Pro-Brexit campaigner
A Pro-Brexit campaigner waves a flag outside the Houses of Parliament in London | Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg
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British Prime Minister Theresa May has not yet recovered from the disastrous vote on her Brexit deal in the House of Commons.

The latest news from the once “greatest empire” is that May might be planning to delay the voting on Brexit to the very last minute.

A study published by researchers at the London School of Economics shows that uncertainty caused by Brexit has increased the UK’s investments in the EU by 12 per cent. Firms are already acting on their contingency plans and moving their production out of the UK.

With less than 50 days remaining for the Brexit’s 29 March deadline, there is no clear sense of where things stand.

Given such circumstances, it begs us to ask, where did the UK lose the plot? Moreover, what is wrong with the British political system?

#1: The education system

A few years ago, an editor at The Guardian quipped on Twitter that the problem with the British political elite is that the entire crop comes from two universities and 20 private schools.

Indeed, a telling long read on the famous “PPE (philosophy, politics and economics)” undergraduate degree at Oxford, opens by stating exactly how – A leader of the Labour Party released the manifesto. This manifesto was analysed on BBC by the channel’s political and economics editors and the director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, and criticised by the Conservative Party Prime Minister.

What was common among all of them? They had all pursued the Oxford PPE programme.

Political theorist Helene Landemore argues that having cognitive diversity in a political system can lead to smart decision-making even if everyone is of an average intellect.

The British seem to have completely missed out on this idea.

#2: Britain’s opportunistic political elite

A few weeks ago, in a scathing piece, Financial Times’ Edward Luce said, “If ever an ancien regime earned its place in history’s dustbin, it’s Britain’s ruling class.”

He goes on to describe the UK’s political elite as a “shape-shifting”, entirely opportunistic class.

For a country that once ruled the world and worshipped the idea of national interest, the current generation of British MPs has absolutely no regard for it.

It is a no-brainer that the UK will be way better off inside the EU. But regardless of such simple truths, the “Brexiteer lot” continues to peddle fantastical ideas of British greatness outside the EU.

It is beyond comprehension that some of the UK’s political elite continue to believe that they still live in Victorian England, and every single country is aspiring to strike trade deals with the UK.

As Dean Acheson, a former US secretary of state, put it in 1962: “Britain has lost an empire but not yet found a role for itself.”

The search continues even today.

#3: The British party system makes no sense anymore

Half of Conservative MPs are “Hard-Brexiteers” and the other half, “Staunch-Remainers”. The fact that this is the ruling party of the day makes any kind of political settlement regarding Brexit extremely difficult.

It needs to be noted here that, back in 2016, the then PM David Cameron held the Brexit referendum just to pacify the “Hard-Brexiteer” crowd.

And how he failed.

On the other side, Jeremy Corbyn has destroyed Tony Blair’s “New Left”, effectively ensuring that the Labour Party moves towards Hard Left. Blair had ensured that the British Labour Party move to the centre and accept some form of market capitalism mixed with welfare policies.

Corbyn wrecked that centrist consensus.

And squashed between these two, the Liberal Democrats have completely ceded their space. Going ahead, its political future is highly uncertain.

#4: The tabloid culture

Britain is a place of strange contradictions. Many argue that news outlets such as The Economist, Financial Times, and the BBC continue to be the greatest sources of British soft power in the world.

So, on the one hand, Britain boasts of some of the most revered news organisations, while on the other, it can be blamed for inventing “fake news on a mass scale”.

British tabloid journalism is the worst of its kind in the world. These tabloids have complete disregard for facts, and continue to propagate xenophobia and faux revisionism to the British public.

High consumption of tabloid news was one of the major factors that are said to have led the majority of the UK population to vote in favour of Brexit.

Further Reading:

Britain’s shrivelled political elite, Financial Times

PPE: The Oxford degree that runs Britain, The Guardian

The tabloid century: how popular papers helped to define Britain, The Guardian

For ThePrint's smart analysis of how the rest of the media is doing its job, no holds barred, go to PluggedIn


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