Sunday 18th March
A title of a song by Carly Simon – she was singing about the mid-Seventies. And looking back, they were the good old days; despite raging inflation and three day weeks and the Troubles in Northern Ireland, life was good. It was the best of times musically, and for most people living standards were improving. Colour TVs, Fridges, Freezers, Fitted Carpets, Central Heating, Cars, Foreign Holidays. All of these were becoming available to more and more families.
And the escalator of wealth kept on rolling through the Eighties and Nineties….but it has ground to a halt, or is definitely creaking along at best. But for many it is getting worse. If you are poor or young the doors of opportunity are being slammed shut in your face.
And yet, we may look back in twenty years time….and fondly too. These may, for many people indeed be the good old days. The future has never looked so uncertain. Britain’s slow decline (after the War we were the third most powerful nation, now we are sixth or seventh…and slipping) could accelerate with Brexit. In fact of course the very bizarre decision to Leave was in part a hankering back to the time when we were ‘Great Britain’, when we were the ‘workshop of the world’, when we had an Empire even – or at least a Commonwealth that looked up to us, not down their noses at us.
But things still aren’t quite so bad yet – we still have a just-functioning NHS, our schools though slipping into debt and facing major funding shortages are still on the whole excellent, our councils despite cuts of a third are still just about managing to run most services. But there are worrying signs; the economy is sluggish at best, house prices are slipping (not necessarily a bad thing), life expectancy rates have just fallen for the first time in decades, social care is in crisis and old people’s homes are closing almost weekly, the high street is full of closed shops as more and more of are using the internet, even mobile phone makers are facing a stagnating future as most of us now have a decent phone so why buy a new one, same with TVs – they are now so good there is no reason to upgrade.
And despite the TV being full of adverts for glossy new stuff, less and less of us can afford them. At the moment most of us have a job, it may be minimum wage and we may be slipping into debt – but it is still a job. With driver-less vehicles and rapidly accelerating automation, unless Governments rapidly change the whole nature of work and taxation it could be a very bleak future for many.
But it needn’t be such a terrible future, we needn’t be looking back at now as the good old days. Things can change, indeed things will change, but we can help make those changes good ones. Let’s all try to make the twenty-teens the bad old days instead.