The Week, 16 December 2022
As the Reform team heads off for a well-deserved Christmas break over the coming days, this will be the final ‘The Week’ of 2022. Usually we would be providing a summary of the year… but how to summarise 12 months that started with ongoing worries over Omicron (yes, that was the beginning of this year), saw the outbreak of war in Europe, energy prices rocket and inflation pass 11%, and is ending with rolling strikes, public services crumbling, a cost of living crisis and warnings of a “prolonged period” of excess deaths? And that’s without mentioning the politics — Partygate, Patterson, Pincher, 4 Chancellors, 3 PMs and a complete reversal of the polls.
In policy terms, it’s been disappointing. Given the state of everything from the NHS to the trains, it’s hard to point to progress. Yet I am ending the year optimistic. Naive perhaps. But it feels like the narrative around the functioning of the State is starting to shift.
In September I wrote an essay to launch Reform’s new work programme, ‘Reimagining the State’, and in it I said: “while we are living through [a] paradigm shift, policy has yet to catch up”. Our central premise is that the post-war settlement upon which our welfare state is built is no longer fit for purpose — that the social ills we face today are profoundly different from those of three quarters of a century ago, and a radical rethink is needed. Whether it is in the growing calls for devolution, the increasing focus on social capital and community, or Labour’s shadow health sec saying the NHS is a “service not a shrine”, 2022 has seen increasing calls for meaningful change. It feels like policy *might* just catch up in the run up to the next general election.
Below you can find the numbers, quotes and people that shaped the year.
Happy Christmas from all at Reform, and here’s to a brighter 2023,
🔟 NUMBERS OF THE YEAR
£3,549… default energy tariff in October, compared to £1,277 a year earlier
1977… the last year real wage growth was so bad
£120.4 billion… the cost of debt interest payments this financial year
7.21 million… the number of patients on NHS waiting lists
860… number of trains a day cancelled in Britain
10 miles… the peak of the queue length to see the lying-in-state, with people waiting over 24 hours to pay their respects to the Queen
💭 QUOTES OF THE YEAR
“It is vital for the safety of every nation that Putin’s squalid venture should ultimately fail and be seen to fail. However long it takes, that will be the steadfast and unflinching goal of the United Kingdom”
Boris Johnson on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
“Sorry you were out when I visited”
Jacob Rees Mogg’s note to civil servants
“The money is a f*ing nightmare”
Amanda Pritchard on the financial situation facing the NHS
“People got carried away, myself included”
Kwasi Kwarteng reflecting on Liz Truss’s 7 weeks as PM
“We can’t afford to be romantic and misty-eyed about it — this is a service not a shrine”
Wes Streeting talking about the need for NHS reform
“They may be a minority but what they have said and done is laid bare publicly and is a cause for shame”
Louise Casey in a letter to the new Met Police Commissioner sharing her interim report on misconduct in the Met
🏆 REFORMER OF THE YEAR
Wes Streeting who has unflinchingly and consistently called for serious NHS reform, challenged the BMA to put patients first, and made clear that the NHS alone cannot drive good health. Speaking to LBC he said: "If the answer in this century is always more tax payers' money into a 20th century model of care there isn't going to be an NHS in the long term."
At a Reform event he told attendees that “The worst thing we can do is to try and make the NHS the State”, and that “We need to not only fix the front door to the NHS, we need to reimagine it”. “We should not expand the NHS’s remit to the point that it encompasses everything. Not all things to do with health have to do with the NHS”.
Watch our 'in conversation with' Streeting here.
📖 GOVERNMENT PUBLICATION OF THE YEAR
'Levelling Up the United Kingdom'. The levelling up white paper, published in February, was the War and Peace of white papers. It came in for quite some criticism for the lack of ‘new’ funding, but as our snap analysis pointed out, it should be read more as a programme for government — the defining purpose of public policy. It laid out 12 missions, built on 5 pillars. We were critical of the lack of thinking on how health underpins levelling up, and were disappointed that, despite the localism ambition, fiscal devolution was absent. We were also concerned that in places people power appeared to have been conflated with local government power. But overall it is one of the most impressive documents to come out of Government for some years.
Of course delivering it… that’s a different case altogether.
🤯 WORD OF THE YEAR
‘Polycrisis’: the simultaneous occurrence of several catastrophic events. Collins chose ‘permacrisis’ (which according to their head of learning "sums up just how truly awful 2022 has been for so many people”). You get the gist.