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It's probably just my imagination but there seems to have been an extra dollop of dolor pervading my fellow commuters since the Autumn Statement. The unending nature of the gloom and the scary unpredictability created by the Eurozone seem to be really sinking in now.  Merry Christmas all!

Much of the commentary and debate about the prospects of Britain's Lost Decade seems to take one of three forms: grim statistical and economic analysis of the hopeless reality; human stories about crushed living standards; or political ding dongs about whether the Government is doing the right thing.  Yesterday was a case in point where the news was dominated by a combination of the IFS's depressing report alongside the strikes. Our response veers from the passive and resigned to the angry and divisive.

Where, I find myself wondering, is the debate about how we respond as a nation to this slow collapse of hope and aspiration. Why is there no attempt to invoke a sense of national endeavour to meet this challenge head on? We seem to reference Blitz spirit endlessly in our conversations but, oddly, aren't drawing on it when it genuinely matters.

I can hazard a few guesses as to why.

Maybe we've all become too obsessed with technical fixes carried out by the super-policy makers.  The solutions lie in processes the great majority cannot take part in: quantitative easing led by Mervyn, clearance of the cyclically adjusted current deficit led by George, the issue of Eurobonds led by Angela (or maybe not).  

Maybe it's something to do with our post-modern cynicism where any appeal to national effort, to all pull together is greeted with a wry smile and a shake of the head.  We don't buy that sort of misty-eyed rhetoric anymore.

Or maybe we are just all atomised subjects of the global market where the only route to success is to work harder, compete better at the level of the individual or firm and hope the invisible hand gently nudges us to a sunlit upland while we placidly sup our austerity medicine.

I fear these blockages are a problem. 

Would a popular sense of mission to beat this crisis really be regarded as such a bad thing by struggling families and firms up and down the country? At the very least it might actually contribute to a variety of distinct efforts to cope with the crisis. It could sponsor practical support to those suffering the most. And it might help develop the enterprise and innovation that could boost productivity and competitiveness at a crucial moment. Who knows, maybe we could even become a more solidaristic, friendly and hopeful country through these troubled times. 

I can see such an approach would be a threat to those who want to pin the whole crisis on the Government and believe the solution is a fierce struggle for a different set of policies. But, as polls show, their credibility is very low.  It might also feel very alien to the wonks and Westminster elite for whom every solution can be found in a 10,000 word pamphlet or policy announcement. But that would be their problem.

The real challenge for the idea is that the sentiment is empty of content and that content is not easy to concoct. 

Blitz spirit had power at a time when the threat was universal, obvious and immediate.  Rich and poor, old and young, north and south needed to come together despite their differences to face down an existential threat to them all.  And everyone was given a clear role in a total war machine.

This crisis is more complex, is shot through with competing narratives and, most notably, is hitting some far harder than others. There is a risk that an appeal to national endeavour in the current circumstances is perceived by many as cover for unequal suffering much like Osborne's "we're all in this together" slogan.

So if it is possible that a sense of national endeavour in the face of a crisis is an important response, how could it be done meaningfully?  What would it ask of people?  How could it be framed so that everyone, despite their differences and their varying degrees of suffering, make a meaningful and valued contribution?  I've no answers, at this stage, but the questions seem worth asking.


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