Britain Has Changed, And We Should Want It To Keep On Changing by Tom Beasley

Being a freelance entertainment journalist is a weird gig at the best of times. The constant sensation that your work is frivolous is only matched by the sadness of waiting for the money from a job to land in your bank account, filling at least part of the financial black hole created by renting in Greater London. But never is the problem of being an entertainment journalist more obvious than when something really important is happening on the news.

When I wrote my last column – about the widening polarisation of Britain’s politics – I mentioned that I had no idea at the time of writing who would be the new prime minister. Several months later, I again can’t say with any certainty that I know who will fill the role by the time this magazine lands through your letterbox. Sure, Boris Johnson beat out Jeremy Hunt in the Conservative Party leadership race and is technically in charge, but there’s likely to be a general election campaign happening as you read this – the third in just over four years.

And so, with the entire British political system dangling over a dangerous precipice like it’s being played by Tom Cruise, it’s difficult to muster the enthusiasm to review movies, speculate about pop culture or even craft silly jokes about action movie stars. Thankfully for my continued employment prospects, and your enjoyment of this column, I can just about manage all three.

The reason I’m writing about this topic again – aside from its terrifying omnipresence on TV – is that I recently experienced one of the most delightful aspects of writing this column, in that I received an email about my article. I’d like to thank the correspondent for their point of view, which was eloquently expressed, and I’m not going to fill this piece with partisan disagreements around the issues at play. I think we’ve all had quite enough of that over the last three years.

What I will do is pick up on a key line that really struck a chord with me. The correspondent wrote that we are living in “a country which is unrecognisable from the one I grew up in and for which my grandparents fought so hard”. I don’t doubt for a second that those words are entirely true, but I’d argue that it’s actually a good thing.

When I started writing in these pages a decade ago, my remit was to provide my generation’s perspective. And although the last 10 years of life has worn much of my youthful idealism down in to the despair that can only come with the knowledge that property ownership is as likely as sprouting wings, I still think it’s worth being optimistic about the future. Every generation should hope that the country their children will grow up in will be a different place to the generation before. It should be better.

The UK of 2019 should be unrecognisable from the Britain of the 1970s and 1980s, just as those decades were unrecognisable from the war-torn 1940s. I certainly hope that my future children live in a country that’s a long way away from the recession-hit, politically divided comedy skit in which I exist today.

When the young men the correspondent mentioned went off to fight in Europe, I’m sure they wanted to create a new, better Britain. I doubt they were looking with misty-eyed nostalgia to the 1930s, in which the worst economic downturn in the history of the industrialised world had ravaged the entire planet’s economy. They wanted to fight for the future – a future that would be unrecognisable from the world in which they had grown up.

So regardless of what happens with Brexit and regardless of who holds the keys to Downing Street at the end of this year, the one thing I will absolutely and unequivocally state is that we should be proud to live in a country that has changed. And we should want it to keep on changing.

© 2019 Tom Beasley

Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist living just outside London and originally from Coventry. He can be reached at tomjbeasley@gmail.com.