Theresa May was at pains to tell us repeatedly after the General Election, “Nothing has changed!”
The Tories, she asserted, were still in charge and Brexit was still on track.
I remember scoffing at the time: obviously, things had changed for her. Her position was weakened; she is reliant on the Democratic Unionists to hold her in place. I sit across the chamber from her: after the initial shock of seeing the Prime Minister in the flesh had worn off, I quickly noticed that she seemed tired.
Nothing has changed. I’ve said on several occasions that if you change nothing, nothing will change. The trajectory that we are on has not changed: we are headed down, and the angle of descent is becoming ever steeper. We see evidence of this in Peterborough: homelessness has become an emergency, schools are struggling with tight resources, and the council is set to lose another £30 million over the next three years. Given the cuts that have occurred already, this will mean the gaps we presently experience in public services will expand into gaping chasms. Nothing has changed. Deficit targets that we have repeatedly missed since the Tories took power in 2010 won’t be reached until at least 2031. The NHS has raised the alarm: yet, the budget has allocated more to Brexit than for an increase to the Health Service’s funds.
So much for the promises emblazoned on the sides of red buses. George Eaton, the political editor of the New Statesman, also pointed out that the economy’s growth projections are consistently below two per cent per annum for the first time in modern history. Furthermore, annual pay won’t recover to 2008 levels until 2025.
I am not suggesting that there are easy choices that will get us out of our current predicament. However, any change begins with both imagination and willpower.
One without the other is ineffective: the Tories’ desire to hold onto power is evident, however as they lack imagination, they can only see the world in terms of cuts. Imagination without willpower means ideas have no force. I believe, that we need to be bold and creative: if Britain can use its credit rating to provide a $2 billion loan guarantee to Saudi Aramco, as we did earlier this month, then surely we can use that to improve our infrastructure, thus creating the conditions for greater productivity and economic growth. If Britain can focus on a Brexit that prioritises jobs, then perhaps we won’t need a £3 billion contingency fund.
The key, however, is choice: if you change nothing, nothing will change. We have to decide that we want to be different and better and make it happen. If we don’t, then we have no right to expect anything other than a continued plummet into the morass of mediocre prospects.