Cayman Islands, Caribbeanand International News
Saturday, Apr 20, 2024

Why Britain is broken

Why Britain is broken

The energy crisis is just part of the UK’s dysfunction, incompetence and poor planning, which can be seen everywhere.

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.”

That’s from George Orwell’s dystopian future Britain in “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” The words are spoken by the novel’s inner party inquisitor O’Brien, and they could be wryly altered to fit our times: “If you want a picture of Britain’s future, imagine waiting, unsuccessfully, for a doctor’s appointment — forever.”

While Orwell wrote his book as a warning about communism, he was also satirizing an impoverished post-World War II Britain — a land in the grips of austerity, where nothing much worked, everything smelled vaguely of cabbage, and no one could afford to do anything except get drunk.

Fast-forward 70-odd years, and the country is comparably broken. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

At least in the 1940s, the country and its leaders had an excuse: They had just fought in a world war, and by the time it concluded, Britain was barely upright, propped up by loans from the United States. But while today’s Conservative leaders blame the pandemic and Russia’s war on Ukraine for the country being called the “sick man of Europe” — and the two events have certainly contributed to Britain’s plight — much of it is the result of a deep, almost philosophical dysfunction and negligent government.

There is a long-standing policymaking malaise in the United Kingdom, which reached a crescendo under the now-gone Boris Johnson. Signs of things falling apart are everywhere — and despite the change in leadership, it looks as though they’re here to stay.

Take, for example, inflation: Inflation is high everywhere — across the Continent and on the other side of the Atlantic — but in Britain, it’s heading even higher, with Goldman Sachs warning that it could hit 22.4 percent next year. This comes after 15 years of economic stagnation — predating the pandemic or Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.

Thanks to Russia, energy prices are a large part of the soaring inflation, but Britain also failed to use a decade of cheap borrowing to invest in its energy sector. It’s committed by law to net-zero carbon emissions, but the practicalities of this have always eluded policymakers. More than half of the country’s nuclear reactors are scheduled to be decommissioned by 2025, and proposed nuclear sites, which could have supplemented the closure of coal power plants, were vetoed repeatedly in the last decade.

Writing in The Critic, policy researcher James McSweeney has detailed the horror story of Britain’s energy planning — or lack thereof. Using figures released by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, he predicts a nasty winter of demand outstripping supply: “If the wind does not blow at the right moment, there will be blackouts,” he says.

The last time Britain suffered frequent outages was in the 1970s, when the country was once again mired in political and economic turmoil. Buffeted by a currency crisis, it had to go red-faced, cap-in-hand to the International Monetary Fund for a loan in 1976. There was wave after wave of strikes, high inflation, soaring energy costs and vast unemployment. Very little worked. Refuse went uncollected, and the dead went unburied.

Jim Callaghan, the hapless Labour prime minister at the time, was pilloried when he arrived back in Britain from a summit in the Caribbean and denied there was “mounting chaos.” He said this at the time of a haulers’ strike and particularly bad weather, which added to other disruptions. His breezy dismissal was cruelly paraphrased in the famous newspaper headline, “Crisis? What Crisis?”

Led by Margaret Thatcher, the Conservatives then soundly defeated Callaghan’s Labour government in an election the following year, winning a parliamentary majority of 44.

The energy crisis is just part of Britain’s brokenness, which Liz Truss will face

Two factors that drove the hell of the 1970s are again present in the U.K. today: a shortage of power and — long banished from Britain — crippling inflation.

Largely based on the rising wholesale price of gas, energy bills are expected to triple this winter. For four years, the government’s regulator, Ofgem, has administered an energy “price cap”’ that isn’t really a cap. Nominally intended to take the edge off any price gouging or excessive profiteering by energy companies, the cap was £1,971 mid-year, and now it’s at £3,549, forecast to rise to £6,000 by spring.

If the spring forecast turns out to be accurate, the average householder will have to spend around 40 percent of their budget on gas and electricity — an almost unthinkable amount. For a pensioner on a basic state pension, things will be even tougher, at around 60 percent of their income.

