At Radix, we believe that many of our institutions need reform to bring them up to date with the requirements of the 21st century.
But there is a difference between reform and all-out attacks on the institutions on which our society is reliant, and which need the public’s respect if we are to maintain a cohesive and functioning society. Undermining institutions that happen to get in the way of a particular ideology or political position is the populists’ game. It undermines democracy in favour of elected authoritarianism.
Trump has shown his contempt for institutions in many ways. Filling them with political appointees and firing those who are trying to do their job in an ethical way – such as the Director of the FBI. Other proponents of ‘illiberal democracy’ play the same game. The governments of Hungary and Poland are also undermining essential institutions.
It is with some surprise and sadness that we now see this behaviour take root in the UK – a country that has always held itself out as a pillar of a well-functioning democracy. One where long-established ways of doing things, deep respect for democratic principles, and high standards of respect and behaviour mean that the country does without even needing the comfort blanket of a written constitution.
Judges have been labelled enemies of the people when they did their job and upheld the law of the land. Conservative MPs were labelled mutineers when they voted with their conscience and, in their view, put country before party. Now it’s the turn of the Treasury to some under fire because they dared to suggest that, under all reasonable scenarios, Brexit would damage the UK economy. Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg, of all people, has labelled the Treasury forecasts ‘politically motivated’. Unlike, of course, his own objections to the forecasts that are, no doubt, based on his own much more thorough economic analyses and in no way politically motivated.
It is true that forecasts are always wrong. None of us knows the future. But forecasts are not, or should not be, intended to give anyone an exact steer on the precise numbers way into the future. Rather they are an exercise that allows us to look at the drivers of future developments, to understand what makes a difference and what doesn’t, and to guide policy directionally rather than precisely.
Brexiteers like Mr Rees-Mogg reject any sort of analysis that suggests the obvious – that breaking links with one’s largest trading partner implies a hit to the economy. Some may feel that this is worthwhile in order to regain a degree of sovereignty. But it would be more honest, and command much more respect, if they came out and said that rather than taking to the language of the gutter press. The Prime Minister, meanwhile, sits by, watching the circus performances around her, unable either to direct policy or to impose any kind of order.
Brexit was supposed to be about freeing Britain to be itself. It is turning out to be the opposite. A free-for-all where long established British values and standards of civilised behaviour are daily being shredded in what has become a tragic-comedy in which a once proud and decent Tory party is the main protagonist.
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