Four incisive essays on the Noughties

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From 9/11 to reality TV, banking scandals and Facebook, what have the Noughties meant to you? We look back on the decade that was 2000 to 2010.


Rights and freedoms have been sacrificed in the face of a terrorist 'threat' but only now are we really asking if it was justified

By John Scott

"Let no one be in any doubt, the rules of the game are changing". So said Tony Blair in 2005, shortly after the 7/7 bombings in London. Although halfway through the decade, the truth in his words had been obvious for several years.

Indeed, since al-Qaeda's Twin Towers atrocity on 11 September 2001, rules had been thrown out of the window at regular intervals, especially in the UK. We were told that this form of terrorism was an entirely new threat and needed an entirely new approach, with certain fundamental rights now seen as impediments to our protection rather than a necessary means of ensuring it.

That things had changed was undoubtedly true, but there is now considerable doubt that it was to the extent suggested. Indeed, today, trust in our politicians is such that there are signs we are starting to doubt the need for the fear they have engendered over the past ten years.

It has been a regular practice of governments, and others who are keen for more powers, to generate fear, not only when it is justified but also when it is merely convenient. Blair as Prime Minister, David Blunkett, John Reid and Jacqui Smith when they were Home Secretary, former Metropolitan Police commissioners Sir John Stevens and Sir Ian Blair all contributed to the creation of a climate that saw us give up freedoms and rights in the name of security.

Consider the following: the 2002 Wood Green ricin plot ("the factory of death", even though no ricin was found); Blair's 2003 warning of the possible deployment of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq at only 45 minutes' notice; the now constant presence of armed police in our airports; armoured vehicles deployed at Heathrow in 2003; and the "heightened" security warnings at government buildings on an ongoing basis.

We were told just enough to keep us scared, with those named above implying that, if we knew what they did but could not reveal, we would not sleep either. We had to trust them and let them act as they thought fit.

The new mantra was the need to protect the "silent, law-abiding majority", with no acknowledgement of how bad we are at identifying terrorists and no mention of this being the same path that had led, in the 1970s, to bad laws and miscarriages of justice. Blair's only reassurance as the state encroached was to tell us, "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."

Think of some of the terrorist atrocities of the past ten years – 9/11, Bali, Madrid, 7/7. Each has seen significant reaction and change, both in laws and attitudes. But consider also the constant background of threat, the seemingly countless thwarted plots and "intelligence successes" that have softened us up for the erosion of safeguards and rights previously considered essential.

We have watched as our leaders achieved that which the terrorists could not – aspects of our private life sacrificed to greater powers of surveillance, the right to a fair trial and freedom from arbitrary detention given up in important respects to allow the state to tackle the "bad men" without being hampered by "rules".

Some changes have involved merely greater inconvenience, albeit that these have affected the greatest number. Think back to air travel in the 1990s. No one asked you to take off your shoes and no one cared what liquids you had with you. The queues were shorter too.

Some changes may seem to involve relatively little intrusion but have the potential for much more. Some people now have biometric passports. Identity cards are still on the way, despite ever-mounting costs and serious concerns about the database.

When it comes to the surrender of rights, we have been much quicker to volunteer others for greater sacrifice – especially foreign citizens and our own Muslim community. The true cost of the war on terror is felt not so much by the majority of us, and this means that we have been prepared to tolerate more than we should.

Indefinite detention of foreign nationals was one weapon in the War on Terror until the House of Lords ruled against it. The system of control orders introduced in its place has been the subject of serious challenge too, with the government struggling to ensure the "new rules" are fair enough to be approved by the courts, which in turn are still wrestling with cases where the authorities are trying to conceal from the suspect the main evidence against him. Most recently they have said that the substance of the case must be revealed to allow the allegations to be answered, otherwise a fair trial is impossible.

US rendition flights have used our territory while taking prisoners to and from other countries for interrogation. This is despite earlier denials and assurances. It is thought that Prestwick airport is particularly popular for such flights – although this is also denied.

