Another crisis wasted

At El Alamein in 1942, British forces secured their first military victory of the Second World War. Winston Churchill assessed that Britain and its allies had ‘perhaps’ just reached the ‘end of the beginning’ of the war. But that didn’t stop him and other Western leaders starting to plan for life after the war. In Britain the government’s Beveridge Report was published in November that year, paving the way to the expanded welfare state that became a hallmark for the postwar domestic settlement. Less than two years later, with Allied armies only weeks into fighting their way across Europe and still heavily engaged in the Asia-Pacific theatre of war, their countries’ representatives convened in New Hampshire’s Bretton Woods. There they charted out what became the postwar international economic and monetary architecture that operated for the ensuing quarter century.

These ambitious initiatives remind us that huge crises, such as our coronavirus pandemic, used to be seized as opportunities to undertake radical longer-term planning. Judging by this week’s UK Budget package, this is not the case anymore. Times like this demand bold economic thinking. Rishi Sunak has squandered that opportunity.

Read the full article here.

A culture war against China

After the defeat of Donald Trump many international relations commentators think that Western politicians and diplomats can now revert to their postwar multilateralist ways, without having to deal with an unpredictable and erratic American president. No more unilateralist antics. No more disregard and contempt for America’s allies. And no more capricious provocation of China, with the dire potential consequence of a military standoff.

But this expectation of a reassuring return to international norms could actually be much more dangerous to global peace than anything Trump initiated. A resumption of Western complacencies about international affairs would only compound the existing deep-rooted challenges – challenges that have in fact been exacerbated by the response to Covid-19 far more than by Trump.

Read the full article here.

A roadmap for economic renewal

There is much talk from inside and outside government about a state-administered ‘reset’ or ‘reboot’ in order to begin Britain’s economic recovery. But the economy needs something much more far-reaching – namely, a bold and comprehensive reconstruction. Ordinary people must take the lead in our post-Covid recovery. Read the full article here.

Video introducing my latest book “Beyond Confrontation”

My latest book “Beyond Confrontation: Globalists, Nationalists and Their Discontents” addresses the escalation of international rivalries – West-East, US-China and intra-Western – all of which have been amplified by the impact of the pandemic.  In this short video posted on LinkedIn I explain more about the book.

The making of an economic crisis

The UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has offered a grim projection of a one-third fall in output in the April to June period. Even without a second Covid-19 wave precipitating another government shutdown later in the year, the OBR anticipated a full-year contraction of about 13 per cent of national output, worse than anything in recorded history. Some economists speculated this scale of collapse could be greater than any since the Great Frost of 1709 (though, of course, no one was measuring anything like gross domestic product then). This shows how unprecedented this government-determined recession really is.

However, at a Downing Street briefing last week, Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the exchequer, said something that was even more disturbing and, ultimately, economically damaging. Acknowledging the ‘tough times’ flagged up by the OBR, Sunak sought to offer some comfort: ‘But we came into this crisis with a fundamentally sound economy.’ On the back of this he went on to insist that the economy will ‘bounce back’.

The great danger of this false portrayal of the past is that today’s self-imposed and brutal recession could be extended into a self-imposed and much more vicious depression than we have experienced up until now. This is not inevitable.

Read the full article here.