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9 May 2005updated 09 Sep 2021 8:13am

The world in 2009

Election: the future - predictions The polls are history. What will life be like by the time the n

By Nicholas Mead and Samia Rahman

George Monbiot, environmentalist
I think there’s a good chance the environment will be a far more prominent political issue than it is today. Why? Because two things are likely to have piled up in the intervening years: more evidence of the impact of climate change (especially, in the UK, floods and droughts) and more evidence that the government has no more intention of meeting its targets for cutting emissions than I have of becoming a Catholic priest. So far, it has gulled us with grand promises, whose veracity can be fully tested only long after the incumbents have left office. But the next four years will give us enough time to see how far off track it has wandered.

Patrick Hosking, Times investment editor and NS columnist
My guess is that money and taxes will be back at the top of the political agenda by 2009. Voters are going to feel worse off. Taxes are going up, house prices are going nowhere and final-salary pension schemes are going to be an endangered species outside the public sector. The writing is already on the wall: after-tax incomes fell last year for the first time in a decade, but few people have really noticed yet, because of the ocean of cheap credit sloshing warmingly around the system. Once the banks tighten their lending criteria – as they will – and the full impact of higher interest rates feeds through into mortgage bills, voters will feel the financial chill.

Annalisa Barbieri, fashion critic
Fashion will polarise: it will either be about being incredibly well-dressed or incredibly casual, with almost nothing in between. The area right under the bust – the midribs – will become the new erogenous zone. Being able to show this means either you’ve had your breasts lifted or you stay in really good shape. For men, it’s about suits with cling, so no place for man tits to hide. And higher heels.

Dan Hancox, NS columnist
The British Phonographic Industry will be left to fight the war against piracy and illegal downloading with relatively little help (or interference) from the DTI, and no shade of government looks like doing anything to prevent takeovers of independent record labels, a trend that only encourages homogenisation. The impact of bargain CD sales online and in supermarkets will be good for industry profits, but will probably lead to an ever wider gulf between “successful” and “unsuccessful” artists. With regard to public taste, the lesson of the past decade is that eclecticism has replaced tribalism. Gone are the days of punks and disco fans squaring up to each other over the turntables. With this in mind, expect rock and hip-hop to work together – finally. Country music will confound its critics and continue to get hipper, and don’t bet against (in fact, never bet against) the popularity of Christian Surf Goth Rock . . .

Jonathan Glancey, Guardian architecture critic
What will the arts be like by the time of the next general election? Fingers crossed, there might just be a huge reaction against the patronising, accessible, 24-hour, marketing-led, quango-whipped, creative-industries nonsense flung like a pot of paint in the face of the public over the past decade, and a return to delight, mystery, imagination, richness, darkness, spirit and intelligence. There is a big difference between encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds to encounter art in all its forms and treating them like gallery fodder, the stuff of the old Roman policy of bread and circuses, designed to keep the plebs content and clucking rather than questioning and agitating. We might hope, too, for the demise of meaning- less, media-slobbering “iconic”/”wow-factor” architecture (ie, funny shapes and wavy roofs) while, with luck, the shamelessly dumb and wilfully bullying Thames Gateway project will sink under Thames water or the weight of its own hubris. A revolt, then, from marketing and populist spin into hard-won art. Sadly, none of the political parties will agree. So expect more (and more and more) of the same.

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Global change
Anthony Giddens, former director, LSE
Many of the big changes that have affected our lives over the past couple of decades haven’t been predicted by anyone – such as the coming of the internet, the disappearance of communism in eastern Europe almost overnight in 1989-90, the east Asian financial crisis, the savagery in ex-Yugoslavia, the anti-globalisation movement, 11 September 2001, and the invasion of Iraq. Almost certainly, something else as yet unforeseen will come out of the side-field over the next few years to influence our everyday lives and the political agenda. So I will say what I’d like to see, rather than offer empty predictions. I hope France will endorse the EU constitution on 29 May, that others will follow suit, and that battle will be joined here. It will force the UK to define its identity, and I think that a Yes vote can be achieved, even against the odds. I hope (and believe) the “progressive consensus” that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown speak about can be given substance – creating a more social-democratic country. I hope (but doubt) the US will introduce significant shifts in its attitudes to energy dependence and the ecological crisis. I hope (and believe to be a real possibility) the aim of ending absolute poverty in the world can be given momentum and purchase.

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Peter York, management consultant
Despite the gains of election night, the Tories are still an unsustainable, deadbeat and not very clever bunch of people who have been willing to stoop so low as to buy approaches from Austra-lian hawksters.

We’re in a curious situation whereby the British miracle is London. It is vitally important in the scheme of things and will be sustained in an international context. As national growth slows down, an awful scenario will emerge, with London versus the rest of the country. This will be felt acutely, although it has been disguised so far. In the chattering world fair, there is much talk of China and India running everything – the experience of Rover won’t be an isolated case. China will have its own brands and won’t be content to just make things. I don’t know what that means for us. We have strong links with India and a thriving Indian community, so it is in our interests to invest heavily in this relationship, and Britain will reap the successes. There will be many more Indian super-millionaires. This will create tensions with Afro-Caribbeans who are very much assimilated into the working class.

New media
Kathryn Corrick, NS online manager
With wifi connectivity everywhere in 2009, the digital and class divide will metamorphose into three categories: the constantly wired, the selectively wired and the disconnected. Freedom will be defined by the ability to select which group you belong to. Relationships between the groups will define society. Elections will be won and lost on political parties’ ability to engage with each group meaningfully. With most transactions and interactions (economic, electoral, health; education, travel, relationships, and so on) occurring electronically, your personal identity will be a precious and powerful resource, which will require protecting at all costs by both you and the government. Identity fraud will be punished more severely.

David Nicholson-Lord, social and environmental writer
Mental health, quality of life and congestion will be worse, as population growth eats up wilderness and green space. More people will be leaving the UK for better living environments (France, Spain). Globalisation plus the remorse-less growth of UK plc will leave us more harassed, time-stressed and denatured. Britain’s cities will feel and be denser, and more claustrophobic. Terrorism, drug abuse and binge drinking will be omni-present. Tigers may well have vanished from the wild, and dolphins from British shores. “Natural” (man-made) disasters will be on the rise. Hybrid green vehicles, running off some combination of electricity, hydrogen, biodiesel and petrol, will be a common sight on the roads. A prototype high-speed airship will have been developed. GM crops will have spread worldwide – though not quite to the UK. Offices will house dormitory capsules to maintain round-the-clock productivity.


Robin McKie
Observer science editor
We will be living in a hotter, stormier country, one struggling to balance its energy-generation needs with its obligations to cut carbon-dioxide emissions. A national campaign to build new nuclear plants will become this battle’s main focus, and should reach its height around 2009. Opponents will stress the dangers, and will instead urge the cause of renewables – mainly wind plants – to provide carbon-free electricity. Few experts believe such plants could achieve significant output, and our leaders may have to back new nukes for Britain. On a more positive note, research on human stem cells should have developed sufficiently to allow it to have widespread clinical use, providing the prospect of effective treatments for diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

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