Molly Guinness

Clacton to Ukip, Britain’s anti-politics were long in the making

Talking to people in Clacton-on-Sea this week, there was a sense that, as much as they thought there were too many people in Britain, they felt politicians had it too easy. Over and over again people told me that MPs in Westminster didn’t understand working people. Politics is becoming less about policy and more about empathy; voters just don’t want to be ruled by aliens. In a famous article in 1955, Henry Fairlie described the chasm between the aliens and normal people:

I have several times suggested that what I call the ‘Establishment’ in this country is today more powerful than ever before. By the ‘Establishment’ I do not mean only the centres of official power—though they are certainly part of it—but rather the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised. The exercise of power in Britain (more specifically, in England) cannot be understood unless it is recognised that it is exercised socially. Anyone who has at any point been close to the exercise of power will know what I mean when I say that the ‘Establishment’ can be seen at work in the activities of, not only the Prime Minister, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Earl Marshal, but of such lesser mortals as the chairman of the Arts Council, the Director-General of the BBC, and even the editor of The Times Literary Supplement, not to mention divinities like Lady Violet Bonham Carter.

More recently, Peter Oborne argued that the Establishment had been replaced by something worse:

Members of the Political Class, even when they come from apparently rival parties, have far more in common with each other than they do with voters. They seek to protect one another, help each other out, rather than engage in robust democratic debate. This is why the House of Commons is no longer a cockpit where great conflicts of vision are fought out across the chamber.

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