These are wretched, febrile times, not just for Britain but for the whole of the West. Wherever we turn, the foundations of our civilisation are under threat. The crisis is all-pervasive: a stalled economy and declining living standards, a broken welfare state, an authoritarian Great Awokening dedicated to re-engineering our society, a new values-based class conflict, and war between the great powers. The public craves enlightened political leadership and demands grand, sweeping change. The never-ending conflict between Left and Right is now in its fourth incarnation, with anti-capitalist, woke and environmental stormtroopers pitted against Brexiteers, cultural conservatives and free-marketeers.
The next few years will be a time for great questions, in-depth debate and the re-examination of our assumptions. Politics and ideology are back; history isn’t over. Brexit was an early skirmish, and the rise and fading of Greta Thunberg a dry run: what sort of society do we want to build? Who will its heroes be? Is there a way to change Britain for the better, to fix our myriad problems, to usher in a step change in quality of life? How do you engage with the extreme environmentalists who want to impoverish us, or with the trans activists who want to blow up human reality? How do we tackle the twin challenges of vast migratory waves combined with collapsing birth rates globally? How can we fix our crumbling health system? How can we triple economic growth? How best to preserve autonomy in a world that is drifting into techno-tyranny? The stakes are high and require vision, courage, passion and systemic thinking.
Tragically, that is the exact opposite of the dispiriting offering from Tony Blair and William Hague this week. A New National Purpose: Innovation Can Power the Future of Britain is a post-ideological manifesto containing proposals that most think-tankers, Whitehall mandarins and corporate bigwigs will agree with. It will doubtless be welcomed as brilliant, and parts of it included in the Budget or Tory manifesto, especially given Rishi Sunak’s desire to “put innovation at the heart of everything we do”.
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