Simon Dolan, businessman, investor and instigator of the legal challenge to lockdown, joins TCW today as a regular columnist. His fortnightly column, Dolan’s Digest, is a hard-hitting examination of the state of conservative politics in the UK and abroad.
BY ANY metric, 2023 proved to be a challenge for swathes of the population across the globe. After the draconian lockdown restrictions, the mainstream media promised it was to be a year filled with hope, economic recovery and perhaps a path to a future defined by freedom and economic prosperity.
We knew different. The unprecedented attack on individual freedoms and the $4trillion of money printing was going to end in only one of two ways: economic apocalypse or a long-drawn-out death. Both the UK and the US have teetered on the brink of recession, and major conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine created enormous geopolitical instability. Economic woes were not limited to the transatlantic partners either: the eurozone sank into recession in the early part of the year as government-induced cost of living crises hit the masses hard.
The era-defining challenges of the past 12 months could perhaps lead us to believe that 2024 will provide us with fresh opportunities for societal changes and an injection of economic growth. However, with Government inaction worldwide damaging the opportunities for domestic and international change, this is unlikely to happen.
We have witnessed a shift in the landscape of domestic politics and the economy in recent years. While the US claim record job numbers, there are actually record part-time job numbers as people are having to take on two and three jobs to make ends meet. In the UK, significant wage stagnation has led to an average household income comparable to before the 2007 financial crisis. Both nations are being fundamentally let down by weak leadership from Biden and Sunak respectively, with the possibility of a major reset (for better or for worse) in the imminent future. Britain is headed back towards the 1970s unless something radical is done. With Labour looking increasingly likely to be elected, does anyone really think Starmer will be the guy to lower taxes and regulations?
While domestic outlooks seem weak across the Western world, the real challenges for 2024 lie in a monumental shift in the axis of global power. For far too long, Western reliance on Russian energy has weakened the influence it can exert on the world stage. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the West’s automatic defence of the smaller nation and associated Russian sanctions have put Europe and North America on the back foot.
This comes at a time when China continues to increase its global influence. Its transition to a technology superpower was expected to be linked with a more liberal and less expansionist outlook, but the exact opposite has happened. The Chinese Communist Party under Xi Jinping has become emboldened and now exerts power over every aspect of Chinese life. Meanwhile its influence spreads across the globe, from education to critical infrastructure and media. The resulting sanctions with the US and tensions with European nations are leading to further distance between the East and the West at a time when global competition and co-operation could be turbocharging a macroeconomy that is falling flat.
While the axis of power shifts, we are watching as our political leaders sit on their hands implementing policies that are damaging to the people whose lives they are meant to be improving. It is time for Western leaders to focus on turbocharging economic growth, ditch the decarbonisation agenda and stop funding indefinite wars that ultimately prove useless to the prospects of anyone but their own political capital. Only then will we have a 2024 to be hopeful about.