James Forsyth

Arresting the West’s crisis of confidence

Arresting the West's crisis of confidence
Text settings

What’s the most important geo-political event of this century? Most people would say 9/11. The Foreign Secretary believes that it is the Arab Spring. But in The Times today (£), Emma Duncan makes a persuasive case for it being the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Duncan argues that Lehman Brothers’ fall has three claims to be an epoch-making event. The first is its contribution to the financial crisis and subsequent economic stagnation. The second is the way that it has catalysed China’s economic rise vis-à-vis the US, with China now predicted to become the world’s largest economy within this decade. The third, the fact that that the economic troubles of the last few years have exposed the huge, structural flaws in the Euro-project and may well lead to the break-up of both the euro and the EU.

Personally, I’m a medium term China-sceptic. But what is definitely true is that Western economies are in trouble and that the political classes of the West are suffering a crisis of confidence. The consequences of this will be profound.

In Westminster, the politics of decline are back. From cabinet ministers to civil servants, optimism about the future is in short supply. Instead, there’s a worry that the UK is steadily becoming less competitive and that the public won’t accept the measures needed to reverse that.

What the West so desperately needs now is a leader that restores its self-confidence through both word and deed. We need a figure, who as Margaret Thatcher said of Ronald Reagan at his funeral, is dedicated to 'the great cause of cheering us all up'.