Not all countries are prepared to facilitate or countenance rendition – an Italian court recently convicted 23 Americans (in absence) and two Italians for involvement in a 2003 rendition from Milan to Egypt. The Americans, however, seem intent on ignoring Italian extradition requests. In the UK, meanwhile, requirements for extradition to certain other countries, notably the US, have been eased, so the Home Secretary may be right when he says his hands are tied in the case of computer-hacker Gary McKinnon. But that does not mean the law is right. Questions are being asked about the use of this law – sold as another weapon against terror – in McKinnon's case.

Algerian pilot Lofti Raissi was arrested on 21 September 2001 as an accomplice in 9/11, detained for several months at Belmarsh prison awaiting extradition, told in a British court in 2003 that the allegations against him were unsupported by the "evidence" supplied by the US, and most recently was completely exonerated in the Court of Appeal.

In 2000, pre-charge detention for terrorist suspects was generally for 48 hours. It is now 28 days, although government attempts to increase it, firstly to 90 days, and most recently to 42, have resulted in defeat.

At the 2005 Labour Party conference, 82-year-old Walter Wolfgang shouted, "Nonsense," as Jack Straw was speaking about the Iraq war.

Wolfgang was forcibly ejected and detained under anti-terror powers. There have been increasing concerns that the police have used such powers in an entirely inappropriate way, sometimes seeming to attempt to curtail the right of peaceful protesters and campaigners in so doing.

Another example of function creep – brought in to fight terrorism, used for daily policing.

Our desire for security comes with many costs. In the immediate aftermath of 7/7 we saw the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. We know now that it was a tragic mistake, following a combination of events that should shatter any faith we might have had in guarantees of security or safety. The immediate police and media reaction ("One Down, Three to Go" – Sun) suggest the perpetuation of a misleading notion of only a decisive and correct response to terrorism.

With clear examples of how the innocent have suffered, there is some sign of change. Certain statements from the Conservative Party suggest they have a greater appreciation of the last decade's abandonment of principle and freedom. This, coupled with the government's difficulty in securing increased pre-charge detention, may point to the balance being restored.

New Labour arrived with a promise of change for the better. The Human Rights Act was part of that, even if David Blunkett and others appeared to regret it and curse the lawyers and judges who sought to use it to hold the government to account. Only they can know if our state-induced fear is justified, but they have certainly exploited it in persuading us to give up what we had.

Benjamin Franklin said, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Perhaps we have started to appreciate this and realised that although we want safety we also need freedom. If so, perhaps the rules will start changing back.

John Scott, solicitor advocate, is chair of the Howard League for Penal Reform in Scotland

10 Defining moments of the Noughties


Reality TV and the internet made celebrities of us all, but the thirst for fame is an indicator of our collective unhappiness

By Catherine Deveney

After the flash and bang of millennium fireworks, the falling stars of light and colour that dissolved like electric snowflakes in our midnight skies, we might have expected more substance in the years that followed. But the Noughties have been a giant rocket of a decade; a noisy, showy display that gave the illusion of direction but ultimately rushed headlong into oblivion.

Nothing was quite what it seemed. Appearance always edged it over substance. It was a decade of Pop Idol and X Factor and YouTube celebrities, where everyone became a performer. In fact, there was no one left in the audience.

Our attitude to celebrity is a reflection of other values, of social factors, in our world. When the first series of Big Brother kicked off in 2000, it would radically alter our attitude to fame and single-handedly cement the existence of Heat magazine. For the first time, celebrities were people who used to live next door to us but became famous for something – if only we knew what. They adopted the habits of celebrities, and in the glare of lights and the flash of cameras we were blinded. It's a culture that was summed up for me in an interview with Katie Price. I asked a question and her surreal reply was that she would need to look up her autobiography before answering. A book, incidentally, you couldn't be certain that she had actually read.

