2024, by Robert Durward

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Fools often think that they can get something for nothing. Unfortunately a large number of our politicians agreed and decided to make their fantasy come true with public money. They thought all that was required was to harness the infinite power of wind, water and plant life. A concept so simple you have to wonder why it had not been done before. But of course it had and many centuries ago at that. The first recognisable windmill was produced two thousand years ago by a Greek known as Heron the Engineer; water power is even more ancient and goes back to the sixth millennium BC and the first patent for wave power was filed by a father-and-son team in Paris in 1799. The history of tidal power goes back as far as 900 AD.

Robert Durward was a Scottish businessman who had made a fortune in pink gravel. He had firm political beliefs, including that the traditional UK political parties are running out of steam and failing to connect with citizens as once they did (incontrovertible) and that he had the answer to reshape society (more questionable). Fate threw us together for a while in 2017, and we met in person once and had a number of conversations by phone and email. Unexpectedly, he died early in 2018 and our association came to a end.

This brief book, published early in 2017 before I got to know him, is a projection of how British and indeed global society will, in the next seven years, inevitably overthrow the current institutions of government, especially the existence of political parties, and create a utopia of a new world order. I have to be honest: it’s not terribly good. Wells did it better in The World Set Free. I’ve argued with idealists on both the left and the right about the role of political parties in any governance system (whether or not they are democratic) and I tend to think of them as a cultural universal.

So I think 2024 in our timeline is unlikely to work out as Robert Durward predicted (and in fairness, he was offering a vision, not a road map). But you can get it here.

This was the non-fiction book that had lingered longest unread on my shelves. Next on that pile is Many Grains of Sand, by Liz Castro.