This Time No Mistakes: How to Remake Britain by Will Hutton - review by Frances Cairncross

Frances Cairncross

Things Can Only Get Better, the Remix

This Time No Mistakes: How to Remake Britain

By

Apollo 448pp £25
 

Will Hutton has written another eminently readable and hugely ambitious book about the state we’re in. It is true that some of his assertions about Britain’s miserable condition and the high cost of leaving the European Union don’t really stand up, and that many of his proposals for financial, corporate and social reform are unlikely ever to be put into practice. But it would be a shame to ignore his views when he writes so accessibly and offers such a dizzying range of suggestions, some more realisable than others. Many people, exasperated by the state we’re in politically, will no doubt be gloomily comforted by his dim view of post-Brexit Britain. 

He certainly wants to make your flesh creep. ‘The country has its back against the wall to a degree unparalleled in its peacetime history,’ he observes. ‘The dank mist of failure has penetrated virtually every fibre of our national life.’ He deplores the way in which British conservatism has ‘lost its ethical and intellectual anchorage’. He has plenty of persuasive statistics. The national debt has trebled in twenty years to over 100 per cent of gross domestic product. We have dropped down international league tables when it comes to productivity, real incomes and wealth, he reports. And if you leave out London, he says, average income per head in the UK is lower than in Mississippi. Perhaps the clincher is a report that five-year-olds in Britain are on average up to seven centimetres shorter than in other wealthy European countries. 

A large chunk of the book lays out the need for reform – and the missed opportunities to accomplish it over the past century. It was a period in which Britain was largely under the sway of the Conservative Party, which Hutton describes as ‘one of the most successful political

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