My own hope was cultivated in a country that doesn’t exist any more. It grew every time I found solace in times of precariousness – which I did, over and over again. I arrived in the UK in the mid-noughties, with little money and even fewer connections. I went to night school and survived by finding the cheapest canteens and supermarket deals, and taking temping jobs all over London. I stuffed envelopes and answered phones (badly – I was told I was too curt, and was not invited to return). And when cracks did inevitably appear, in jobs or homes or immigration applications, I came to depend on a growing network of friends and partners who came through for me.
OK, arrives in 2005 then. Aroundandabout. Peak of the G. Brown drunken sailor spending.
You might know this as “gentrification”, but it was really a sort of class cleansing. And it was down to a post-2008 settlement that determined that the financial crisis had been the result of public sector spending, rather than of a failure of regulation. It was decided that private investment and consumerism were the keys to growth, deficits had to be eliminated, and the welfare state simply was no longer affordable. So the country became inhospitable to those unable to spend, unable to earn high incomes, or unable to work at all.
The fallout of those slash-and-burn years is vividly clear in the shape of a cost of living crisis, a public health crisis and roiling labour discontent. I bring the promise of my history to these times with the expectation that that connection is surely clear by now: that divestment from the state has made us vulnerable to shocks; that we have been unable to effectively distribute the rewards of all that private wealth creation, which squatted on the site of the old public realm, unable to transform it into a hospital bed, a cheap home or an affordable energy bill.
Govt spending is higher than G. Brown’s, in nominal terms, in real terms, as a percentage of GDP.
The narrative constructed here is simply wrong. At odds with reality. As in, not true.