This is the decade when Britain faces the choice - slow death by the State, or a return to self-reliance
Britain has emerged as the biggest loser from the first decade of the 21st century.
Our standing in the world has fallen faster than at any time since World War II.
Our economy has stagnated. Almost as important, the British reputation for honesty, fair dealing and decency has taken a number of very severe dents.
All this has been accompanied by a very perturbing moral decline.
Grave: Britain faces a stagnated economy, a diminishing of its reputation and a moral decline as it enters 2010
In particular the traditional two-parent family, which more than anything else has been at the bedrock of British social and political stability since time immemorial, is in headlong collapse.
The institution was already in trouble at the start of this decade.
In 1999, just over 70 per cent of children were living with married parents. Today, that has fallen to scarcely 60 per cent, and the downward trend is deeply worrying.
Births outside marriage in 2009 stood at 460 per thousand, compared with 388 per thousand in 1999.
And, as a direct result, a lawless and amoral underclass has started to consolidate in some areas of society.
Cut off from the world of work and responsible citizenship, its existence is a destabilising social issue which poses a long-term threat to our national well-being.
The most urgent problem, however, is economic. At the dawn of the new millennium ten years ago, our nation's finances appeared to be in first-class working order.
Living standards were rising sharply, while economic growth was on a long-term upward trend.
Unemployment was low. National debt was actually being repaid to investors by a government whose finances were in healthy surplus.
All this has been thrown away.
Economic growth over the past decade has been a miserable 1.7 per cent - the lowest since Clem Attlee's Labour government of the 1940s - while manufacturing output has actually sunk by 1.2 per cent a year.
And the number of jobless is rising sharply.
Meanwhile, indebtedness, both personal and national, has soared. The scale of the problem is utterly shocking.
Consider these bleak statistics: it took more than 300 years, from the foundation of the Bank of England in 1694, for the British national debt to reach the figure of £350 billion at the start of the millennium.
During the last decade alone, it has doubled to £700 billion. And, according to official Treasury figures, it will double again to around £1.4 billion in the five years to 2014.
Not surprisingly, there are grave doubts whether Britain can pay these rapidly mounting debts.
Already, the Government has resorted, for the first time since World War II, to the short-term and dangerous expedient of printing money.
It looks increasingly likely that at some time in the next 12 months, international ratings agencies will downgrade British government bonds, opening the way to soaring interest rates and a profound financial crisis.
Simultaneously, our international standing has fallen. It is hard to exaggerate the damage the Iraq War has inflicted on our reputation overseas.
The British Army was humiliatingly driven out of southern Iraq in early 2008, thus effectively suffering its first defeat since we withdrew from Suez in 1956.
Equally grave was the damage done to our moral reputation. As a nation, we used to be hugely admired for our fairness and decency.
That has gone, thanks in part to the discovery that former Prime Minister Tony Blair misled the world about Iraq's military capacity ahead of the invasion.
More damaging still, thanks mainly to Blair's subservient relationship to the now-discredited Bush administration, Britain has been caught up in allegations of torture, extraordinary rendition and human rights abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
When Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1997, he naively promised that Britain could be held up as a gleaming example of ethical conduct.
The exact opposite has taken place, and Britain has become synonymous with illegality and state terror. This is deeply shaming.
Domestically, the story is even more depressing.
At the start of this decade, the anti-corruption monitoring agency Transparency International ranked Britain as one of the most honest countries in the world.
Last year, we had fallen to 17th, below such notoriously corrupt countries as Ireland, Hong Kong and Austria.
This is the situation that David Cameron will inherit if he becomes PM. It is very grave indeed.
In fact, I would argue the task that lies ahead for him is every bit as difficult as the one which faced Margaret Thatcher when she entered Downing Street at a time of national crisis in 1979.
She took the helm at a moment of immense difficulty, but at least the problem was there for all to see: the bloated state and grotesque power of the trades unions and their obstinacy and intransigence in resisting change.
For Cameron it is more complex. New Labour brilliantly used the capture of political power in 1997 to establish the dominance of the liberal Left across vast swathes of public life.
It now has key placemen and women in the civil service, the voluntary sector, the legal profession, the arts world, the intelligence services, the BBC and the quango state which has passed outside democratic control and yet controls so much of our public life.
These quangos are run, almost without exception, by New Labour placemen.
This new ruling class shares one embedded assumption: that only the British state can solve society's problems.
It is bitterly hostile to independent institutions - above all, the family - which lie outside the scope or control of government.
It believes that only massive and centralised spending, controlled by the new political elite, can ever be the answer to the nation's problems.
This disastrous misconception has been responsible for the explosion of big government, with all its malign consequences, over the past ten years.
Indeed, nobody can understand the course of the past ten years without grasping one truly horrifying financial statistic: government spending as a percentage of gross national product has risen from 38 per cent in 1999 to 48 per cent last year, and according to Treasury figures is set to rise much further.
Nor is that all. The appalling increase in government spending has been accompanied by a grotesque escalation of state bureaucracy.
Small businesses in particular are dying on their feet as a result of a giant increase in regulation, some imposed from Brussels, some home grown in Whitehall.
Tolley's Tax Guide, to give one small but extremely significant example, has more than doubled in size since 1997, the year Labour came to power.
So as the second decade of the new millennium gets under way, Britain faces a choice.
We can pursue the failed pro-state policies of the past decade, with the resulting extinction of the entrepreneurial spirit that creates national wealth.
Or we can roll back the state and try to restore that spirit of freedom, self-reliance and aspiration that together provided the foundation of our national fortunes for so many hundred years.
If David Cameron sets out on that essential, yet desperately difficult task, he will deserve the support of all of us.
Hypocrisy of a weakling Foreign Secretary
For the past ten years, Britain has been subservient to China.
When the Chinese state police massacred hundreds of ethnic Uighurs during riots in the north-west of the country last year, we did nothing.
We have failed to give more than token backing to Tibet as China steadily extinguishes Tibetan nationality.
Yet last week, when proven British drug dealer Akmal Shaikh was executed for importing a consignment of heroin to China, Foreign Secretary David Miliband unnecessarily called in the Chinese ambassador to protest.
Miliband's values are all wrong. And if he is genuinely angry about the Chinese treatment of Shaikh, then why does he do nothing about the continued United States persecution of British computer hacker Gary McKinnon?
McKinnon's mental problems are far better documented than Shaikh's, while his crime of computer hacking is far less serious than heroin smuggling.
Yet the Foreign Secretary has not dared to utter a word of protest to the U.S. government, let alone haul in the U.S. ambassador for a richly deserved dressing down.
I spy a mystery
Last week, I asked Gordon Brown yet again to withdraw his effusive words of praise for trade unionist Jack Jones in the light of 2009's revelation that Jones had been a paid Soviet agent for many years.
And yet again he has refused to do so.
This is mysterious and I will be looking much deeper into old Labour's connection with Soviet communism in the weeks to come.