British Politics: The Big Reset?

We discuss whether British politics is about to undergo a fundamental shift. Are we seeing a new role for the state? Have the lines between the parties started to blur? What will be the long-term consequences of the economic decisions taken in the last few weeks? Plus we explore whether the crisis points in the direction of more democracy, less democracy or a different kind of democracy. With Helen

Thompson and Tom McTague of the Atlantic.


Talking Points:


The government has taken on both new powers and new responsibilities. For now they are in tandem. But will that last?

  • The role of the state has come to the fore. 
  • Some states can’t keep their citizens safe. Others can, but perhaps at the expense of privacy or other individual liberties.


The state has always had coercive power, but the state has not always acted as finance or employer of last resort. 

  • Can the state retreat from this kind of economic responsibility? 
  • This crisis means something different for those who have secure employment and those who do not, at least in Britain.
  • There will be a contested politics around who the state acted to protect economically. 


Has this crisis scrambled the division between the UK political parties?

  • The Labour and Conservative bases are experiencing the crisis in different ways.
  • Labour’s base is younger and more urban.
  • Rural people are more insulated, but older people are more vulnerable.
  • Younger people are more comfortable with government intervention, but they also may need the government to open sooner.


Some people will want ‘normality’ back; others might not. But normality isn’t coming back.

  •  What does it mean to live in the world with a significant threat of disease?
  • There are no good choices available politically.
  • Distributional economic questions will be at the fore.


How does Britain open up again? 

  • Starmer is pressing for more parliamentary scrutiny. 
  • Right now democracy is reduced to its bare bones: what comes next?
  • This crisis has featured authoritarian decision-making by executives, informed by experts. And these decisions have been broadly accepted.
  • Broadening out the executive decision making may also be important.
  • Boris is incredibly dominant over the Conservative Party and the cabinet. When he comes back, we’re likely to have a ‘foot-to-the-floor’ Johnson government.


Mentioned in this Episode: 


Further Learning:


And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking


 

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