Tony Benn, Enoch Powell montage
Tony Benn (left) and Enoch Powell (right) led the campaign against common market membership in the 1975 referendum
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Tony Benn and Enoch Powell — two divisive figures who dominated British politics in the 20th century. On the left, Mr Benn consistently advocated radical socialist policies that many blamed for keeping his Labour party out of power for 13 years. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Mr Powell’s tough stance on immigration and Europe created divisions that continue to beset the Conservative party fifty years later.

In FT Weekend, John McTernan argues that although the careers of Messrs Benn and Powell ended in failure (neither reached their full potential), the ideas they espoused are prominent once again. The age of Brexit is the age of Powell, he argues, and is reflected elsewhere by Marine Le Pen and Viktor Orban. No mainstream politician has come close to the incendiary rhetoric of his infamous Rivers of Blood speech, yet the influence of his ideas is nevertheless still discernible in today’s debate. The fixation on numbers, claims about the alleged pressure that immigration places on public services and the focus on culture over race all echo Mr Powell’s sentiments.

On the left, Jeremy Corbyn has given fresh life to Mr Benn’s 1970s calls for sweeping nationalisation and increased state investment. When Tony Blair accepted the economic settlement of Margaret Thatcher, these Bennite ideas were consigned to the dustbin of history — or so many thought. But the UK’s economic malaise, Brexit, stagnant wages and political uncertainty have made pure socialism seem relevant again.

Like them or loathe them, Mr Benn and Mr Powell are worth examining to understand what happens when the political centre ground collapses and fringe ideas take their place.

Forecasting 2018: The new year is almost upon us and our commentators have made their predictions for the next twelve months. Will Theresa May survive? Will impeachment proceedings begin against Donald Trump? Will the Bank of Japan tighten monetary policy? Will Tesla produce more than a quarter of a million Model 3s?

Wealthier futures: In a similar vein, Tim Harford looks forward to the economy of 2118 and predicts that wealth will quintuple and global income will reach $80,000 per person. If the next couple of generations can keep the show on the road, he argues that ever greater prosperity lies ahead.

Reining in pay: Merryn Somerset Webb considers how shareholders can limit inflated executive pay packages. The changes in company ownership structures have broken the traditional links between ordinary shareholders and management. That needs to be restored to fix excessive corporate remuneration cultures, she argues.

FT Opinion is back on holiday over the new year festivities. We will be back in 2018. Until then, a very happy new year from Frederick, Jonathan, Sebastian, Miranda and everyone else on the comment team.

Best of the rest

You can log off, sure. But you can’t stop the outrage economy — Rafael Behr in The Guardian

An assault is coming on the two-party citadel — Philip Collins in The Times

In 2017, Markets Rose Above Politics — Ruchir Sharma in the Wall Street Journal

America Is Not Yet Lost — Paul Krugman in the New York Times

My ‘person of the year’? Theresa May — Douglas Murray in The Spectator

What you’ve been saying

Liberalism dies when it becomes the Establishment— letter from Joe Zammit-Lucia:

“True liberals have always understood the need for continual reform as stagnating systems inevitably get progressively captured by powerful interests. Liberalism dies when it becomes the Establishment, itself captured by vested interests and an apologia for the status quo.

Those who refuse to countenance significant reform of the existing international trade system do not deserve to be called ‘liberal’. Rather they are reminiscent of Philip II of Spain, for whom ‘no experience of the failure of his policy could shake his belief in its essential excellence’.”

Comment from Paulus on Winners and losers in the sharing economy:

“I have always tried to think of big expenditure as an investment. A fridge may cost 350 but will last ten years. But if you turn all your expenditure into current expenditure then you have no stake or assets to see you through the difficult times. It is always hand to mouth.

And this ‘sharing economy’ is just window dressing, Renting is caused by being unable to afford or/and inability to defer your gratification. I speak from practical experience. I recall the man from Redifusion coming once a month to open to slot machine attached to our television and take out the sixpences we had to put in to make it work. Poverty. Not sexy co-ownership or any other modern pretence. Still in doubt? Ask how many sharers would rather pay a Mortgage than rent. We all know the answer. People rent for the most part because they have no choice let us not pretend otherwise.”

Mixing beer and AI could be asking for trouble— letter from Malcolm Harker:

“There is, however, a real risk that mixing beer and AI will result in computers thinking that they are much cleverer (and wittier) than they actually are. Recent reporting of dramatic advances in AI suggest that the research project has in fact been going on for some time, with this side-effect readily observable.”

Today’s opinion

The Big Read: US retail’s turbulent relationship with private equity
FT research shows many of the largest leveraged buyouts in the sector over the past decade have either defaulted, gone bankrupt or are in distress

Forecasting the world in 2018
FT writers share their predictions, including Theresa May’s future, emerging market growth and, of course, bitcoin

FT View: Ceding powers of decision to AI presents a paradox
Without care, machine learning will echo and magnify human biases

Charles Jenkins, American soldier and defector, 1940-2017
One night, he stuffed a white shirt into the barrel of his rifle and walked across into North Korea

Instant Insight: Can sporting stars offer political salvation?
The success of George Weah in Liberia can be repeated elsewhere, writes Gideon Rachman

How shareholders can rein in obscene pay packages
Most adults in the UK have a stake in the listed corporate sector, yet lack a voice

How British politics rediscovered Tony Benn and Enoch Powell
Their careers may have ended in failure but their ideas are back in fashion

The ins and outs of Brexit 2017
What is the true price of Britain’s divorce from the EU?

Year in a Word: Fangs
The market’s appetite for acronyms grows as Big Tech remains untouchable

Why I predict we will be wealthier in the future
Wealth will roughly quintuple by 2118, with global income of $80,000 per person

FT View

FT View: Ceding powers of decision to AI presents a paradox
Without care, machine learning will echo and magnify human biases

FT View: A healthy economy is a risk for stock markets
If Trump’s US tax cuts work, rates will rise and liquidity decrease

The Big Read

The Big Read: US retail’s turbulent relationship with private equity
FT research shows many of the largest leveraged buyouts in the sector over the past decade have either defaulted, gone bankrupt or are in distress

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