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UK economy

Britain is changing, not breaking

Nick Clegg on the Lib Dem YouTube channel, 2010

Inflation is surging, energy bills are soaring, and A&E departments are on their knees. “Wherever you look,” says Robert Colvile in The Sunday Times, “the headlines blare one simple message: Britain is broken.” Of course, many things are “very far from OK”. But the UK is not, as gloomy analysts at one investment bank claim, becoming “an emerging market country”. Since the 2008 crash, our economy has grown quicker than the euro area. The current crisis is hitting the continent just as badly, if not worse, because the reasons for our collective woes are the same: economic fallout from Covid and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Obviously, some “home-grown errors” have contributed to our plight. The relationship between the NHS and social care is “dysfunctional”, we build far too few homes, and we’ve consistently failed to invest in energy security. (A 2010 video has recently done the rounds in which Nick Clegg explains we shouldn’t build new nuclear power plants because they won’t get going “until, er, 2022”.) But the truth is that we’re in the middle of “a transition rather than a collapse” – energy prices will remain high for the foreseeable future. And by and large, letting the market do the work rather than the government getting involved will make this shift quicker and less painful. “Change and decay in all around I see,” goes the old hymn. “The former is inevitable. The latter is not.”