Redesigning Britain (well England)

Across the globe there are hundreds and thousands of people migrating to and from the nations of their birth. But how many of them are returning to a country that has fallen apart? Few would return under conditions where health, cost-of-living, schools, prisons and even national Government is crumbling under the weight of extractive, exploitative, mean-minded capitalism.

In the next few weeks I’ll be making the move back from Australia to England to take up a new position in design research at a leading UK design school. And there’s much to work on!

Seven years after leaving the UK, post-Brexit, to emigrate to Perth, Western Australia we’re—as they say down under—“ping-ponging” back; joining the hundreds of other ping-pong poms who find life so far away from friends and family in the UK just too much to bear and decide to get back to their familial roots.

There is much to enjoy in Australia, aside from the high wages and—despite what Europeans think and the obvious inequalities for indigenous and immigrant communities—affordable cost-of-living for many. There’s the Western Australia weather which is Mediterranean in feel; the remarkable flora and fauna which continues to amaze and play a critical role in our planetary ecosystem; and then there’s the ‘mateship’ amongst work colleagues and neighbours which means that in times of strife, you’re part of a community that helps you out. No worries mate!

Coming back to England, I do so with huge trepidation. Even since knowing that we were moving back, I’ve not followed the UK news like I do with my Australian or Perth news (with a huge dollop of West Ham transfer news in the middle). But only a cursory glance reveals a country that is, quite honestly, going down the pan.

Only this week I read about the collapse of the wind energy generation bidding process, meaning that off-shore wind generation will be a ‘problem’ kicked down the road for (perhaps) Sir Keir Starmer to deal with in his inaugural year or two. From my reading, the UK Government was given plenty of warning from industry that financially sustainable wind energy production was simply unattainable under the terms of the bidding process.

Then there’s the NHS and the training, recruitment and retention of junior doctors, for whom long hours and shoddy pay is merely one symptom of Government incompetence. By contrast, there’s an Australian mixed-economy health system here that means that of you need an outpatient MRI scan to a damaged knee to diagnose mobility issues, you can call on a Wednesday and get the scan booked for a Sunday afternoon (we’ll fit that one in on a trip to the coast). Not everything is perfect in Australia, but the mix of Medicare (the NHS equivalent) health insurance, and private providers across the span of health services means that-—by comparison—service is accessible, quick and competent for the majority. And our federal (national) and state (regional) politicians don’t vehemently begrudge our health workers what they deserve. (The same could be said about other public services).

Of course, here in Perth, we’re not faced with quite the same problems of the Eastern states —Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland for example—around affordable housing or unemployment. WA is awash with resources such as iron ore, uranium, gold, lithium and other critical minerals for the energy transition and if you speak to a local they’ll tell you that the tax revenue from WA gas, oil, iron and a whole lot more keeps the rest of the country afloat! And it has that abundant sunshine which is enough energy for a solar future that we’re already living (generating).

These geological advantages alone though do not account for the seeming disparity between Australian and English futures. The future in the UK is bleak. Critical infrastructure—material and social—is severely lacking in the UK in ways even seven years ago I never imagined post-Brexit. When we speak to friends and family they wonder why we’d want to come back to a country that is literally falling apart (crumbling Schools, social cohesion, energy systems).

Why come back? Indeed.

The answer? Well, to see you all. To be with you. COVID stopped us all seeing each other for two years. So we have some reconnecting to do.

But also…we need to sort our mother country out! It needs redesigning. In every aspect of life. Things need making. Systems need reconfiguring. Processes need inventing. New ways of living and working need designing.

It begins with a radical reimagining of national Government. From what I see, elected politicians have let you all down for far too long. It continues with a redesign of how we create and sustain value.

Leave a Reply