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Economic growth, rising living standards and all-round prosperity are the keys to political success. If a party can ensure that voters feel life is getting better, with wages and job opportunities on the up, it wins elections. In the UK, the Conservatives did well in the 2015 campaign because living standards were rising and the electorate did not feel the moment was right for change. Economics dictated a preference for continuity.

But in the absence of rising living standards, dark forces can be unleashed. Janan Ganesh looks at the rise of British populism in his column and argues that another recession could push voters “resigned” to the current trajectory further to the fringes. The strongest Brexit advocates have a regrettable tendency to openly disparage public institutions, such as the Office for Budget Responsibility, and dismiss their predictions as so much baloney. The problem is that their predictions in the past have been too optimistic, not pessimistic. And what will happen if they are proved right?

The OBR’s recent analysis of the Budget was predicated on the smoothest of Brexits and assumed there would be a negligible economic effect when the UK exits the EU. The ongoing row about the Irish border suggests that disruption is almost a given. The problem is exacerbated by those leading the country. Janan points out that Britain has muddled through its postwar history on the strength of the standing of the individuals in charge. Theresa May’s current Cabinet does not inspire confidence that it is capable of seeing the country through these turbulent times. And if voters’ trust does disintegrate, a sense of resignation may give way to something more radical.

Nationalist strongmen: Gideon Rachman looks at the lure of nationalism in his column and why it is appealing to voters. If the US and China are both pursuing nationalist policies, he says there is a chance will they clash in the near future.

Driverless dreamsJohn Thornhill looks at all the deaths caused by motor cars and argues the arrival of autonomous and electric vehicles will save thousands of lives. The technology will need a lot of testing to convince drivers it is safer to let a computer control the wheel. 

Uber breachJulia Apostle argues in an opinion piece that the recent data hack at the car sharing app will have powerful implications for all of us. The EU’s impending General Data Protection Regulation will introduce high fines for such breaches, and the severity of Uber data breaches risks creating bad laws.

Best of the rest

When Meghan weds Harry, Britain’s relationship with race will change forever — Afua Hirsch in The Guardian

Norway’s tough-love approach to the refugee crisis — Fraser Nelson in The Spectator

Will These Senators Live Up to Their Own Principles? — David Leonhardt in The New York Times

Theresa May’s Warning for the Republican Party — Joseph C. Sternberg in The Wall Street Journal

Is Ireland really willing to put watchtowers on our border to inspect a few milk churns? — Juliet Samuel in The Telegraph

What you've been saying

Media mistrust begins with the medium — letter from Alan Rohrbach in Chicago, US

“Back in 1980, the estimable reporter and media executive Arnaud de Borchgrave co-authored the compelling novel The Spike, about the “spin” editors can exert by killing (“spiking”) stories inconsistent with their views. That certainly drives audience perception.”

Comment by MarkGB on the FT View, Yemen’s looming famine is on 20th-century scale

“We are already guilty. And you are very late saying so. This has been going on for months — as has been raised many times by the United Nations and also here in the comments section. The problem with our governments and our media is that issues are not raised if they are ‘politically incorrect’ for the establishment, unless and until it is impossible not to — which is what is happening now. Justice doesn’t come from governments and their poodles in the media — it comes despite them.”

Has Hammond put his faith in a mystic number? — letter from Philip Chandler in London, UK

“Sir, £3bn Brexit contingency; £300,000 stamp duty waiver for first-time buyers; 300,000 new homes to be built; £300m for High Speed 2 infrastructure, to name but a few of the budget headlines that contain the number three. All on the UK chancellor’s third fiscal event. Is this a new subliminal tactic? It is said that in the number three is a mediator and reconciler (Brexiters v Remainers). Three is also the number of truth (the sobering figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility). And finally, three signifies permanence (he’s not going anywhere!).”

Today’s opinion

FT View: An inch by inch attempt to boost UK productivity A new industrial strategy is worthwhile but cannot transform Britain’s fortunes

FT View: A grand coalition is not in Germany’s interest Without a contest at the centre, the fight risks moving to the fringe

Instant Insight: Advantage Trump in the battle over Obama’s Wall St watchdog The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is in the president’s sights, writes Edward Luce

Sluggish growth will test voters’ endurance Economic distress and appetite for risk can often prime a nation for a turn to ideology

The Uber data breach has implications for us all Europe is at a turning point when it comes to the regulation of personal details

Driverless cars may kill off the world’s deadliest invention Technology promises to free us from the human touch that has caused many deaths

EM Squared: Venezuela stakes claim as Schrödinger’s cat of the debt world Gaps open between prices of almost identical bonds in guessing game over payments

Instant Insight: Theresa May is learning the true cost of her deal with the DUP Britain’s prime minister will struggle to face down the government’s Northern Irish partners, writes Sebastian Payne

Free Lunch: Farewell Janet Yellen, and thanks The US economy misses you already

Opinion today: Get ready for the wireless wars At issue is how to calculate the value of the essential embedded intellectual property

Trump, Xi and the siren song of nationalism The two rival visions could easily lead to US-China clashes in Asia or in trade

The Big Read: Brussels rattled as China reaches out to eastern Europe Concerns Beijing’s closer ties with EU’s poorer nations will influence bloc’s policies

The magical thinking that misleads managers A handy guide to sorcery and superstitions in modern leadership

What Is Russia Up To in the Middle East? by Dmitri Trenin A timely account of how Putin’s government has played a smart geopolitical game

FT View

FT View: An inch by inch attempt to boost UK productivity A new industrial strategy is worthwhile but cannot transform Britain’s fortunes

 FT View: A grand coalition is not in Germany’s interest Without a contest at the centre, the fight risks moving to the fringe

The Big Read

The Big Read: Brussels rattled as China reaches out to eastern Europe Concerns Beijing’s closer ties with EU’s poorer nations will influence bloc’s policies

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