Can we fix Britain?
Battle of Ideas festival 2022, Sunday 16 October, Church House, London
Recorded at the Battle of Ideas festival 2022 on Sunday 16 October at Church House in London.
Recent turmoil on the bond markets, a currency in freefall and inflation going through the roof are just some of the problems facing the UK right now. Everywhere you look, Britain seems to be in crisis. With the price of a wide range of goods and services rocketing in recent months and problems with supply chains globally, and questions about everything from UK food and energy security to NHS waiting lists and GP shortages, the common perception is that Britain is broken. It sometimes feels like nothing works.
Many commentators are predicting the worst cost-of living crisis since the 1970s, with working people’s incomes failing to keep up with soaring inflation and painting a grim picture for many households. Everyone, from train drivers to farmers, fears for the future of their livelihoods. But more broadly, we seem to be stumbling from one crisis to another with barely any chance to draw breath. What was once the ‘workshop of the world’ is now stuck buying much of what we need, from consumer goods to food, from somewhere else.
On the other hand, is the picture really so gloomy? For example, many suggest the present run on the pound is more driven by panic than a real financial collapse and we should avoid constant talk of crises. There is certainly an argument for perspective. Despite headlines suggesting we will run out of food for example, the UK produces sufficient grain, meat, dairy and eggs to feed itself, more or less, and most of our food trade is with countries near to us in Europe, with 39 per cent of food imports coming from the Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Germany and France. So, should we calm down and try and fix Britain’s problems, rather than succumbing to fatalistic pessimism?
Is Britain really ‘broken’ as many claim or is this too alarmist? Do we have the talent and vision to fix Britain – and if so, how can we make it happen?
founder, Kitchin Table; councillor, City of Westminster
science and technology director, Academy of Ideas; convenor, AoI Economy Forum
Conservative councillor, Sevenoaks District Council; commentator; former Home Office adviser
chair, Positive News; formerly editor-in-chief, Green Futures; former director, Forum for the Future
Gareth Wyn Jones
farmer and commentator; author, The Hill Farmer
journalist, writer and broadcaster; presenter, Radio 4’s FutureProofing and How to Disagree; author, Big Data: does size matter?