Link: A truly great country is within reach
A recent piece reminded me of the positivity that we had in the early 2000s.
I still retain an optimism, but it’s a little scary to look how much the country has changed in the last 15 years. In the 2000s, after Labour’s landslide in 1997, the atmosphere was far more positive than it is now. And when we look to things like the quality of schooling and, particularly, the ratings of the NHS, we can see that feels justified.
Nesrine Malik recalls arriving in the UK in the mid-2000s and finding a welcoming country that allowed her to build a life from very little.
Life was not easy, but it was viable. What little disposable income I had stretched to cheap pubs, groceries, buses, entertainment and, eventually, the foundations of a life. Undergirding it all was the public realm. I rented rooms in council estates in east and west London where there was always a staffed office to help out. The first time I used the NHS during a serious illness and hospitalisation, I couldn’t believe that there was nothing to pay. I stood in front of the hospital chemist’s till clutching my prescription, waiting for and dreading the bill. After being told there wasn’t one, not for the treatment or the medicine, I walked out in a daze, half expecting someone to run after me to say that there had been a mistake. To someone from a country with a threadbare public sphere, it felt like a dream.
And now we see that our own public sphere, here in the UK, is starting to feel more threadbare. There are deeper issues here, to do with austerity and an ageing population and a world that’s becoming a mess, but overall something feels to have come undone here in the UK separately from that. I draw some of my optimism from the fact that the time things were better wasn’t too long ago; if things can come unstuck so quickly, perhaps we can fix them again soon enough.