It wasn’t Brexit or capitalism that got us into this mess
Every week I do a number of things that increasingly put me on the wrong track. Just yesterday I ate high carbon farm produce for dinner (steak), and on Monday I’m on a transatlantic flight to Blighty, with another cheap hop to France arriving on his heels. Beyond generally throwing things in the right bin, I think about recycling as little as possible. I like to blow the air conditioning, if available, when it’s really boiling outside, and blow the heating, too, when it’s freezing. And, to make matters worse for the armies of cultural puritans wagging their fingers everywhere, from government to activism to the highest echelons of celebrity culture and the royal family, I don’t feel bad about any of it. . In fact, I consider theft and advanced forms of consumption, from Amazon’s next-day deliveries of completely random things to the ability, after Uber’s implosion, to call a black cab in two minutes on an app, as nothing less than wonderful – and just as it should be.
No, what I don’t like is the fact that all that good stuff – good meat, flights and vacations, not having to think too much about heating your house or cooking or keeping the lights on – is already become extremely difficult for millions of people, and will only get worse when the mercury drops. I feel bad for the fact not, as some censoriously seem to suggest, that we have consumed, polluted and, with Brexit, voted ourselves into a brutal cost of living crisis, but rather a macabre storm dumb government priorities, inevitably outlandish spending during Covid, a confused and underutilized workforce, a broken energy sector and the blatant Russian invasion of Ukraine have landed us here.
It is clear that Britain is slipping and, thanks to the added seasoning of relentless mass transport strikes, is already back to a 1970s-style economic and infrastructural mess. What is needed are solutions, not the adoption of a punitive bustle.
We may be facing several years of miserable gloom as costs and prices soar and the inflation rate, currently in excess of double digits, poisons economic stability. But those who take advantage of this perilous situation to blame capitalism, Brexit and lecture on climate change are missing the point. The problem is not that we got ourselves into this, that we spent too much, that we value cheap travel and supermarket variety too much, that we got the energy market wrong and that we have had the audacity to want to free ourselves from the EU. The fact is, we need better market thinking and better technology to reduce carbon emissions, fix the energy sector, fix water shortages and the problems caused by food transportation on long distances. We must creatively embrace the possibilities offered by Brexit, not sink into the quagmire, ideological and practical, of a poorly managed transition. In short, it’s not just about desserts, but about ensuring that we can continue to enjoy many delicious desserts or, in safer metaphorical terms, the fruits of modernity – thoroughly and safely.
The working and middle classes deserve a break. For years we’ve been berated about everything from using plastic bags to eating sugar, hit with mind-boggling congestion charges, and disrupted by smelly environmental and anti-capitalist protesters as we simply tried to get to at work. The Covid cat’s universal cradle of nonsensical rules has further reinforced the sense of being fatally and perpetually constrained.
If there is no respite from the current mess, at least we have a right to a little encouragement, a little hope. And yet, there is no respite. Last week, in response to the most recent heat wave, the focus was again on how we should do and eat less of what we crave. Henry Dimbleby, government food policy adviser and founder of Leon, the food chain, said the only way Britain could meet its biodiversity and climate targets was to drastically cut meat consumption , in particular through sanctions. Meanwhile, despite the current government being one of the most aggressive net zero enforcement on earth today, researchers complain it’s not doing enough to get people to change their lifestyles. . A Yougov poll showed the July heat wave caused some panic and reflection on climate change among the public, but – understandably – not enough to make people want to change their lifestyles by opting for an electric car, eating less red meat and giving up stealing.
For green heads in politics and research, it’s a shame; in their opinion, the little people should bite the bullet while the government should be less focused on innovation. It should remain silent on the possibilities of electric planes, for example, and instead focus on the fact that it is more difficult for people to heat their homes or go on vacation. And while few would publicly clap with glee while claiming that Brexit is forcing millions to struggle to feed their families, there is nonetheless a whiff of cackle that Remainiac also told you about in the moment. Much was said in the usual quarters of a study earlier this summer into the effects of Brexit on Britain’s economic prospects. Published by the Resolution Foundation, a think tank, in partnership with the LSE, it was – surprise surprise – a celebration of all the supposedly grim results Remainers had been warning about. The cost of living crisis, an apparent drop in “both openness and competitiveness” and everything else has been explored quite one-sidedly.
Brexit has certainly caused some economic restriction, but aside from the reasonable embrace of the broader picture, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be in the relatively short term. It’s the same for the rest of the current horror show. Indeed, the main thing in the current mess is not that we deserve it, but that we deserve to get out of it as soon as possible.