I’m to blame for 2016. For Brexit, for Trump, for Boris, for Corbyn’s consolidation.
Born half-way through the twentieth century, I was handed it all: loving parents, a well-run UK council estate, a newly created NHS, good state primary school, grammar school. Even a ‘job for life’ in journalism.
The sixties gave me liberal sensibilities, cultural openness and a civic conscience. I joined a trade union and the Labour Party, and was active in both.
But somewhere along the line, probably around the time I moved to a Suffolk farmhouse and brought up two kids, I took my eye off the ball.
I’d voted to remain in the Common Market in 1975 and benefited financially (mainly through my pension) from the ‘greed is good’ big bang culture of the 1980s. The value of my house sky-rocketed.
I watched the UK rise from the ‘sick man of Europe’ to become a thrusting economic superpower.
I knew the Thatcher-led destruction of private-sector unions was wrong, but I let it happen. I knew their elimination in my own press sector would be a disaster for working journalists, but I let that happen too.
After all, things were going well. When Labour catapulted into power in 1997 we introduced a minimum wage, Sure Start and devolution. We sealed the Good Friday deal ending 30 years of Northern Ireland bloodshed, ushered in civil partnerships and sent thousands of working-class youngsters to universities.
Later, the internet delivered a wealth of digital possibilities, enhancing lifestyles and finances. My own resources were enough to help my children in their early adulthood and my mother in her old age.
It was a win-win for everybody. What could possibly go wrong?
And there you have it. Hubris. And its handmaiden denial. The denial of educated, liberal boomers on both sides of the Atlantic, and elsewhere. The projection of our own comfort and assumptions on to the rest of the population.
Our denial that, while we were doing fine and congratulating ourselves on our social mobility and financial acumen, millions were indeed ‘left behind’.
Our denial that the blurred red lines of our social and cultural liberalism had been detected, interrogated and found lacking by millions of decent citizens.
Hence our incredulity that, for them, 2016 was not an annus horribilis but rather an annus mirabilis.
Our cultural and socio-political complacency, verging on smugness, was to blame for Brexit and Trump. Not those who voted for them. We should have argued for the positive cultural and social value of European citizenship rather that quibbling over economic statistics.
The Labour Party should have shouted this truth unequivocally from every TV station. It didn’t. Corbyn travelling ‘up and down the country’ addressing Momentum-orchestrated rallies was at best unconvincing and, at worst, counter-productive to the Remain project.
American Democrats should years ago have nurtured and consolidated a new champion to represent that country’s present and future, not its past.
Boris Johnson bears the most responsibility for Brexit, not Farage. This clever, cultured, liberal, cosmopolitan cynically masqueraded as a crude, comic populist for his own political ends.
The UK liberal-left should have called him out loudly and clearly. It didn’t. The UK liberal-left should never have allowed its political vehicles to regress to the squabbling rumps and factions of the past. But it did.
However, the biggest blame falls on my shoulders, and those of every other complacent boomer who truly ‘never had it so good’ and whose collective hubris triggered the inevitable fall that was 2016.
Image: Depiction of Nemesis Pointing at Hubris for Punishment / Creative Commons