?……Clue: it isn’t Tory

Will K
Will K
1 month ago

No politician can produce wealth. The only way to restore wealth, is for people to work harder, longer and better.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 month ago

One of the parties should adopt FDR’s old theme song “Happy Days Are Here Again” to blast out at rallies and buck up spirits. They weren’t back then, far from it with the Dust Bowl and all, but it gave something to look forward to until one got home to fried mush for dinner. There is nothing like an old-fashioned war to get things going again, economy-wise. Which is why Macron wants to put boots on the ground in Ukraine and you hear Colonel Blimp murmurs in London. A nice essay, but did you have to use “the lived reality”?