The UK is at a crossroads. There is no escaping the sense that one era is ending, and that the nation is embarking on a very uncertain journey into a new one.
Much has been written about the political upheaval of the last couple of years. Much ink has been spilt lamenting the challenges of unprecedented polarisation, of a looming threat to established ways of living both in the UK and beyond. Classical liberal values have been challenged, and in some cases powerfully and emotionally rejected.
The post-1945 settlements have become excessively strained – whether in international relationships and cooperation, in the establishment of welfare states and social protections, in the funding of traditional state service provision or in the setting of economic priorities to generate prosperity. And the media has become increasingly powerful in framing current democratic and governmental choices, while decreasingly focused on genuine challenges and bearing little responsibility towards society as a whole.
“The post-1945 settlements have become excessively strained …”
As a consequence, very significant sections of the public have lost confidence in the ability of governments, of whatever colour, to address important issues of day-to-day concern to them, such as economic underperformance, stagnant pay, immigration, social care and unfairness in welfare. They do not see governments providing the basic economic and social security in which they expect to live.
Major political and governmental institutions, the defenders of the existing order, have proved incapable of facing this challenge and addressing these problems. They often seem trapped within a set of outdated policy assumptions and adversarial media challenges. They find it difficult to face up to the real issues. Too often, politics and governance has seemed to focus on the increasingly trivial at a time when the future challenges are in fact increasingly complicated and the solutions very difficult. In many countries, lengthy political stalemate has made decisive leadership very difficult to exercise.
The Policy Institute at King’s College London has developed this website to focus on these urgent challenges. Our intended outcome is to set out the core issues, to understand how the real-world constraints can be addressed and to identify, where possible, feasible solutions.
Drawing on the views of a wide range of experts from many disciplines, we are therefore holding seminars and producing analysis, blogs and videos to explore these pressing issues and generate a more substantive debate. The initial subjects are:
- Public services
- The future of work
- Our ageing population
Over the coming months this list of subjects will be extended.
Through this work, we hope to play a role – however small – in making sure these issues don’t slip down the political agenda during this time of uncertainty. If this is indeed the end of an era, we must not let it be the end of reasoned debate and new ideas about Britain’s biggest issues.