What will we be eating, driving, watching and talking about in the coming year? And who will we blame for our problems? Sam Leith, with the help of Prospect’s experts, looks aheadby Sam Leith / December 15, 2010 / Leave a comment
The movies of 2011 will favour superhero derring-do over realism
VOLATILE COCKTAIL HOUR
The French and Greeks have a tradition of blowing off steam by heaving paving stones at the police; now British protesters, once more likely to carry placards reading “Down With This Sort of Thing,” are embracing European manners. Metropolitan Police commissioner Paul Stephenson believes we’re entering a new era of civil unrest, characterised by more violence, warning “the game has changed.” And it’s not just students. A big-tent protest is planned for 26th March in London and “co-ordinated industrial action” is expected through the year. The TUC’s Brendan Barber predicts that a “volatile cocktail” of issues will get us marching and—who knows?—maybe even throwing a few volatile cocktails ourselves.
Civil unrest: we’ll take to to the streets in protest at a ‘volatile cocktail’ of issues
NAME AND BLAME
Ordinarily, when casting around to scapegoat someone for our pinched lives, celebrities are the favoured repositories for our envy and hatred. As the cuts start to bite, though, we’ll be looking for other targets. In 2010, it was the turn of the bankers. In 2011, the coalition having explained to us how important bankers are to our tax base, we’ll mostly be turning on the poor: feckless single mothers, the “toerag parents” identified by poverty tsar Frank Field, welfare scroungers, NHS bedblockers, and long-term claimants of disability benefits Not to mention the selfish baby boomers who have, according to Tory frontbencher David Willetts, “stolen their children’s future.” It won’t be pretty.
WHAT’S FOR LUNCH?
Restaurants have just about survived the first phase of the crunch, but between January’s VAT rise and middle-class couples no longer able to divert their child benefit to a monthly bistro visit, they’ll start folding. After supermarket sales of “posh beef” rose 98 per cent year on year, M&S is launching a new range of upmarket ready meals to mop up the now-entertaining-at-home crowd. And surprisingly, given the straitened times, we might resume our love affair with local produce. Collapsing sterling, plus rising fuel and commodity prices, mean imports are becoming more expensive. If you believe Prospect’s food columnist Alex Renton, we could soon be eating salami made by Scottish pig farmers rather than Italian ones—and discovering it tastes just as good.
Slice of life: Scottish salami could be the new sausage du jour
WHAT WE (WON’T) BE DRIVING
The first generation of mass-produced electric cars will be rolling into showrooms—and staying there. Off-puttingly expensive (£23,000 even with a £5,000 government discount) and hell on the extension cable (even on a new battery, you won’t be able to go 100 miles without recharging), it’s hard to see anyone buying one unless it’s to sneak up on Gillian Mc-Keith and run her over. Petrolheads will drool over the McLaren MP4—but since it costs £160,000 and our cash has now been sent to Ireland, drool is all they can do.
Electric dream: who can afford the new generation of green cars?
VERY SOCIAL MOBILITY
Those of us unable to afford a McLaren MP4 will be travelling by train—wedged into each other’s armpits. Passenger numbers were up 9 per cent last quarter, and are expected to keep going up as petrol prices rise further and the roads become car parks (pricey planned improvements, like the £1.1bn upgrade of the A14, have been put on hold). The much-vaunted extra rail capacity won’t be in place until 2019 and, to cap it all, fares are going up by an average of 6.2 per cent. Leaving the house looks less and less attractive—and ever-better conferencing technology means fewer of us will be encouraged to.
If you do have to travel for work, though, you may be doing less flying. The disruption caused by Iceland’s volcano forced employers to look at other options: Eurostar sales peaked and have stayed high. The rise of the bicycle—with Boris Bike schemes rolling out in other towns and cities—continues. And more buses and coaches will run on cooking oil. Stagecoach has started asking customers to bring used oil in return for a discount; government incentives are likely to follow.
On your bike: cycling schemes will grow
THE YEAR IN ART
It’s not looking good for traditionalists. Younger artists are adapting to the climate with ingenuity: moving to DIY performance spaces, YouTube, pop-up galleries and happenings, and making art out of the way social media and new technology interact with their lives. But we can’t all be hipsters. Classical music may be worst hit, particularly thanks to the new immigration cap, which means foreign musicians will face increasing difficulties obtaining visas. Expect massive private fundraising efforts to plug the money gap—though, as with help with university tuition fees, it’s hard to expect a US-style “giving” culture to spring up here overnight, especially if the economy remains sluggish. On the bright side, thanks to the success of the British Museum’s “A History of the World in 100 Objects,” museums are hot, hot, hot. Expect all exhibitions to be arranged in the form of lists of 100 things for some time to come.
Trend setter: the British Museum’s History of the World in 100 Objects
THE FUTURE OF FUN
We’ll be determined to have fun. Cinema takings bounded up by 11 per cent in 2009 and should rise further. Everything will be in 3D, and superhero derring-do—look out for the new Superman and Batman films—will trump realism. Spielberg’s Tintin and War Horse are bankers. Back at home, the new generation of videogames using motion detectors will make gamers of even those who struggled with the Wii. And a wave of new free services like connected TV and YouView, bringing television to the internet, may render listings obsolete and cause more headaches for licence fee enforcement.
THE NEW FAMILY
Fathers can be more hands-on, if they choose: from April, they are allowed to claim up to six months’ paternity leave (transferred from their partners or spouses). This is a major shift from the current paltry two weeks—and the coalition has vowed to go further still. But don’t expect a revolution quite yet. Two thirds of men still earn more than their partners, making paternity leave at statutory rates unappealing, often unworkable. More interesting will be changes to the types of families being formed. Both gay and straight couples have launched legal challenges in British courts, aimed at winning the right for gay people to marry and straight couples to have civil partnerships. When the rulings come back, they could force a rethink of the law. Meanwhile, new research in the US shows that children adopted by lesbian couples are better cared for than average, on a whole range of criteria—expect more studies in Britain.
Big gay day: couples will fight in court for the right to marry
IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH
The big trend in healthcare will be going private. Not patients, mind: hospitals. At least 20 NHS hospitals are at risk of financial collapse in the next few years, and the likelihood is that private contractors will bid to take them over. But we won’t be spending as much time in hospital anyway: trials of vaccines for MRSA and Hep C are looking good, and “enhanced recovery” regimes will encourage those undergoing elective surgery to get up and out as soon as possible. A forthcoming consultation on terminal care is expected to point the way for hospices to help us die in the community rather than in an NHS ward. Lucky us.
On trial: vaccines for MRSA and Hepatitis C could be on the way