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The British Leadership Disease

LONDON – Ethical political leadership is in short supply worldwide, from the United States to Turkey to the Philippines. But perhaps the most striking instance of dishonest leadership has been in the United Kingdom, where the Brexit referendum and its aftermath have caused more instability than Britain experiences in a typical decade.

In just the first couple of weeks after the referendum, David Cameron, the prime minister who brought about the vote, resigned, and his Conservative successor, Theresa May, appointed a new Cabinet. Though some of the Brexiteers – most notably former London Mayor Boris Johnson – are now in the government, none of those who led the campaign to leave the European Union are ultimately responsible for carrying it out. May herself supported the “Remain” campaign.

Meanwhile, the opposition Labour Party has fallen into disarray. Almost the entire Shadow Cabinet has resigned, having lost confidence in party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and efforts to challenge him have been exceptionally acrimonious, with Corbyn supporters even throwing a brick through the window of one of his rivals' constituency office.

And the post-referendum turmoil runs deeper. The number of reported hate crimes since the referendum has soared by 500%, amid a lowering mood of social, political, and economic uncertainty and discontent. More than £100 billion ($131 billion) was wiped off the FTSE 100 in the first ten minutes of trading after the result was announced, while the pound has plumbed a 35-year low against the US dollar.