It’s really interesting, do a search on Google Images for ‘UK Managed Decline’ and the search page is filled with images from the 1980s of social unrest and the cabinet of the Thatcher government. Perhaps there is something wrong with the Google algorithm because none of these images suggest that the transition of the 1980s that was brought about by the Thatcher revolution was particularly well managed. If anything decline was unmanaged and extreme social responses where provoked.
The 1980s where a period when Britain was forced to deindustrialise, with whole industries being closed or privatised, and the resulting impact on communities and families hitting them in a way that it was difficult to cope with and respond to.
Many of these communities have never recovered and still show the scars and the resentment of this period of destruction to this day. This has clearly fed into the anger that has been expressed in the referendum decision to leave the European Union.
As I’ve indicated in previous blogs, I’m a supporter of Britain’s continued membership of the European Union, however, I am also a democrat so I respect the decision that has been made by a majority of the active British electorate.
There are, however, some questions that I think are fair to put to the Brexit camp that will explain how the United Kingdom, or what’s left after the second Scottish independence referendum, will move forward. I don’t believe in jingoistic phrases like ‘Making Britain Great Again,’ I need more meat on the bone and some plausible, practical answers.
So, how will Britain manage its decline following the decision to leave the European Union? How will the new government under Johnson, Gove, Smith and Farage restructure our economy and our society in order to better suit our diminished position? Here are some proposals to do this:
First, cancel Trident. Obviously we can no longer afford to replace this ‘independent’ nuclear weapons system. It’s a debt that will hang around our necks and stop us from investing in the needs of the British people at home. The United Kingdom no longer needs to be an active nation in world peace keeping, as this can be undertaken by the Americans on our behalf, and for a much smaller fee.
This means we can give up our permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council so that we can concentrate on matters closer to home. We can sign non-aggression pacts with Russia and China, so that in the event of any war in the future we can guarantee that no British soldiers, sailors or airmen will be put at risk for the protection of countries that are well out of our domain of influence.
As a member of NATO we can provide defensive services to our allies only, and we can commit ourselves to peace keeping operations only once they have been agreed by the full NATO Council and the United Nations. This should save us many billions of pounds each year, as we will no longer need a nuclear deterrent or expensive submarines and aircraft carriers.
If we are going to withdraw from the United Nations Security Council, this gives us the opportunity to hand back Falklands and Gibraltar to the Argentine and Spanish governments respectively. This will mean that we won’t have to constantly posture with these countries and we can move on to think about making things work at home.
Our managed decline must have the objective to have a smaller footprint in the world and to worry less about the United Kingdom punching above its weight.
Our special relationship with America can be downgraded in the process, as we become more objective and independent we will be able to strike trade deals with new partners that better suit our interests, rather than opting for American investment to the same extent that we do at present.
We can strike a preferential deal with the Chinese to use Weibo instead of the American Twitter. We can buy our movies from India – Bollywood rather than Hollywood, and K-Pop is much more popular than Hip-Hop as a form of creative and artistic expression.
At home, we can further our managed decline by aiming to limit the ambitions of our universities. So we can be content that Oxford and Cambridge are in the top fifty world research universities, rather than the top five that they are at present. Maintaining this position in the international university league tables is expensive, and we would be better deploying the money we save to support home communities and home education services that provide valuable vocational skills for industry.
Obviously the financial services industry that is based in London will have to be given special status and freed from the rules and regulations that the European Union are trying to impose on them. I’d suggest that we use the Isle of Mann, or Guernsey as a model for the City of London, as it becomes a quasi-independent city-state free from national regulation and responsibilities.
At a stroke we can also get rid of HS2, the controversial high-speed rail service proposed for London to Birmingham. It’s not going to be important to move business people around at high-speed, so we can spend the money on more practical local options like buses and trams in our towns and cities. The third runway at Heathrow is also a non-starter, as there will be plenty of capacity at all the other United Kingdom airports once the agreements for cheap air travel in Europe have come to an end.
We might have to spend some money sorting out the railways again, however, as when the franchises for the exiting train services run out it is likely that bidders to take these services on will be harder to find as the focus of British transport shifts back to the roads and to regional transport schemes.
There will be changes to the NHS as well. We won’t be able to afford the universal service that we take for granted now, so it’s sensible to start to plan for both rationing, charging and privatisation of the health service. This will mean shifting the provision of healthcare to cities and the urban centres because with more limited options and expertise, specialists will need to be clustered and centralised. The limits on immigration will mean that we can’t recruit internationally for doctors, so there will be a transition period while we train new medical professionals.
We will also need to rationalise our schools. The somewhat outdated and unaffordable village school will become a thing of the past. Instead children will have to be transported to larger towns and cities for their schooling, at which they will receive a rationalised and simplified curriculum.
These are just a couple of ideas. I’m sure the process of managed decline will suit this country well. We will be able to run things properly without all the ambition of being a world-player, and without having to moralise or preach to other nations about human rights, international aid, social protection and future innovation in the economy, as we will be holding our own quite nicely.
If any of the Brexit supporters can show me where their plans for government and administration of this decline have been published, I would very much like to read them. Being honest about decline and how we manage our reduced influence and status in the world carries no shame. Being dishonest by claiming that we can somehow magically recreate the glories of a bygone age is, however, entirely shameful.