It was an election year in Britain in the shadow of the financial
crash and a giant fiscal deficit; the war in Afghanistan rumbled on
inconclusively; the Euro tottered, President Obama stuttered and global power continued to shift eastwards. So it was a year full of news, and more than half of our cover stories focussed on those events I have listed.
But January’s issue started the year with big pieces on whether
geoengineering can save us from the extremes of climate change by Oliver Morton, the future of video games by Tom Chatfield and our poll on public intellectuals and the financial crash (won by Simon Johnson). There was also a prescient piece (by James Crabtree) on whether Labour could hold on to power by learning how to apologise in the right manner for its policy mistakes.
February’s cover was on the potential of the internet to change government and enable greater participation. It was based on exclusive access to the conversations between Tim Berners-Lee and Labour ministers—it seemed a big deal at the time but it remains rather an elusive deal now (though the coalition is also keen on the idea). Stewart Brand argued that third world slums were the hope of the planet and Paul Romer revealed his plans for new cities. On a more melancholic note, Michael Collins reported on the quiet disaffection of the working class in the south east of England.
In March we began the countdown to the British election with a piece by Peter Kellner on the seven things you most need to know about the coming electoral showdown—first of the seven was that David Cameron needed to win the north as well as the south of England to win an overall majority; well, he didn’t. Other highlights included David Willetts (now in the Cameron government) on what recent scientific research tells us about the potential for co-operation without the state, one of our main contributions to the “big society” debate for 2010; Paul Broks interviewing Martin Rees; and the extraordinary story of a defector from North to South Korea by the American journalist Barbara Demick.
April’s cover was on the big theme of the decade, and perhaps the coming century, the shifting of power from the US to China and how both sides are likely to handle it. Ian Bremmer is not optimistic. Back to the economic crisis we had a Prospect writers round-up on how to cut £100 billion from the modern state’s budget. And one of the curiosities of the year, a fascinating piece by Eamonn Fingleton on “seasteading”—the (mainly) libertarian plans to build floating islands to house casinos, hospitals, hotels, offices and even new societies.
May was the election special—highlights included a useful graphic overview of what has changed since 1997, a portrait of David Cameron by Wendell Steavenson and a debate between the red Tory Philip Blond and blue Labourite Maurice Glasman.
In June we caught up with the Euro crisis, with a piece by Bronwen Maddox (Prospect’s new editor) on how the Greeks broke Europe. Plus various pieces analysing the outcome of the British election and how the coalition is likely to work; looking forward to the World Cup and why so much contemporary art is awful.
July’s cover was our interview with David Richards—who soon after was appointed head of Britain’s armed force—about Afghanistan, the strategic defence review and whether people are still prepared to die for their country. James Crabtree described the recent history of the Liberal Democrats and explained why we should have been less surprised than most of us were at their eagerness to do a deal with the Tories. Plus Hans Kundnani looked at what’s happening in Germany. And Evgeny Morozov considered the latest big book that claims the internet is damaging our ability to think.
August’s cover took an eagle’s eye view of the economic crisis through a précis of Anatole Kaletsky’s latest book on the next stage of capitalism. Ian Blair, former commissioner of the metropolitan police, wrote an insightful piece on the decline of violent crime. Our summer short story was an extract from Howard Jacobson’s new novel which went on to win the Booker.
September’s cover was an optimistic piece about how the Taliban are not as bad as we think, and how we must hurry to do a deal with them, by James Fergusson. Also, the first considered post-mortem on Labour’s defeat by two of its leading thinkers, Nick Pearce and Gavin Kelly. Also Sam Knight on football’s new age of fan power. And a piece on the complicated and controversial financial affairs of the Guardian, by Peter Morris, which turned out to be prophetic.
October’s cover saw a return to an old Prospect theme—the critique of multiculturalism—this time by only non-white British writers. Jean Seaton previewed the imminent upheaval in higher education funding and asked why so few people are coming to the defence of universities.
November’s cover was a bold attempt to describe to the layman the great £200 billion experiment with the British economy known as QE (quantitative easing), by Faisal Islam. Plus what the Russian political elite is thinking by Mark Leonard and a portrait of the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre by John Cornwell. And a moving memoir of an oarsman by Josh Raymond.
Finally, December brought the Prospect year (and my editorship) to an end with a fine mix of essays. Sam Knight’s cover story looked forward to one of the biggest domestic stories of the next two years—the reorganisation of the NHS. Elisabeth Pisani, meanwhile, looked at how the internet is changing science, and more generally at how science is not done as most of think it is. Ben Rogers provided a fascinating insight into the failures of British housing design. And David Coleman looked at how, on current immigration and fertility trends, Britain will be “majority, minority” by 2066.
Danny Kruger bowed out of his column on the often chaotic life of ex-prisoners. But we also acquired the “five books” column. David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton kept us well supplied in regular philosophical reflections on the news.
Prospect’s top 10 articles of the year
1. A hunger to survive: Barbara Demick, author of the award-winning Nothing to Envy, looks at life inside North Korea
2. Football’s new age of fan power?: Who owns football—the fans or the money men? Sam Knight investigates
3. The dustbin of art history: Ben Lewis considers why so much contemporary art is awful
4. Seasteading—the great escape: Libertarians plan to build floating islands to house casinos, hotels—and even new societies. Eamonn Fingleton looks at whether the “seasteading” movement will sink or float
5. Who are the Liberal Democrats? James Crabtree unpacks the ideological tensions that are threatening to tear the Lib Dems apart
6. The one that got away: Writer and rowing coach Josh Raymond tells the true story of how one rower was denied his dream of Olympic gold
7. How slums can save the planet: The squatter cities that have emerged all over the world can teach us much about future urban living, argues Stewart Brand
8. The good oligarch: Wendell Steavenson goes in search of Georgia’s reclusive billionaire philanthropist, Bidzina Ivanishvili
9. How Britain has changed since 1997: As we waved goodbye to Gordon, Prospect dug deep into the data to show how life in Britain has been transformed since Labour took power 13 years ago
10. Do writers need paper? With the sales of e-books finally starting to soar, Tom Chatfield looks at the effect this digital revolution have on publishers, readers and writers
Other favourites included David Edmonds‘ investigation into the meaning of runaway trolleys, Judith Judd‘s critique of the coalition’s school policies, Faisal Islam‘s overview of just what on earth quantitative easing is, Michael Coveney‘s timely trashing of one-on-one theatre, and Jack Shenker‘s report from Karakalpakstan.
Many thanks to all the other regular writers, columnists and reviewers who helped to create Prospect’s distinctive package in 2010. And thanks to you, the readers, for making us Britain’s fastest growing current affairs monthly. We look forward to seeing you in 2011!