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How They Broke Britain

UK Broke.jpg

Review of Book by James O’Brien,

WH Allen, ISBN 978-0-7535-6036-5

     First things first. This is an important, well-researched book that deserves a wide readership. It is not a simple political tract. Rather, it is wail of despair and anger at the UK’s descent from the respected country we once lived in, as from 2010 onwards, and more rapidly since 2019.

     Most of us will agree with the factors he identifies for this decline. These are, primarily, the abandonment of any kind of standard by the political leadership and big media bosses, Brexit (a cuddly name for an uncuddly creation), and our mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

     The structure of his book is a longish introduction, then ten chapters where the individuals he sees most at fault are put under the microscope, and finally an afterword focusing on the hapless (but hardly faultless) Rishi Sunak, our fifth Prime Minister in six years. Personally, I’d have preferred a tighter structure based on the four factors, but I can see this would be difficult to achieve. The author leaves us the memorable image of stones on the ground which, when each is lifted, reveal not only unpleasant, wriggling creatures, but six more stones concealing yet more disgusting creatures. Structure that!


     His chapters on individuals, the heart of his book, do enable him to shine a light on the often-grubby biographies of the ten people he identifies, and to provide some fascinating anecdotes along the way. Those people include not only expected culprits like Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, and Rupert Murdoch, but also more surprising names like Andrew Neil and Matthew Elliot – the latter someone of whom I’d hardly heard before.


     The only real disappointment for me concerns his fairly brief mentions of the Covid-19 pandemic. He does talk about ‘Partygate’ and the ‘Protective Ring’ around care homes. These were indeed a disgrace, as much for the contempt towards the British people they reveal as anything else, but our whole response to the crisis was muddled and panicky.


     The onset of the disease was a natural disaster, and no politician can be blamed for it. Nor should they be blamed for the first ‘lockdown’; at that early stage, we simply did not know with what we were faced. But politicians as a breed seemed to enjoy the experience of standing behind podiums and giving instructions to everyone so much that, aided by what I believe was a suspect definition of ‘Covid death,’ they repeated it long after we became aware that we had on our hands a nasty, highly infectious and sometimes even fatal disease, not some new incarnation of The Black Death. In this, politicians were urged on by ourselves (collectively).


     Perhaps, in this instance, the title should be How We Broke Britain.

At all events, this repeated stop-go approach to life was far more damaging to society than the disease itself. (I am aware that my view here may not be the majority one). As in so many things, we are slower than most other countries to recover, because of the unfitness of our ruling classes.

How They Broke Britain
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