Whatever you may think of the most influential British politicians of the last century, whether prime ministers such as Clement Attlee or Winston Churchill or dissenting intellectuals such as Tony Benn or Enoch Powell, few can doubt their depth of historical and philosophical knowledge and acumen. Naturally historians can identify many past politicians whose main focus lay in pursuing their career or representing the vested interests of commercial or aristocratic lobbies. However, today's mainstream politicians seem by comparison complete and utter amateurs, less aware of power dynamics than millions of ordinary citizens. One can probably envisage Theresa May as a parish councillor or Jeremy Corbyn as secretary of the local branch of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, but do these politicians really know more about economics, ecology, military power, social welfare, healthcare, subversion or terrorism than we do? At best our politicians are actors at the mercy of an army of advisors and civil servants playing to a crowd of wishful thinking followers who believe their anointed representatives will stand up for their electors.
We keep hearing from the establishment media that voters back populist platforms because they lack education or distrust experts. Yet experts advised us on the invasion of Iraq, on joining the Euro, on deregulating gambling and on large comprehensive schools. Luckily our political leaders ignored the experts who wanted the UK to sign up to the Euro project. Unfortunately, they heeded their advice on the other issues. The same upper middle class professionals who complain about poorly educated native Britons unable to fill high-skill vacancies also tend to support comprehensive education and then wonder why our schools fail to produce conscientious plumbers, mechanics and nurses.
The Blair era exposed the sheer vacuity of our parliamentary leaders. Only in opposition or from the back benches could the more intellectual MPs challenge the corporate elite, and usually only in guarded language or in ad hominem attacks. As soon as dissident politicians challenge mainstream propaganda or expose hidden agendas, our leading newspapers and TV channels will slander them as extremists or mavericks. What inside knowledge did Tony Blair have on Kosovo, Iraq, Northern Ireland or economics that humble citizens did not? I think it's plainly apparent to all diligent analysts that he had no special expertise on these matters and merely acquiesced to pressure from the powers that be, while trying his level best to deny that external forces influenced his government's policies.
It saddens me to note that 2016's great plebeian rebellion against corporate globalism will once again be betrayed. British voters did not reject the European Union because they loathed Europe, but because they disapproved of the kind of borderless no man's land that is rapidly transforming the social fabric of our towns and cities. Whether the United Kingdom actually leaves the EU or not may not actually matter, as Ms May and her team of overgrown teenagers will only entangle the country in another set of international treaties and free trade agreements which bind governmental decision-making to the diktat of the same transnational bodies. Some of us felt leaving the EU might enable us to build an alternative to corporate hegemony in the same way as abandoning a major supermarket chain like Tesco might enable you to embrace local farmers or independent shops. Instead our puerile leaders offer us an alternative between Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda. The United Kingdom, Ms May assures us, is leaving Tesco and will instead shop at Sainsbury's, Asda or, money permitting, Waitrose. It's like it's leaving a mobile phone contract with Vodafone and opting for Everything Everywhere instead. I don't regret voting to leave the EU, but the UK's economy depends so much on international trade and imported goods that true national sovereignty will remain elusive. To be truly independent, we'd need either a much smaller population or a much larger island to regain relative self-sufficiency in food and energy. Our only other strategy would be to emulate Japan, also a densely populated archipelago, as an export-oriented high-tech power house, but successive governments have failed to motivate enough youngsters to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I'm not sure how long the EU can last in its current guise as Eastern European countries reject mass migration and Southern Europe struggles with debt and mass youth unemployment. I suspect that the EU's strategic importance will wane as the balance of power shifts away from North America and Europe to China, India and Russia.
As editor of the Spectator, Boris Johnson occasionally expressed his penchant for snide remarks and critical thinking, going so far as criticise Tony Blair over his handling of the Iraq war. Within hours of attaining his first Cabinet post as foreign secretary, he fell into line with the Anglo-American foreign policy establishment hailing the White Helmets as nonpartisan rescue workers and amplifying anti-Russian propaganda. Meanwhile the Chancellor of Exchequor, Philip Hammond, exhibits the same degree of economic prudence as Gordon Brown, racking up the nation's debt in the name of growth. The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, appears powerless to tackle a breakdown in social cohesion caused by fragmented communities, but is only to keen to empower the police and social services to spy on the citizenry.
Things look little better on the opposition benches. The SNP, Labour modernisers and the sole Green MP are eager to back the Europan Commission against the interests of the UK at every juncture, while urging the government to boost spending on welfare and relax immigration controls. Seriously, some MPs seem much more concerned about the rights of EU citizens who have moved to the UK over the last 20 years than of their unemployed constituents born in the country. Parliamentary debates have descended to virtue-signalling about our hardworking neighbours from other European countries and the lack of mental health services for our neighbours born in the UK. Has anyone wondered why we can no longer persuade our youngsters to train as nurses or drive buses in London ?
Don't Believe in Conspiracies!
To keep alive the illusion of democracy, our politicians have to pretend they are merely negotiating with other global actors on our behalf. If we can't quite get our way, it's because we had to make a compromise with our international partners, who promptly tell their people the same fable. It's the same everywhere. Most ordinary people are smart enough to realise they cannot aspire to higher living standards without playing an active part in wealth creation. Translated into English this means most people still want to be able to earn a decent living and may reasonably expect their government to facilitate rather than hinder their endeavours. As long as Western governments could deliver prosperity and relative social cohesion, we had the illusion of choice between rival political factions. However, as real power migrates to unaccountable global organisations, governments can at best mitigate the side effects of policies decided in remote boardrooms and think tanks.
While Ms May's administration pretends to respect the outcome of last year's referendum, it's busy empowering the same large multinationals who wanted the UK to remain in the EU. While many voters supported the misnamed Conservative Party to defend family values and restrain the power of big government, Ms May's team has expanded surveillance of private citizens and succumbed to pressure to redefine gender identity. Just as many Americans are beginning to doubt their new President wields any effective control over lawmakers, I suspect Ms May is hostage to her corporate handlers, eager to manufacture phoney political crises over the terms of the country's withdrawal from the EU to seize more control over a weakened UK. As events in Iberia show us, Europe is far from united and currently facing one of the fastest demographic transitions since the Moorish conquest of Spain. The inescapable truth is that more interdependent we are, the less democratic control we have over our governments. The universalist left would have us believe that institutions such as the European Union could better reflect the will of the people, but which people? Those who want less centralisation and more personal freedom or those who want to milk the system?