The Gary Lineker story tells us something about Britain today. It makes for uncomfortable reading, but a reality check wouldn’t do this country any harm at all – if nothing else to question what hell is going on.
NHS waiting lists, strikes, shortages and the ever-increasing crisis of daily life for millions is what we really have. All of this is happening because of some basic problems. Those basic problems do not include the global pandemic. Every country has had to deal with that, but in Britain, we are doing so much worse and lagging behind our peers on just about everything.
Remember the late 1990s – we had ‘Cool Britannia’. This was a period of increased pride in the culture of the United Kingdom. The economy was doing well, the City of London ruled the financial world, we had the Brit awards and Euro 96. It was well documented that fashion, music and culture were the envy of our European neighbours. Four Wedding and Funeral, Trainspotting, Liam Gallagher, and Damian Hirst, to name just a few – went global. Look now – what do you see after 25 years?
The start of our problems came with the financial crisis of 2008. It flatlined our economy. George Osborne and David Cameron, between them, decided against all economic orthodoxy to enact what turned out to be a class war. I say that because as an economic policy – austerity dramatically failed. Within a few short years, the national debt doubled – so saving money by cutting services didn’t work. The by-product of this failure was that the economy froze over and a poly-crisis-stricken country became the norm for nearly half the population.
Then something else happened. Oven ready deal? £350m a week to the NHS? International trade deals piling up causing us to smile each day as sunlit uplands make us wealthier? That was the next delusion sold to the nation. The reality of Brexit amid the lingering effects of the financial crisis is a mix of everything going wrong in Britain right now.
The truth is, the fight between the political ideologies in 2010 was won by the Conservative party who then managed everything into a doom loop. The financial crisis dealt UK plc a terrible body blow. Brexit hit us square in the solar plexus, and the uppercut came from mind-boggling mismanagement.
The poly-crisis is worse than people realise.
In 2007, I predicted the financial crisis, not because I was a know-it-all financial guru but because there were many warnings from individuals commenting on the scale of shaky financial instruments being used in the property markets. At the time, the vast majority of commentators mocked predictions of a collapse. I predicted Brexit – not because I was an expert pollster but because public anger over the effects of the financial crisis were not reflected in political discourse when it came to the EU referendum. Something major was missing. As an aside, hedge funds were short-selling sterling – not just a hedge bet or a gamble – but in hundreds of £millions on the run-up to the Brexit referendum.
I predicted the subsequent political and economic fallout because Brexit was not an economic plan – it was based on an ideology. That ideology – ‘neoliberal capitalism’ or ‘trickle-down’ economics was already in disintegration mode. Brexit was simply a method of doubling down – and all it did was accelerate its inevitable failure. It also failed because if Jacob Rees-Mogg is your ‘Brexit Opportunities Minister’ – you knew, on day one, that he would flounder. And he did. He quite dramatically failed because there were no game-changing opportunities.
So what next?
The financial crisis came. The government of the day handled it very badly. Brexit came along, and the government handled it very badly. In both cases, the government got desperate. The former created a referendum to distract from the failure of its handling of the financial crisis and lost. Then a new government came along and got desperate – and everything else went wrong.
Things are so bad the government and their MPs are now fighting on cultural grounds. The ‘divide and rule’ playbook is all this government has left. They are unable to brag about policy successes because there aren’t any. The UK’s Covid vaccine response was nothing to do with the freedom Brexit gave us. Boris Johnson and his acolytes continue to lie about this. The war in Ukraine has helped push another narrative.
Over the next twelve months or so, the cultural battle – or culture wars – are designed to do little more than frighten people. And nothing is off the table.
A tweet from a former footballer who is on a late-night show watched by less than 3 per cent of the population has been turned into this cultural battleground. Brexit, experienced by 100 per cent of the population is predicted by just about all respected economists to cause a downturn equivalent to a non-stop recession. You can see the distraction tactic, can’t you?
Last year, 1.1 million migrants came to Britain. If departures are included, the population rose by a net figure of 504,000. Of the total number of migrants arriving in the UK – an additional 4 per cent or 45,700 people crossed the Channel in small boats (as compared with 28,500 in 2021 and 8,500 in 2020). However, the cultural battleground is about small boats, not the fact that a million people arrived. The distraction story will continue to be highlighted as a national threat to our way of life – until that narrative changes – to suit an election.
My point here is this. The financial crisis and the handling of it has dramatically weakened this country. Brexit has been and will be worse. The people in power are happy to keep doubling down, irrespective of the damage they are doing until they lose power. When they do, it will not be possible to repair the damage. Britain will not be able to keep up with its peers. It will get relatively poorer. As it does, more and more corporations will leave. And when they do, individual wealth will follow. And the bad news is – they already are.
Since Brexit, 12,000 millionaires have left the UK. The Times newspaper recently reported that – “Britain was once a magnet for the wealthy, who were attracted by the strong rule of law and political stability, while a friendly time zone allowed them to conduct their business with staff and clients based around the world. “Now that Brexit has been entrenched and the very real longer-term consequences are being felt, we have seen increased movement from wealthy UK citizens looking to claw back their EU status by obtaining an EU residence or citizenship by investment.”
In a poll for the same newspaper, 64 per cent decided that Britain was no longer an attractive place for investors.
Meanwhile, the City of London has lost its crown as the global financial hub, now described by the Financial Times as an economic ‘slow-puncture.’ Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam are net beneficiaries. By 2021, over £ 1 trillion in UK assets had been transferred from London to EU capitals. More recently, UK-based corporations are now thinking about where they should be listed. The reason is quite simple. The FTSE 100 is up less than 10per cent over the past five years while the S&P 500 is up over 45per cent. Worse still, the FTSE 250 has actually lost ground during that timeframe.
After 13 years of continued policy failure and mismanagement, the UK is no longer a place to invest. You cannot repair the damage the financial crisis and mismanagement did, nor can Brexit be reversed. The whole idea of ‘rejoining’ the EU is as fanciful as promises of sunlit uplands. Recovery from this is impossible.
The reality is a downward spiral of politically motivated cultural battles that will continue to weaken the country as it descends into the darkness. In that darkness, they will try to engage you in minor issues that are distractive. This is the reason why Gary Lineker is the main story in the UK right now. And millions have engaged in that story. Tomorrow it will be something else. And if you do engage – just remember – you’re been played.