Book Review – ‘Fantasy Island’ by Dan Atkinson and Larry Elliot

fantasyislandNo, nothing to do the 1970s TV series with Ricardo Montalban as a bloke who made wishes come true on an Island with a combination of technology, actors and smoke and mirrors.  Although…..  Nope, this is a review of a book by Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson,  published by Constable in 2007, ISBN Number 978-1-84529-605-6.  Before the NuLab apologists come scuttling out to bleat that Dan Atkinson is a writer with the Daily Mail, and so is biased, I’d suggest they read the book anyway and follow up on the statistics therein.  One final warning – this is a scary book for anyone who cares about the state of the UK after 12 years of NuLab Governance and it will almost certainly make you very angry indeed.


The book is well written – I digested it in two sittings – although the statistical bits (not too many) and the explanation of why the economy is going to crap out may require a couple of readings.  It’s worth noting that this book was written before the recent financial meltdown, which it predicts to a great degree.

In the book, the authors examine the rise to power of the new Labour philosophy, and then highlight in 7 chapters the ‘big lies’ that have turned Great Britain in to the ‘Fantasy Island’ of the title, where we can have endless debt with no comebacks, enjoy highly paid jobs for which we are unqualified, have limitless growth without environmental impact and where the state machine is apparently being made leaner whilst increasing in size.  All being paid for by jobs in the ‘creative economy’.  Oh, and how we can project military force around the world and play the part of a super-power whilst cutting back on defence expenditure.  Some of us have been banging on about the impossibility of this for some time now – I wish that I’d encountered this book a couple of years ago as it pulls together all the material one needs to take a good hard swing at New Labour and the Blairite nightmare.

The 7 core chapters deal with the following issues:

  1. Britain’s debt timebomb – well, that one went off in our faces around the time this book was published.
  2. Reliance on the Creative Economy – some statistics on the true value of the ‘creative economy’ to Britain make it clear that it was indeed bullshit to rely on it.  Having spent time working in the film industry in the early 2000s, I can definitely concur – the UK film industry, for example, is one where, in 2000, over 60% of films made in Britain stayed unreleased after being finished and where film-makers made films that they thought punters should see – the cultural colonialism of North London.  By 2004, the balance of payments credit due to film was a paltry 160 million.  At least it was a credit – that due to TV was in deficit to the tune of over 300 million.  Music is also in a mess.  If we follow the NuLab plan we may be relying on ‘The X Factor’ winners to get us out of the hole….
  3. Shrinking Prices AND increased living standards – the fantasy being that we get our cheap toys and non-essential goodies at the EXPENSE of our standard of living. 
  4. Failing Public Sector – deals with issues such as educational ‘grades inflation’ and how the PFI has allowed the private sector to cream off lots of money without any real improvement in productivity.
  5. The Workforce – attempting to keep unemployment down whilst ploughing in lots of new legislation – resulting in a highly exploited workforce with lots of outsourcing. 
  6. Defence – increasing military commitments as the US’s bagman, whilst reduction in real terms of defence budget to suit New Labour doctrine.
  7. Environment – trying to con us all that we can have everything AND not screw up the planet.  Although New Labour aren’t alone here.

fantasyislandtvNot very pleasant reading – although there is a chapter that offers a couple of alternative paths to take.  Learning to be frugal is something we’re likely to have to get used to over the next few years, anyway, so that will be easy medicine to take – the vast majority of us have no real alternative.  And one other thing after reading this book – it reinforces the old saw that Labour are not fit to govern – which is a dreadful thing for those of us who once had such hopes for the Left in the UK.

It’s a worthwhile book to get a feel for how we in the UK have been royally screwed in the last 12 years.  Regard it as a companion piece to Nick Cohen’s ‘What’s Left’ – but please don’t read them both in the same sitting and blame me when your head explodes…

At least on the TV show, all ended well for the people who’d bought their fantasy.  Just where are the two guys in the white suits when we need them?