We live in a challenging world -
a world where the years of money being readily available to individuals, businesses and governments seems such a distant memory, one where “the bank that likes to say yes” stands accused of money laundering and at least one of its rivals of fixing the interest rates. Even the bank that traded on high ethical standards has been exposed as wanting.
We have seen Governments have to choose between high interest rates for all, or less spending on services. The collapse of the European Single Currency – never supported in this country – and the apparent inability of the US Congress to address their spiralling public debt will shape global economic growth for a decade – yet politicians in the EU and US delay making the choices that seem inevitable – preferring instead to “kick the can down the road”.
In the United Kingdom, we have a new style of government, one not seen in most of our lifetimes. A coalition of two parties who are acting in the national interest to deliver an economy fit to take us through the crisis years. An inevitably uneasy relationship, which exposes the tensions more as the next General Election approaches.
This government inherited the sort of economic outlook that no politician would want to deal with – not if he wants a long career at the top. Having spent on the nation’s credit card without thought for the future, the previous administration left a note, declaring “There’s no money left.”
Just like all of us who have, from time to time, had this stark message delivered by a machine, which promptly returns our card without thought for its impact, the nation has been to the metaphorical “hole in the wall” once too often.
Yet the Government has successfully challenged the “something for nothing” culture of dependency that developed during the Labour years. The Foreign Secretary has visited nations where our trade and security interests have needed attention for decades to drive our export potential and our safety at home.
Our public services have been reshaped and reformed to permit reductions in the financial deficit it inherited. Against implacable opposition from those who believe this was “too far and too fast” to permit an economic recovery, we now see growth return to our GDP, unemployment down and new private sector jobs up.
Yet the challenges remain. The need to reconfigure our infrastructure and energy supplies, to deal with an ageing population, to enhance the education our children receive, to change our relationship with European partners, to manage immigration whilst making sure Britain remains a place where talented people come and contribute. To be a place where aspiration and hard work will bring success. Where sitting back and wanting the Government to provide is no longer a way of life, whilst making sure we care for those in difficulty.
These are strategic issues and short term tactical soundbites for this Sunday’s papers will not address them. More spending, more borrowing, more debt is no solution – just a problem created for the next generation. We all have a responsibility to keep our nation the great place it is to live and work.