BRITAIN should have been better placed than any other country to fight off the populist fever that is spreading around the world. The House of Commons is one of the oldest representative institutions on Earth. The country’s last violent revolution was in the middle of the 17th century. With politicians as different as Clement Attlee and Margaret Thatcher denouncing them as “a device for dictators and demagogues”, Britain avoided nationwide referendums until 1975 and has only used them three times. The British erect statues to statesmen and women in Parliament rather than to “the people”.
Yet British politics is currently being reshaped by populism. The essence of populism is the belief that society can be divided into two antagonistic classes—the people and the powerful. The people are presumed to have a single will. The powerful are presumed to be devious and corrupt: determined to feather their own nests and adept at using intermediary institutions (courts, media companies,…Continue reading