Moody Britain: We might feel a little deflated, but we are also more settled – and realistic – about what lies ahead
The pre-financial crash shop-till-you-drop, credit-fuelled culture is a thing of the past. Britons are preparing for a future built on firmer foundations - and a return to a better life by 2020, claims report
It's official then: we can never go back. Britain has abandoned the idea of returning to life as it was before the financial crash, and is intent on building a future on firmer foundations, in preparation for a better life by 2020, says a new report.
The annual survey of public attitudes suggests Britain has readjusted its priorities and is looking at countries such as Germany and Canada as new role models. Any prospect of economic recovery during the current electoral term is off the agenda, the study suggests, 2020 being the year when most British people envisage a return to financial health.
The Moody Britain 2013 report, which canvassed people from across Scotland, England and Wales, says: "We found the greater fear was not that we may never see the prosperity we experienced in the late 1990s and 2000s, but that in the insane rush to regain it we may repeat the mistakes of the past."
The report, by the advertising agency McCann London, suggests "what was once boring is now trendy" and "aggressive and risky are out, careful and sustainable are in". It finds greater levels of contentment, with the number of Brits agreeing that "the country is still a great country to live in" at its highest level since 2007. But it comes with a warning for the next generation: only 15 per cent of the 2,016 people polled agreed that "today's 25-year-olds will be better off than today's 50-year-olds when they reach the same age".
Oliver James, the psychologist and author of Affluenza, says: "The findings play to an overwhelming sense that the ruling elite are drifting off and parting company with the rest of the population. The shop-till-you-drop, credit-fuelled lifestyle has become increasingly difficult and implausible as a future for us. People have finally grown comfortable with the idea that the days of rapid personal economic growth are over."
The findings also show a backlash against technology companies similar to that against bankers, both Facebook and Google rating less favourably than RBS. "Both have gone from unquestionable forces of good to devil incarnate in no time at all," the report says. "The year 2013 has seen their public image ravaged until they are seen as less ethically upright than even the bogeymen of the credit crunch."
Peter York, the management consultant and cultural commentator, says: “Google and Facebook are brands that forged their identity during the peak of the economic boom. They sold their wares on a ‘Silicon Valley promise’ and encouraged us to be intimate with them. The good will they earned has since dissipated – and in case there was any doubt, the NSA revelations have provided the final confirmation that these brands might not be our friends quite in the way they made out.”
The survey also showed immigration remains a divisive issue in Britain. An election tomorrow, the study suggests, would put Ukip in third place – ahead of the Liberal Democrats.
So what exactly might the "new normal" look like? The Independent on Sunday returned to some of the respondents to hear where they think we're headed by 2020. Tell us, too, by leaving a comment below, or on Twitter: #ios2020
'My parents saved for my future, but I can't see how my son will ever afford property'
Paul Elliott, 47, is a civil engineer from Dringhouses, York. He is married with one teenage son
"Construction is a great barometer for the economy. For all the money being ploughed into it, the majority is going straight back into Treasury coffers. Things are picking up though; the amount of tenders we have on our desk is far more than it was three years ago.
"I am relieved that I stayed in employment throughout the recession. But the cost of living has affected us. Before the crash we would go on expensive holidays and enjoy the finer things in life.
"Now much of that has changed. My parents saved for my future – but I can't see how my son will ever afford property."
'We are told we are coming out of recession but I don't see any evidence of that'
Richard Tillman, 37, is a charity worker and father of one from Streatham, south London
"The country feels as if it has gone backwards and is hurtling further that way. We are told we are coming out of recession, but I don't see any evidence of that. Politicians talk about recovery, but all I can see is people struggling.
"Immigration is a huge concern, and alongside problems in the housing market we are heading towards a fundamental economic restructuring. I have a partner and a son, and I have noticed that prices and the cost of living have increased: 2020 will be more careful and cautious."
'There was a time when you trusted a bank manager or the people who provided electricity'
Rachel McCabe, 50, is a school librarian and mother of two from Penicuik, Midlothian
Rachel McCabe, 50, is a school librarian
"When I came up here, it was like moving back to the 1970s. It was full of generations of people that had been unemployed. I think we in Scotland are scared of going independent. We can't see a model where it is going to work. The economic crash has made us too wary. There is a lot more distrust and anger. There was a time you trusted a bank manager or the people who provided electricity. The crash has proved that you can't trust systems that you thought was fail safe.
"America's problems seem to be worse than ours. We are all feeling a little bit rootless at the moment. I am the squeezed middle – working tax credits and child tax credits were a wonderful thing. Under the current government they're completely out of my grasp. The one thing that has increased in recent years is the gap between the haves and have-nots"
The world ahead: what might 2020 look like?
Bonnie Greer, playwright: “The South will be more heavily populated as people pile in to seek employment. There will have been a housing crash, freeing up the government to build more houses. The nation will be the home of light manufacturing; the ideas economy; a higher education hub; great medical care; and nationalised rail. 2020 will usher in a nation realistic about its place in the world; full of common sense; and at ease with itself.”
Deborah Mattinson, pollster: “Society will have become even more nuanced. An older population will put a strain on the health service. People will have found a new way of connecting digitally that will have counteracted their current suspicion of big data. The country will have undergone different rates of recovery, but vast swathes of the middle will continue to feel squeezed.”
Nicola Philipps, artist: "Everyone will be more sensible with their money. In a more cautious and frugal world, aesthetics might triumph over the global demand for cheap manufactured goods. If buying paintings for instance, people will look for true quality - an interesting idea, obviously, but also something properly and beautifully crafted, that will actually last."
Peter Owen-Jones, former ad executive, now a church of England vicar: “The recovery will be short lived and we’ll be heading into a greater recession than the one we are coming out of. Youth unemployment will increase. And if do go ahead with fracking and the burning of fossil fuel, the weather will be infinitely more erratic.”
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