Jeremy Paxman has an excellent piece in The Sunday Times today condemning the House of Lords. But, sadly, it is not only the Lords that makes Britain look preposterous. The Lords is a Wodehousian world of nonsense behaviour, ludicrous dress and hubris. If it didn’t exist you’d be hauled off to the funny farm if you suggested it should be created. Rightly.
But the Lords, venal though it is, is just one manifestation of a nation that eventually decided that the best way to replace the lost Empire was to send in the clowns. We have had brief periods post war when it looked as if we knew what we were doing. But mostly we’ve blundered along in a thick haze of sentiment and confusion.
Our electoral system is one of the least democratic in the free world and vast numbers of voters cast their vote knowing it won’t count. Patronage is used to reward whoever the Prime Minister wants to – not just with ermine but with Government contracts.
Our educational system favours those with money and discriminates against the children of the poor The difference in attainment between wealthy and poor students has been reported as up to 40% and the figure is growing. Some Conservatives like Jacob Rees-Mogg hail the proliferation of food banks as an achievement…
Our healthcare system is a classically British mix of underfunded lack of grip and structure and sentiment where clapping on our doorsteps was supposed to compensate for low pay, budget cuts and lack of fitness of purpose. Even in rich areas let alone behind the red wall.
And then there’s Brexit…🙀 As the FT puts it “ Boris Johnson cannot escape the costs of Brexit”. But the Chancellor can ignore these costs completely in his delusional Budget statement.
PG Wodehouse was a gentle soul who smiled at the fact that Britain had pig-loving buffoons in the House of Lords and that the Establishment was full of Eggs, Beans and Crumpets running things from their Clubs. I doubt that he’d be so sanguine today about how far we’ve fallen. A toxic mix of venality, stupidity, corruption, vanity and greed has reduced Britain to pariah status. It’s not funny any more.