Gordon Brown is back. Again. Earlier this week, to mark the tenth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the former prime minister treated us all to another nakedly self-serving political intervention.
In the summer of 2010, the UK embarked on a strange economic experiment.
Britain, then in the grip of a post-crash recession, had just elected a new government led by the Conservative party. In his first budget, the Tory finance minister, George Osborne, reeled-off a litany of cuts: public sector pay would be frozen, pensions reformed, disability and housing benefits slashed, and a raft of progressive tax credits abolished. In total, more than £30bn ($50bn CAD) would be stripped from state expenditure every year until 2015.
If there’s one thing that Jeremy Corbyn has been absolutely consistent about in recent years, it’s that the Tories’ spending cuts are not, as the right monotonously insists, economically necessary, but instead form part of a broader ideological project to shrink the public sector and destroy the welfare state.
“Parliament can feel like living in a time warp at the best of times,” the Labour leader wrote in 2015, “but this government is not just replaying 2010, but taking us back to 1979: ideologically committed to rolling back the state, attacking workers’ rights and trade union protection, selling off public assets, and extending the sell-off to social housing.”
2017, it seemed, should have killed the campaign for Scottish independence stone dead.
At the UK general election in June, the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) lost a third of its Westminster seats, forcing SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to “reset” her plans for a second independence referendum. Then, in August, new analysis showed that an independent Scotland would face a projected budget deficit of 8.3 per cent – the largest of any EU state. And on top of that, major splits have begun to emerge within the ‘Yes’ base, as younger, more radical activists sympathetic to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party have clashed with older, more conservative nationalists loyal to the SNP.
I was born in 1986, the year of Margaret Thatcher’s Big Bang deregulation of the British banking system, and I was 22 when the global financial crash hit in 2008. For most of my adult life, the UK economy has been in crisis. First recession, then austerity, and now stagnation, with the prospect of another serious, Brexit-induced downturn on the horizon. Economists anticipate a decade or more of lost growth; a semi-permanent, Japanese-style slump. Prepare yourself, they say, for disappointment. That job you wanted? Gone. That house you’ve been saving for? No chance. That mountain of debt you’re carrying? You can keep it. Forever. It’s yours – along with flatlining wages, part-time employment, and income-eviscerating rents.
I belong, in other words, to the so-called ‘millennial’ generation, a category that includes people between the ages of 18 and 34 – or, more broadly, people who reached adulthood after the turn of the millennium. Millennials are significant for two reasons: they are the first age group in recent history to experience a standard of living lower than that of their parents, and they are really, really leftwing.