Splendid architecture, fully staffed train stations in every village, motorway service stations serving the produce of local farms … Michael Gove makes his (optimistic) predictions for 2010
Why look in the crystal ball, they say, when you can read the book? Well, in my case, reading the book would lead you to distrust anything I see in my crystal ball. I’m the author of a landmark biography: Michael Portillo: The Future of the Right. I’m the writer who predicted that Jackie Ballard (who?) would beat Charles Kennedy to become leader of the Liberal Democrats. And I’m the pundit who foresaw Sir Alex Ferguson beating Steve McClaren to the England manager’s job. If you read everything I’ve ever written, you’d conclude that my predictions are bound to be, well, balls.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I’ve been right. I did predict that Bush would win the 2000 and 2004 elections; I did predict that the surge would work in Iraq; I did predict that Gordon Brown’s fiscal strategy would not raise productivity in the public sector but would create a massive structural deficit. And even when I’ve been wrong I’d argue there’s been a sort of rightness in my wrongness. Wouldn’t life have been just that little bit more entertaining, wouldn’t the pageant of our existence have been better cast, wouldn’t it all have been somehow more artistically right if the mercurial Sir Alex had led the England team, if the swashbuckling Michael P had been Leader of the Opposition, if the brilliantly forthright feminist Ms Ballard had squared up against two grey men in suits?
So it’s in that spirit that I offer my predictions for 2010. I don’t expect to be proven right. But I would argue that life will be more fun if I am. These are forecasts made not on the balance of probability but on the balance of likeability.
Even when my predictions have been wrong there’s been a sort of rightness in my wrongness. Wouldn’t life have been more entertaining if Sir Alex Ferguson had led the England team?
My first is that we will see a new golden age of architectural innovation. Specifically, we will enjoy a wildly rampant gothic revival. Butterfield and Barry’s arched windows, elaborate tracery, vaults and buttresses will be the rage. Just as Quinlan Terry has, rather magnificently, ensured the language of classicism is still spoken with verve and fluency, so a generation of young architects bored rigid by the stilted dialects of modernism and offended by the slack and casual chaos of “cutting-edge” design will seek inspiration in the transcendent beauty of English perpendicular. The Stirling prize will be awarded to a polyclinic on Teesside designed in the style of Pugin with a side-chapel dedicated to Dame Julian of Norwich.
My second prediction is that the Brown government will seek electoral benefit by talking up issues of class and aristocracy. They will, specifically, commit to support the glories of our built heritage still in the hands of ancient families. As part of a programme designed to encourage pride in Britishness, Ed Balls will deliver a speech extolling the ducal houses that have kept some of the world’s most stunning buildings as living homes. He will encourage the Labour movement to celebrate Chatsworth, Drumlanrig, Blenheim and Woburn and pledge to do all in his power to eradicate prejudice towards their noble landlords.
My third prediction is that we will look again at how we provide transport infrastructure and decide to reopen the train routes closed by Dr Beeching, with an insistence, at this time of unemployment that every branch line station be provided with a uniformed station master, team of liveried porters and working tea room serving home-baked produce. The current train operating companies will be superseded by the reconstruction of LMS, Southern Railways, LNER and the Great Western.
We will reopen the train routes closed by Beeching, with a uniformed station master at every branch line station...
The chains that run motorway service stations will be referred to the monopolies commission, broken up and the premises will be handed over to local farm co-operatives. These will erect 21st-century coaching inns built in the vernacular style of each region, using only local stone or bricks and serving food and ale specific to the county.
Now, as predictions go, I recognise I’m taking a bit of a flyer here. Because I suspect I’m unlikely to be on the button with all three. But wouldn’t just one of the above make 2010 more fun than looks likely? Those of you at the back urging me to get real should appreciate just how grim the reality is. As a result of Brown’s monetary policy we can expect interest rates to be on an upward trajectory soon. As a result of his fiscal policy we have a deficit so massive ministers are now pledged to, at least, halve government capital spending in the next three years. And as a result of Brown’s planning policies not a single eco-town looks likely to be built. So my final prediction is this. If we do want something definite to look forward to this year, then it’s election day …
Michael Gove is shadow secretary for children, schools and families