To understand what happened in the Noughties, we have to examine two things: our motivation to be famous and the means we used to become famous. Motivation first. A sense of hype, of expectation, heralded the new millennium. As the century opened, we closed our eyes to predictions that the end of the world was nigh, and when we dared peek again we all appeared to still be here. It wasn't even the end of the computer world, despite dire warnings that the Y2K millennium bug would bring chaos to our banking systems and cause the world economy to collapse. Still, by the end of the decade we'd managed that all by ourselves, without any help from technological glitches. Those bankers in grey suits weren't what they seemed. We couldn't have been more shocked if they had whipped off their pinstriped trousers to reveal bright red stockings and suspenders.

There were so many illusions underpinning our lives: of security, of control, even of happiness. Britain was once considered the lazy man of Europe. The Noughties cemented us as a nation of workaholics. We have less job security, less time off, fewer working rights, smaller pensions – but, crucially, more aspirations – than ever before. Our lives are materially more comfortable than those of previous generations, but our working practices so often make us feel there's something missing. We want to be lifted out of our lives, and when we lifted Big Brother contestants like Jade Goody out of theirs maybe there was an element of wish-fulfilment. If they were special, so were we. Goody's tragically young death was an uncomfortable reminder that the privilege of celebrity, like our financial security, is an illusion too.

So while we waited for our call to fame, we spent money we didn't have, on credit cards we couldn't afford, for goods we didn't need – or sometimes even necessarily want – to ameliorate the misery of increased stress and emptiness and to assuage our increasingly materialistic desires. We would scoot into cut-price high-street shops to buy a brightly coloured sweater for 4, swallowing down guilt over the possibility that it could have been produced through cheap child labour on another continent. The buzz of purchase rarely lasted past the first wash. We were cheap in the Noughties, but not very cheerful.

All of that frustration and aspiration was important because discontent, a gulf between what we have and what we want, breeds reverence for celebrity. The modern concept of celebrity really began with cinema and the growth of Hollywood. In the post-war years, the Marilyn Monroes and Cary Grants gave a glimpse into a world that was less austere than the audience's, a world of perfect romance and glamour. Stars wore fur coats, not jeans. Celebrity meant fantasy. Now it is a camera lens up Paris Hilton's skirt as she exits a chauffeur-driven car.

If we combine these social conditions with the radically altered technology of the Noughties, a fuller picture of 21st-century celebrity emerges. Every couple of years has brought new trends that altered the way we communicated and promoted ourselves: reality television, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter. When Facebook was started by a Harvard student in 2003, it was limited to the Harvard campus only. By 2006 it had become the world's most successful social networking site and now has more than 350 million users. Social networking sites supposedly kept us in touch with friends. But we could do that through e-mail. The difference is that these sites give us profile. They display our picture, list our likes and dislikes and tell people our mood – should anyone care. We're all celebrities now.

Of course, not all of these developments were bad. Arguably, shows such as Britain's Got Talent allowed new faces like Susan Boyle to become global superstars. Lauren Luke, who had once been a shy and bullied Geordie schoolgirl, gathered a cult following for make-up tutorials she broadcast on YouTube, earning herself a book contract into the bargain. It was the democratisation of fame and opportunity.

But that wasn't the whole story. Internet technology, we were told, made the world a smaller place, brought humanity closer together. Well, that's debatable. People used the internet to indulge prejudices as much as challenge them. The Noughties saw mass immigration from eastern Europe as the Poles arrived in Britain. We didn't seem any more equipped to deal with that than we were with Commonwealth immigration in the 1950s and 1960s. We were just as insular, as self-protective, as embarrassingly small-minded, as we had ever been. It made us question who we were all talking to on these social networking sites, and the answer was mostly ourselves: people just like us. We used the internet as a mirror, not a magnifying glass.

Then came Twitter. It asked people to answer the question, "What's happening?" People responded – sometimes every few minutes – even if the answer was, 'I am walking the dog', though American businesswoman Penelope Trunk tweeted that she was having a miscarriage during a boardroom meeting. Even Twitter's creative director, Biz Stone, said that if he had three sentences to describe what Twitter was, one of them would have to be, "I don't know". Another should surely be, "Not what it seems".

