So here we are then – alone at last. All 60 million of us. And suddenly everyone is in the prediction business.
In the short term, there will be (continue to be) a lot of posturing and somebody really ought to set a quota on red herrings.
In the short term, the economy may suffer, although the main economic threat at the moment is from the coronavirus – not the EU – a timely reminder that governments and international institutions have a lot less power than they think.
We need to be open for business and open to the world, including Europe, but without being Eurocentric.
What the government needs to do is focus repairing the damage to our national infrastructure done by years of austerity and under-investment and work towards a more equitably distribution of wealth and opportunity.
We need to make realistic investments in education – make teaching a respected profession, let teachers teach, let children learn; abandon the one-size-fits-all and all-must-have-prizes lunacy that is devaluing whole swathes of the tertiary sector and provide well-thought out, well-funded alternatives to “uni”.
We need to start growing more of our own doctors, nurses, midwives, builders, plumbers and – yes – cleaners instead of relying on an unsustainable ponzi scheme of immigration.
We need to have a tax and welfare system that provides a genuine safety net to the most vulnerable and geared to modern patterns of work – short term contract and the gig economy – raising people up rather than treading them down.
We need more buses.
What’s to stop us?
The besetting sin of the English (and I think it is a peculiarly English thing) is an obsession with class and social hierarchy. George Bernard Shaw got it right when he said that “it only takes one Englishman to open his mouth, to make another Englishman despise him”. We have a long way to go before, to paraphrase Martin Luther King, people are judged not by where they went to school or whether they say “barth” or “bath”, but by the content of their characters.
The besetting sins of successive governments are many, but I would focus on a combination short-termism and an obsession with trying to do everything on the cheap.
It’s difficult to see this being achieved by the current crop of politicians, although the current obsession with the newly-fashionable North may be a first small step in the right direction.
Come back in a hundred years.