Time to Pay the Bill


Within five years, I hope to have paid the bill and shipped out.

GO ON: have a vote in the general election on May 6th. Tell you what, since it’s you, I’ll chuck in the local elections too: buy none, get another one free. In fact, here’s what I’m gonna do: I’ll give you this general election now, and you can pay for it later. And believe me, love, you won’t get an offer like this one again, not for a long time. You really won’t.

Some general elections mark the end not only of governments but of historical eras too. The one in 1945 signified the end of pre-war social atomisation and adumbrated the birth of the welfare state; the election of 1979 marked the demise of the post-war economic settlement. The election called by Gordon Brown after his visit to the queen on April 6th also coincides with the end of an era: the passing of the era of free stuff. The contest will in a sense be a referendum on that giddy age; its freebies and excesses—big and small, public and private, enjoyed by rich and poor alike—will loom over the campaign. The new era that lies on the other side of polling day, however, is less well defined.

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