Like most people I guess, I’ll raise a glass tonight and wish everyone a happy new year, but it will be with the deepest foreboding of what is to come in 2011. Over the holiday I went out for a jar (or two) with some of the mates I have shared a pint with at the weekend for over 20 years. Not one of them a member of any political party, and the conversation much more likely to be about relegation or winning the ashes than the structural deficit or the fragility of the Euro. Two with their own businesses, one civil servant clinging on by his fingernails, one already unemployed, one working for British Gas, two retired, and one a college lecturer. But everyone of them expressed a deep seated fear of what is coming over the horizon.
Raging inflation, particularly in fuel prices and mortgage interest rates, (just how much will Lord Young’s folk feel they have never had it so good then) the privatisation of the NHS, and the prospect of unemployment for hundreds of thousands in the public sector whilst benefits are axed… led all of them, without any disagreement, to predict massive social unrest in the year ahead. A wave of disillusionment with all political parties was their response, “you’re all the same” was the refrain, why bother voting for any of them? Riots on the street seemed to be the main prediction.
I hope they are wrong, but I fear they are right. The political axis has moved steadily to the right in this country over the last thirty years, and I get no sense that the direction of travel is about to change. Just the news items this morning featuring the Thatcher woman was enough to send shivers down the spine. Last time around it was Toxteth, Handsworth and Brixton burning… this time it could get much worse.
So raise your glass, and drink your fill… for tomorrow we settle the bill.