Devices designed for chitter-chatter are actually incredibly powerful marketing tools. Fashion designer Henry Holland says his brand was built through MySpace and the internet. Publisher Scott Pack massaged one of his books to number 14 in the Amazon live bestseller list by getting all the contributory authors to Twitter about it simultaneously.

Stephen Fry, the micro-blogging service's most famously prolific disciple, acknowledges the power of Twitter but recognises the dangers too. "Will I be so optimistic about it," he has said, "when those (liberal) spirits are matched by forces of religiosity and nationalism, when the political machines march in and start acquiring millions of followers, giving them the power to close sites."

There are many ironies in the technological advances of the last decade. They supposedly increased our communication – maybe they just reduced its quality. They gave us louder voices and higher profiles. They gave us an audience. But we talk more and listen less.

You don't have to look anyone in the eye when you speak electronically. And that's the biggest irony of all: it isn't real conversation. The Noughties have been a decade that supposedly revered reality. 'Reality' television. 'Real' celebrities. But if the Noughties proved anything, it was that, as a society, we wouldn't recognise reality if it were slapped across our faces like a cold, wet fish.

Faces that made the Noughties


Many of the green arguments have been won. Now the world has to match aspiration with action on climate change

By Patrick harvie

As WE prepare to enter the second decade of the 21st century, and as the Scottish Parliament ends its celebration of the first ten years of devolution, it is easy to forget just how much progress has been made towards a recognition of the issues the green movement has brought to the table, both globally and locally.

At the beginning of the decade, the environment was seen by most politicians as just one minor issue among many, despite an early spike in Green Party votes in 1989. Indeed, during the first debate MSPs held on transport issues, climate change was mentioned only once, but it was still not seen as a reason to refrain from big increases in road-building. Peak oil, the fact of finite supplies, was still dismissed as a fringe idea by the oil companies, which privately knew better, and energy debates in Scotland were typically just sterile disagreements about the ownership of the North Sea's fossil fuel assets, rather than the sustainability of burning the stuff until it was all gone.

But the turn of the millennium saw the UK's first Green parliamentarians elected too, in the now familiar shape of Robin Harper here in Scotland, then joined by Caroline Lucas and Jean Lambert, representing English regions in Europe. In wider activism, the road and runway protests of the previous decade inspired a broader range of environmental direct action, with targets including genetically modified crops and the arms trade. For many activists, these issues joined the dots between straightforward environmental causes and the social and economic consequences of corporate power. Links developed with those who were campaigning on other aspects of global justice, such as health and trade reform; many people who eventually joined the Make Poverty History movement began their political journey with the anti-GM movement and an awareness of food politics.

These were also the early days of the Kyoto Protocol, the world's first serious attempt to secure a political deal on climate change. While it's abundantly clear now that the emission limits established in that deal were wildly inadequate, the significance of placing climate change on the world's political agenda can't be understated. This was the achievement of the third global conference on climate change, and as we approach the 15th, this month in Copenhagen, it shouldn't be forgotten that the groundwork had to start somewhere – Kyoto might not have met expectations, but without it we would be in a far worse position today. The EU ratified the Protocol just two years into the decade, but the treaty didn't come into force until 2005, something that seems hard to believe now.

The middle years of this decade provided crucial impetus for urgent action on climate change, with 2006 seeing both Al Gore's surprise box office hit An Inconvenient Truth and the publication of the landmark Stern Review.

They spoke to different audiences – Gore presenting the public with perhaps the first film you could describe as "conviction powerpoint", and Lord Stern addressing his arguments to the world's economists and governments, but each helped to bring a wider group of people to the cause.

Environmental organisations and campaigners have long said that every part of society needs to play its part, including governments, businesses, communities and individuals, and these two pieces of work did more to turn that into a reality than anything before. It's hard to imagine private-sector voices calling for bold cuts in emissions if Lord Stern hadn't made his hard-headed case in the language the business community spoke: every pound spent now on going low-carbon will repay itself five times over.

Even the US began to wake up to climate change, and long before the Bush administration was wound up, several state governors and city mayors had begun to put some of their own political capital on the line for the sake of tackling emissions. By the time American voters were choosing party nominees for the 2008 election, all the serious front runners were committed to binding cuts and all accepted US responsibility on the issue.

If the progress made in the middle of the 2000s was promising, it's pretty clear that the end of the decade has seen a troubling reversal.

It sometimes seems that the stronger the scientific case becomes, the more irrational opposition is generated in the media debate. Most governments remain committed to a scientific approach, even if few are ready to take action to meet their targets, and in the UK the conspiracy theories are confined to the far right of politics. However, this month's sacking of the Australian Liberal Party leader, replaced by a man opposed to even a modest carbon-trading scheme, shows that countries with coal will always find political room for those who want to burn it.

In the UK, too, action to start making real-world cuts has been painfully hard to achieve. The recession – which, like the collapse of the Soviet Union, may result in a short-term slowing of emissions – has served to distract many from the long-term job of building the low-carbon economy that Stern advocated. Even the clearest opportunities to link emission cuts to economic recovery have not been taken – few people would have predicted that a Scottish budget would fall on the issue of loft insulation, but energy-efficiency remains to this day the best climate change policy we've never had – and the pressure on budgets may well squeeze long-term investment in low-carbon infrastructure as governments of all parties continue to put the short term first.

Indeed, despite the realities of the world's energy problems coming into sharper focus every year, it's still down to activists to challenge decisions at UK and Scottish levels, like the approval of new coal-fired power stations, aviation expansion and the continuation of other 20th-century mistakes. Thankfully the dedication seen in previous decades of direct action is still alive, as seen among the Climate Campers and others.

Just as critical for the wider environmental movement is the danger of distracting the world from a host of other issues, many of which are made worse by climate change but are seen as separate battles to fight. The overharvesting of fish stocks around the world, the impact of deforestation, the loss of biodiversity, and myriad forms of local pollution and environmental damage that hit the world's poorest people hardest; these are issues that never went away. Indeed, they continue to grow while the world's attention is fixed on climate change and economic turmoil.

As the good, the bad and the ugly of the political world head to Copenhagen for the last great diplomatic circus of the decade, we're left with a familiar question: will it make any difference? The best way to guarantee failure is not to try, but leaving it to the politicians – of whichever party – is a pretty surefire promise of failure too.

The Scottish Climate Act did go further than the government wanted, but not because MSPs suddenly became a nobler body of people. It was strengthened above all because of people power. Academics, campaign groups, business voices, trade unions, community groups, churches and tens of thousands of ordinary people called for stronger measures. Without them we wouldn't have the legislation we have, and unless those many voices continue to act together and call for bold action we won't turn the targets into a reality either.

I still believe that humanity will opt for survival, but our stunted democracy won't be up to the job unless real people set the challenge loudly, clearly and consistently. The future of this movement, as we step into another dangerous decade, is in your hands.

Patrick Harvie, Scottish Green Party MSP for Glasgow, is convener of the Scottish Parliament's transport, infrastructure and climate change committee


Trust, in politicians and our institutions, is key to society's success. Right now it is in precious short supply

By Peter Jones

The National Trust for Scotland is an iconic exemplar of what the word 'institution' means. It owns and looks after some of the most treasured buildings and landscapes of our national life.

It is the first choice for anyone fortunate enough to possess anything that might be described as part of Scotland's heritage and who is looking to pass it on so it will be cherished and shared with the public. The words 'national' and 'trust' say it all.

But it is also emblematic in another way. In this last year, we have discovered that it might not be so trustworthy. It has had to sack staff, close some properties to public access and sell its splendid Edinburgh headquarters. It has been mismanaged to the point that it has run into a financial crisis and does not have the money needed to sustain everything it holds in trust for us, the nation.

