S hortly after becoming prime minister in 2007, Gordon Brown crowed that Britain had enjoyed “the longest uninterrupted period of economic growth in the history of our country”. In polling by Gallup that year, with the global financial crisis about to begin, 53% of respondents said that their lives were improving. This year just 28% agreed that life was getting better. Faith in government has also taken a hit, particularly since the Brexit vote in 2016.
There are some immediate explanations for this sense of disenchantment: from strikes to double-digit inflation (of 10.7% year on year in November, a slight easing on the previous month). And over the past 15 years much of the West has suffered from similar maladies to Britain: high inequality, slowing economic growth and bouts of political instability. Some big, rich countries, such as Italy and Japan, have fared worse over that period on measures like real growth in median incomes.
But a closer look at the data reveals that there are specific reasons for Britons to worry. The country has historically tried to position itself as a bridge between Europe and America. With that in mind The Economist has benchmarked Britain against a group of other sizeable English-speaking countries—Australia, Canada and the United States—and against France and Germany, the two biggest continental European economies. Although there is no single all-encompassing measure of national well-being, the changes in Britain since 2007 rank it at or near the bottom of this group on a wide variety of economic indicators.