Skip to main content

pa3556c.jpg

The Return of the Stiff Upper Lip

Normally, British politics is a ferocious sport. But the agenda articulated by David Cameron's coalition government has captured a deep, if mostly unspoken vein of popular feeling – a consensus that something has been amiss in “broken Britain,” and that something needs to be done about it.

LONDON – Normally, British politics is a ferocious sport. Its parliamentary debates are often pugilistic and personal. The British media have been described as “feral” (a word used by Tony Blair, among others). The questions asked of politicians by journalists are often so aggressive or implicitly insulting that one wonders why their recipients don’t walk out of interviews in a huff, or wither on the spot from humiliation.

But nothing has been normal in Britain of late. For one thing, there is the new coalition government – a rarity unseen since the end of World War II. Then, there are the reactions to the new government, which have been marked by a temperateness of tone that is highly unusual – and all the more surprising, given that David Cameron, the new prime minister, has not exactly been the bearer of good news.

Cameron’s central proposition is that Britain is in a state of “crisis,” and that getting through it will require fortitude and patience. In a major speech, he warned that there is “pain” ahead, and that it will be felt by everyone, as severe spending cuts will be required to bring down Britain’s massive fiscal deficit.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/9ICu5kz;
  1. haass105_Gustavo BassoNurPhoto via Getty Images_amazon Gustavo Basso/NurPhoto via Getty Images

    The Amazon and You

    Richard N. Haass

    Sovereignty entails obligations as well as rights, and where compliance cannot be induced, pressure must be applied. And though positive incentives to encourage and enable compliance would be preferable, Brazil's government is showing that there must be sticks where carrots are not enough.

    1
  2. GettyImages-1151170958 ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

    The Meritocracy Muddle

    Eric Posner

    Although populism in Western democracies is nothing new, resentment toward elites and experts has certainly been on the rise. Does this trend reflect a breakdown in the system, or a system that is actually working too well?

    7

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions