by Jonathan Todd
Barack Obama’s second term was meant to pivot. From the Middle East which has sapped American military resources and moral authority, to the Pacific, the new crucible of economic and political power. Then the Arab Spring was followed by the disintegration of Syria, the reassertion of Egyptian military rule and such intense strife that the US could not pivot from the Middle East. Even as the rivalry between China and Japan gets hotter.
Barack Obama couldn’t pivot but George Osborne wants to. From pessimism to optimism. From recession to renewal. From the micro to the macro. There are a series of pivots that the Autumn Statement attempts, which are a claim for the most prized piece of political real estate that no one in this parliament has been able to make their own: the future.
88% of Chinese have an optimistic economic outlook, according to Pew. In contrast, only 15% of Britons do. This doesn’t tell of the innate sunny outlook of the Chinese and the persistent gloominess of the British. It tells us that people can see what is in front of their eyes.
The dizzying skyscrapers and rapid economic change convince the Chinese that the future is theirs. The British fear that our best days are behind us. That our children will not enjoy the opportunities that we’ve had. That the country that gave the world the industrial revolution can no longer earn its crust in the era of the digital revolution.
In advance of the Autumn Statement, David Cameron led a trade delegation to China. The Statement revealed improving growth and public finances figures. It remains to be seen whether these figures and initiatives like this delegation come to convince us to believe in the future.
Labour’s successful campaigning on the cost of living militates against this. Last month, a Populus survey found that 38 per cent of voters agree that there is a national economic recovery under way but that only 11 per cent feel part of it, as Matthew D’Ancona has noted. We increasing see a recovery, which the Statement re-stressed to us, but it seems a recovery for the few, not the many, which Labour’s cost of living campaign wants us to think.