By Dan Bavister
There are some who portray post-War Britain as a nation in managed decline. They present the modern British state as an old, somewhat decrepit country, with its heart and spirit, and at times its mind, stuck firmly in the past as a nation whose former economic and military standing has been utterly subsumed by its rivals and allies alike.
Indeed, since the 1950s, the United States has ballooned in economic and military-industrial strength. More recently, China has its eyes on the United States’ illustrious crown and continues to outperform the US in some key areas of economic growth. Likewise, the power of the European Union continues to grow. And, while showcasing mixed results, the developing world does continue to develop, across East, South and South East Asia in particular.
So where does all this leave the United Kingdom? Britain was once a global leader in the areas of factory manufacturing and coalmining. Ingenious new methods of economic growth and development were harnessed in the Industrial Age of the 19th-century. By the Second World War, the U.S. was already at Britain’s heals.
Today, manufacturing and coalmining have declined in Britain to such a low level that their expanse is negligible, at times laughable (if this decline were not so bleak). The pits and the production lines, in Britain at least, are perceived as antiquated fruits of a lost time left to wither on the long vine of progress.
But this narrative need not continue down this disheartening vein. This argument, of the necessity of British economic decline, need not be the defining argument of these times. Britain and the British people need not always bow before the powers that be, no matter how almighty they may seem now. Decline is not mandatory. Hopelessness is not the only way. The instinct of the British to be humble and demure, to seek solace in the achievements of other nations and not our own, or to hark back – in saccharine, sickly and downright delusional fashion – to a previous nostalgia of British eminence, long vanished from the modern geopolitical arena, need not be the sole and singular British story. There is another way.
The answer is green. The harnessing of these isles’ natural might, of wind, wave and solar energy. Of clean, green energy for all, that will kill our dependence on Russian hydrocarbons and liberate us politically as well as financially. A truly ambitious, transformative green agenda is what is needed most now. Recently, Rishi Sunak has unveiled a reversal of green commitments.
The 2030 deadline of phasing out petrol and diesel cars is to be pushed back, to the ire of car manufacturers driving the shift to electric vehicles. Electric heat pumps will no longer replace gas boilers that are being replaced anyway. Mark Maslin, a professor of climatology at University College London, said: “He [Sunak] seems to forget government is there to enable major infrastructure changes and the switch to renewable energy, electric cars, and heat exchangers should be supported because all of them in the long run save people money and improve people’s health.” Lisa Brankin, the chair of Ford UK, said: “Our business needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three.”
Labour is widely expected to win the next general election. Keir Starmer leads Rishi Sunak in every reputable opinion poll. On the doorstep, MPs and Party activists, Labour and Conservative, speak of deep disillusionment and discontent with this Conservative Government. Among the Conservative Party’s own rank and file, fast approaching 50 Conservative MPs, including very senior names such as Dominic Raab, Matt Hancock, Sajid Javid and Ben Wallace, have said they will not stand at the next election.
Unless Rishi Sunak pulls off the miracle of his political lifetime, clinging to power and granting the Conservatives their fifth consecutive general election victory, the mantle will pass to Labour to turn the tide and bring British green leadership to the global stage. Indeed, as Sir Keir said recently: “can we [Britain] still achieve great things? Can we unite and move forward? Can we change, can we grow, can we get things done, can we build things?” The public and industry alike will hope that Sir Keir can deliver the green revolution required.
Image: David de la Iglesia Villar via newcivilengineer.com