But the energy crisis is just part of Britain’s brokenness, which Liz Truss — the winner of the Conservative leadership contest — will face. Dysfunction, incompetence and poor planning are pervasive — from the National Health Service to restrictions on building to the country’s airports and courts.

Here, one can wait forever to see a doctor. The number of patients who have waited more than a year for treatment has grown by 13 times, according to the British Medical Association, and the consequence isn’t just prolonged suffering but untimely deaths. And a nation in poor health has a smaller and shrinking workforce, which is also present in British government statistics.

As with other basic government services, dentistry is in a state of slow collapse also, with dentists not taking on any new patients, including children.

Meanwhile, current local authorities are unable to meet the responsibilities of municipal government. According to James Kirkup, director of the Social Market Foundation think tank, over 90 percent of crimes aren’t being solved, and financial fraud is rampant and unstoppable. If someone drains your bank account, it’s not necessarily worth your while to call the police, he said.

The breakdown of Britain’s largest aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales — which was meant to set off for a four-month tour of North America last week — seems fitting and symbolic.

Kirkup argues, “The structural shortfall in public services arises from an awkward truth of British politics: we want to pay American taxes and expect European services.” But politics is broken too, and the hard choices that need to be made simply aren’t. Politics is now less the “art of the possible,” and more an extended game of fantasy role-play for those in power — and even for those in opposition who seek to replace them.

After returning from a visit to wartime Kyiv, Johnson sounded like the Mad Hatter in his detachment from reality, writing, “We have made the long-term decisions — including on domestic energy supply — to ensure that our bounceback can and should be remarkable and that our future will be golden.”

And while Truss has at least acknowledged that the U.K. might have some problems, she’s equally boosterish in talking up how “world-class” Britain is and will always be. Early reports indicate that her government is planning to spend £160 billion by paying most of the country’s energy bills above a certain cost. But such a policy cannot co-exist with the widespread tax cuts she had campaigned on, does nothing to increase energy supply, and will doubtless further fuel inflation.

The U.K.’s next election is just a couple years away. And if prices continue to rise, we will see strikes in every sector of the economy — rather like the 1970s, when Ted Heath’s Conservative government was paralyzed by industrial action in 1974. Calling an election on the question of “Who governs Britain?” he confidently expected the voters to decide the answer must be him. They did not.

Heath lost, and his example is one that Truss should heed — just as his fate is one she must try to avoid.


Related Articles

Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Israel: Unprecedented Civil Disobedience Looms as IDF Reservists Protest Judiciary Reform
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
Europe is boiling: Extreme Weather Conditions Prevail Across the Continent
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Italian Court's Controversial Ruling on Sexual Harassment Ignites Uproar
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.
BBC Personalities Rebuke Accusations Amidst Scandal Involving Teen Exploitation
A Swift Disappointment: Why Is Taylor Swift Bypassing Canada on Her Global Tour?
Historic Moment: Edgars Rinkevics, EU's First Openly Gay Head of State, Takes Office as Latvia's President
Bye bye democracy, human rights, freedom: French Cops Can Now Secretly Activate Phone Cameras, Microphones And GPS To Spy On Citizens
The Poor Man With Money, Mark Zuckerberg, Unveils Twitter Replica with Heavy-Handed Censorship: A New Low in Innovation?
Unilever Plummets in a $2.5 Billion Free Fall, to begin with: A Reckoning for Misuse of Corporate Power Against National Interest
Beyond the Blame Game: The Need for Nuanced Perspectives on America's Complex Reality
Twitter Targets Meta: A Tangle of Trade Secrets and Copycat Culture
The Double-Edged Sword of AI: AI is linked to layoffs in industry that created it
US Sanctions on China's Chip Industry Backfire, Prompting Self-Inflicted Blowback
Meta Copy Twitter with New App, Threads
The New French Revolution
BlackRock Bitcoin ETF Application Refiled, Naming Coinbase as ‘Surveillance-Sharing’ Partner