Brexit was just the start, it turned out. It was a victory for the little man, encouraged to ‘take back control’. No longer would he or she be left behind. No longer would his or her voice be unheard.
Donald Trump’s campaign capitalised on the same sentiment, and the rise of far-right candidates in the Netherlands, France and Germany is typically explained in similar terms. Liberals wonder whether this is the end of progressive politics, virtue signallers congregate, aghast, on social media and in university campuses.
In the days after the EU referendum I argued that only inclusive growth could heal the deep rifts revealed by the result. Theresa May understands this, and boldly – remarkably given her economic and social conservatism – has committed to creating an economy that works for everyone, not just the ‘privileged few’. Here, as in democracies across the world, the politics of the left behind is where the game is at.
However, as Stephanie Flanders wrote at the launch of the Inclusive Growth Commission’s interim report in September, “We do not know yet how Theresa May will translate this vote against the status quo into sensible policy”. As with plans for Brexit, the Prime Minister is keeping her cards close to her chest. The Autumn Statement gave little away, and the Chancellor’s much-anticipated ‘fiscal re-set’ was all but invisible, save the welcome news that the new metro regions will be given additional borrowing powers (details – naturally! – to follow in due course).
Nevertheless, Stephanie’s optimism is something we can hold onto as we head into the New Year. She described the UK as “a nation in 2016 with a golden opportunity – in the wake of the Brexit vote – to question old assumptions and re-cast old relationships to put that challenge centre stage.” Let’s hope 2017 delivers on such promise.
The RSA is Prospect's Social Policy Think Tank of the year
Find out more about the RSA Inclusive Growth Commission