It is the same path down which too many of our national institutions, both Scottish and British, have tottered, stumbled and eventually fallen, leaving us variously angry, dismayed or just downright contemptuous.

Governments, politicians, the media, the police, banks – almost anything you can think of where trust is vital to sustaining a positive relationship between an institution and the people it is supposed to serve – have shown themselves, to varying degrees, to be not worthy of trust.

Indeed, the last decade began and ended with the most outrageous abuses of trust, beginning with Tony Blair's cynical manipulation of intelligence to concoct a case for going to war in Iraq, and ending with politicians and bankers exposed as people more likely than not to be on the make rather than working to make the country better.

This has spotlighted, in ultra-bright arc lights, the importance of trust in making society work. We can never know for certain that a politician or a banker or a churchman is working hard to look after our interest, our money or our moral welfare. We can only presume that is the case. That presumption, born out of a positive desire to believe in what somebody else says, is what makes society work. Take away that trust, and society is at risk of failing, with awful consequences.

Trust, however, is not a finite commodity that, once gone, can never be replenished. The arrival of Tony Blair in Downing Street, after the discovery that some Conservative MPs were asking questions of government ministers not on behalf of constituents but because they were being paid to do so by rich individuals or companies, was felt to be a chance for a fresh start.

Blair was given not just the electorate's mandate to govern, but the nation's trust, a huge quantity of it. So much so that he easily survived the first questions raised, about donations to the Labour party by Bernie Ecclestone of Formula One, which was lobbying for car racing to be exempt from bans on tobacco advertising. And he enhanced his international stores of trust by leading the political arguments for going to war to stop Serbian gangsters from genocidal attacks on the Muslims of Kosovo.

But the revelations that the arguments for war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq were, at best, exaggerations, and at worst, complete fabrications of the evidence for the regime's weapons of mass destruction capabilities, have utterly vitiated the case for trusting Tony Blair. It was one of the main reasons why the heads of the EU countries felt unable to support him as the first president of the European Council.

And at the end of the decade, there has been the stinking morass of MPs' expenses. These people, whom we send to Westminster to carefully, prudently and wisely look after the spending money we give the government, have turned out to have been busier finding ways to spend it on themselves.

Of course, there are the honourable exceptions, and – mainly because of a more stringent regime that MSPs accepted when the Scottish Parliament came into being, ten years ago – Holyrood has been largely exempt from the inquisition into mortgage and moat-cleaning claims. But as a class, all are now tarred with the brush of being self-seeking, self-interested pocket-liners.

And we trusted bankers with billions and billions of our money, and they made such a mess of looking after it that we have had to give them billions and billions more via the government, just so they can keep the bank doors open and the ATMs spitting out cash.

In some ways, it is not surprising that banks have been the most catastrophic failure in the decade of disappearing trust. The simplest definition of banking is that it is about borrowing one person's money to lend to a second person, who may not pay it back. The whole transaction cycle relies on trust; without it, banking would not exist. And at a time when trust was rapidly evaporating, the banks nearly dissolved as well.

But we all trusted them, even Alex Salmond. The First Minister, when the first signs of trouble emerged, rushed to pronounce Scottish banks among the most stable in the world. He blamed their instability on spivs and speculators. He was right, except that the spivs and speculators turned out to be running the banks, not trading in their shares.

It did not look like that – Fred Goodwin and Tom McKillop at RBS, and Andy Hornby and Dennis Stevenson at HBOS – were garlanded (Hornby excepted) with knighthoods and peerages, the establishment stamp of official trustworthiness. Yet they managed to blow not just the kind of riches that would have made Midas faint, but centuries of accumulated trust. For this, sure, they were fired and suffered some loss of value in their company shares, but they were nicely insulated in the comforts of pension monies quite unattainable to the impoverished shareholders and redundant workers they left behind.

Along the way, we have seen any number of national institutions unclothed to reveal a vacuum of moral turpitude. The national media, ITV and the BBC, were discovered to have been running rigged competitions. Even children sending in names for a nice pussycat on BBC TV's Blue Peter had their efforts contemptuously binned by programme-makers who had, Kremlin-style, decided the outcome.

