During a coffee break on Tuesday morning I pondered on the state of the nation (as you do) and let loose this verdict on X (the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, the name I still prefer to use) where I have 1.2million followers:

‘The UK is drifting, unhappy, losing faith in previously respected institutions (like the police), buffeted by extremists (often allowed to run amok), dismayed by decline, angry at the inability of the political class to do anything about it, despairing that the Westminster politico/media bubble pursues an agenda, issues and priorities (look at the obsession with Lee Anderson) which are not most people’s — and had enough of being lectured to by a disconnected, de haut en bas chattering class.

‘Yet we have a Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition incapable of speaking up for the moderate majority, who still have pride in their country and are desperate for strong leadership and guidance through the current morass — plus some hope/sign things will get better — all within the bounds of traditional British tolerance and fair play. This vacuum is dangerous.’

I finished my coffee, went back to work and thought no more of it. Until I returned to Twitter later that day to discover, much to my surprise, that I had ignited something of a social media explosion. It wasn’t just that the number of views was going through the roof — over 1million by the end of the day and, as I write these words, now over 2million and still rising — it was that the reaction was 99 per cent positive.

It isn’t even clear the politicians know what to do. The more the big issues are beyond their ability to resolve, the more they bury themselves in irrelevances, writes Andrew Neil

It isn’t even clear the politicians know what to do. The more the big issues are beyond their ability to resolve, the more they bury themselves in irrelevances, writes Andrew Neil

I am regularly trolled on Twitter by the disgruntled far Left (and a few on the nasty Right too). It’s water off a duck’s back to me and it can be quite amusing, teasing them before muting or blocking them. A handful of them did respond to my tweet, negatively of course, but they were overwhelmed by a veritable avalanche of support.

‘Hear bloody hear.’ ‘Nailed it.’ ‘Spot on.’ ‘Summed up my feelings to perfection.’ ‘On point 100%.’ ‘You captured what so many of us feel.’

That’s just a small but representative sample of a huge and hugely positive response. I’ve never known anything like it.

Clearly I had struck a chord — more than I’d ever anticipated. It’s worth delving deeper into why.

That the country suffers from something of a malaise is surely not in doubt. That millions and millions of us feel that malaise is also surely incontestable.

But what struck me most about the responses wasn’t just the anger at the inability of our political masters to deal with what ails us. It was their failure even to articulate people’s fears and concerns, never mind act on them.

After all, my tweet had offered no solutions. But it had, unwittingly, encapsulated widespread apprehension about the condition and direction of our country. For many that alone was welcome.

People are in despair at the quality of political leadership. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has many fine qualities. But an ability to speak plainly and convincingly — to articulate and empathise with our mounting concerns — is not one of them. 

Last night Sunak spoke to the nation in a belated attempt to assure us he was aware of the threat to our democracy from extremists. It was well meant but short of passion, conviction and authority — or concrete action to put the hatemongers in their place. It will not have rallied the country.

Rishi Sunak spoke to the nation last night in a belated attempt to assure us he was aware of the threat to our democracy from extremists - it was well meant but short of passion, conviction and authority

Rishi Sunak spoke to the nation last night in a belated attempt to assure us he was aware of the threat to our democracy from extremists – it was well meant but short of passion, conviction and authority

Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer is too much a prisoner of his Left-wing legal past

Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer is too much a prisoner of his Left-wing legal past

As Leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer should be better placed to speak up for what needs to be done. But he is too much the prisoner of his Left-wing legal past, too wooden and too grounded in the recherché obsessions of his North London stomping ground to resonate beyond his metropolitan core of true believers.

The problem isn’t just at the very top. In a speech to 1,400 people two weeks ago, I ventured the view that the current front benches on both sides of the House of Commons were the least impressive of modern times. The audience broke into spontaneous applause.

Such is the contempt with which the political classes are held by so many of us that a troublesome maverick like George Galloway can romp home, leaving all the mainstream parties in his wake, in the Rochdale by-election.

Who can blame people for being disillusioned? We are beset with problems on all sides yet solutions are scarce. It’s not just a failure to implement what needs to be done.

