After first reporting on the book here, I have finally returned to read it in detail; it is Cromwellian:
‘I find the country bleeding, nay, almost dying,’ Oliver Cromwell told MPs in 1644. what made him angry was not simply that people were suffering, but that Parliament was part of the problem. ‘The People are dissatisfied in every corner of the Nation,’ he raged, ‘all men laying at our doors the non-performance of these things that had been promised’.
Today, people are not so much dissatisfied as fatalistic. No one expects any party to cut taxes, make public services work for their customers, reverse the flow of illegal migration or restore Britain’s independence. Voters half sense that some politicians would like to do these things; but they know in their bones that the system is loaded against reform. ‘Nothing ever really changes,’ people protest; and, in a sense, they are right. Elected representatives have progressively ceded their powers to self-interested and inert bureaucracies – in Brussels as much as in Whitehall. With the best will in the world, there is remarkably little that politicians can change. Small wonder that fewer and fewer people vote: as matters stand, abstention is a rational decision.
Things don’t have to be this way. Other countries give meaningful power to their citizens, both as consumers of government services and as voters. In Britain, too, the rise of the quango state and the decline of Parliament are relatively recent phenomena. What’s done can be undone.