Ranging from a lack of faith that political leaders can, or will, do anything to deal with the world's problems, down to hostility towards the police as nothing but defenders of the rich and greedy, trust is at severe risk of dissolving in the acid bath of mutual contempt and animosity.

If it does dissolve, why should people feel under any duty to pay taxes to institutions they no longer believe in? Some might cheer at the disappearance of politicians, but their reaction would be rather different when they need to see a doctor and find that the surgery and hospital doors are closed.

Can trust be restored? Yes, it can, but it entails a much faster recognition of the changing world than political and institutional leaders have so far shown themselves to be capable of comprehending. These are times of the empowered individual. The internet and mobile telephony have altered balances of power. The hand-held BlackBerry contains more computing power than was on board the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

With it, we citizens can order groceries, pay bills, move our money around, get insurance quotes, check on what MPs are doing, examine stock market movements or just get answers to pub-quiz triviality. And all from a piece of metal and plastic that fits into our pocket. We are personally empowered more than we have ever been.

Too many institutions have failed to recognise this and respond to demands for information about their activities by the traditional method of only allowing a bare minimum of knowledge to escape. We respond to their contempt for us with contempt for them.

This corrosive and nihilistic cycle can be broken. It requires an admission of respect. Not respect by us for institutions that have failed us. But respect by those institutions for us, because we, the people, now have real power over them. We can check whether they are telling us truth or lies, whether they are spending wisely or squandering, and whether we need them or not. Showing genuine respect for the people, whether as citizens or customers, is the big challenge for institutions in the next decade.

The shape of things to come


The rising global player in economics, China, will unsurprisingly have a direct effect on our lifestyle habits. According to Goldman Sachs, China is now the third-biggest consumer of luxury goods, next to Japan and the United States, accounting for 12 per cent worldwide – and sales are growing 20-30 per cent per year. With 180 million internet users in China alone, gaming, mobile phones and online shopping looks set only to further expand.


The Noughties may have seen Morgan Spurlock throwing the spotlight on the social and personal horrors of the US's Supersize Me culture, but if a Washington think tank (the Urban Institute) and a growing element of public concern is to be believed then the next decade could begin to reverse the Western world's problem with obesity. The Institute proposes a ten per cent tax on "fattening food of little nutritional value", claiming it would bring in $500bn (300bn) to fund healthcare over the next decade.


Wars fought over oil and the battle over energy prices shaped this decade's debate on supplies, but physical changes will shape political and economic ones in the next ten years. With the North Sea gas supply (from which 45 per cent of our power comes) predicted to fall by two thirds by 2015, energy companies and governments are already reappraising their relationships with potential sources, the most obvious of which for the UK is Russia. Given the fraught relationship between Russia and the Ukraine in recent years, where the bigger power has used the threat of turning on and off the tap to assert its will – a partnership that will be tested again with the 2010 Ukraine presidential elections – Britain's negotiating prowess will prove essential.


Suri Cruise (left) is already the celebrity style pages' main obsession, but come 2020 Tom and Katie's little girl will have hit her teens, as will the whole Jolie-Pitt brood. Expect no end to the tabloid speculation about them all, regardless of how their parents' careers are faring .


In two years' time, the British capital will welcome the world to take part in the Olympic Games. Whether or not Boris Johnson will be the bumbling centrepiece of the opening ceremony remains to be seen, but Scots cyclist Sir Chris Hoy (inset, above) will bid to repeat his Beijing heroics.


If it was acceptable in the 1980s to pull yourself out of the economic gloom by turning into a Del Boy-style "entrepreneur", then our post-recession decade will undoubtedly see a host of get-rich-quick schemes for people trying to find a fast and pain-free way of shedding the debt mortgage hikes and credit card bills have amassed over the latter half of the Noughties. Whether you'll be a Del Boy or a Rodney is up to you.