Sunday, 3 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee Marks 60 Years of British Economic Potential Squandered

THE GUARDIAN: Britain has got richer in the past six decades, but other countries have got richer faster and enjoy a more stable economy

Hard though it is now to credit it, when the Queen came to the throne 60 years ago, the UK was the third-biggest economy in the world after the US and the Soviet Union. With Germany recovering from the physical damage caused by the second world war, Britain was Europe's powerhouse.

Since then there have been booms and busts. Two long periods of growth have culminated in deep and painful recessions. Governments of both left and right have tried to modernise and reinvigorate the economy: the three-day week, the winter of discontent, Black Wednesday and the (unfinished) great recession of the past five years have shown how difficult this has been.

Throughout it all, Britain has got richer. While there are surveys questioning whether we are happier on the occasion of the Queen's diamond jubilee than we were when she came to the throne, living standards have more than tripled since 1952.

The consumer luxuries of the age when Harold Macmillan said we had never had it so good have become the necessities of today. Nor is it simply in material terms that Britain is better off. Today's babies can expect to live for about 10 years longer than the baby boomers of six decades ago. They will be fitter and healthier as well.

Yet, the real story of the past 60 years has been of potential squandered. Britain has grown richer, but other countries have grown richer faster. What's more, the economy has become more unbalanced and its foundations shakier. » | Larry Elliott | Sunday, June 03, 2012