It isn’t even clear the politicians know what to do. The more the big issues are beyond their ability to resolve, the more they bury themselves in irrelevances.

Faced with a Government failing people on so many fronts, Starmer chose to devote his bit of Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday to the dodgy Right-wingers Liz Truss was mixing with in America, a matter of zero interest to anybody outside the Westminster bubble.

Having presided over a stagnant economy for the duration of his stint at the Treasury so far, Chancellor Hunt is obsessing about how to tax vaping, which is hardly a priority for a country in economic decline.

People look at what politicians argue about, often encouraged by a metropolitan media which shares the same concerns, then look at what ails them in their own backyards. The disconnect is massive.

The tax burden is at its highest since World War II yet there are more than seven million on NHS waiting lists. We spend over £50 billion a year on defence yet the British Army could not field a single fully equipped division, even though the world is a more dangerous place than it’s been for over 30 years.

Millions live on out-of-work benefits yet we allow millions more into the country to fill job vacancies. Then we fail to build houses to accommodate them, pushing up housing costs for everybody.

Meanwhile, an essentially middle and upper-middle class climate change lobby pursues its net zero obsessions regardless of costs. They can afford the higher energy prices that come with it.

So many public services have never looked more frayed. We can’t even fill potholes on the roads, writes Andrew Neil

So many public services have never looked more frayed. We can’t even fill potholes on the roads, writes Andrew Neil

Ordinary people, who’ve never been consulted on the matter, can’t. Just do as you’re told and change your gas boiler to a heat pump. And get an electric car while you’re at it.

The streets of central London are taken over most Saturdays by pro-Hamas zealots spewing out anti-Semitism and other hatreds, while the police stand idly by.

People sense a general lawlessness that makes them feel unsafe and, again, fear the police who too often just look the other way, keener to patrol social media than the tougher streets. Policing is merely the most obvious of the many public services we used to revere but now find seriously lacking.

Public spending is well over £1trillion pounds a year — 45 per cent of our annual GDP — yet so many public services have never looked more frayed. We can’t even fill potholes on the roads. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that a proper high-speed rail network or a third runway at Heathrow or an essential fleet of new nuclear power stations is beyond us.

No wonder people are angry and dispirited. Nothing seems to work any more in the country they love and of which they want to be proud.

But I believe there is something even more fundamental at work: a growing sense of unfairness, which has been brewing for some time. That those who work hard and live by the rules are no longer sure of prospering while those who already have a lot, sometimes undeservedly, seem to get more.

The problem has been festering since the Great Crash of 2008, a banking failure which blew out the financial circuitry of the economy. Economic growth has been lacklustre ever since, which has stymied the rise in living standards. Worse than that, those who caused the crash have grown richer, while those who didn’t have languished.

Average real (that is, after inflation) wages have been largely stagnant for 15 years. This has made life a struggle for the millions who live from one pay packet to the next and who have precious few assets to fall back on.

But the money-men who caused the Crash and those with ample assets have prospered as never before. Low interest rates and flooding the economy with money (known as quantitative easing) propelled assets like property and shares to record highs.

For most folks who already had some wealth, life just got better. For the many more living from week to week, it didn’t.

You don’t have to be some variety of Corbynista to see the unfairness in all of this. Hard-working people have had a raw deal for too long while the rich have got richer, often through no effort of their own. It explains the current widespread anger, even bitterness. I understand it. I sympathise with it. It is time labour had its day in the sun and capital shared more of its rewards. Fairness demands it.

A less fractured society requires it. It is how a market economy should function.

There is also a growing sense that we are once again a country in decline. I well remember when that feeling last gripped the nation: the 1970s, a time of endless crippling strikes, over-powerful union barons, antediluvian nationalised industries, insipid management and an aversion to new technology. I had a ring-side seat as a young political and labour correspondent at The Economist.

I can testify that it was the most miserable of times. I remember writing stories by oil-lamp beside a paraffin heater because the power workers were on strike. There was a growing consensus that the country was locked in an irreversible spiral of decline. The fear is that we are now in another decade of decline — and once again the political establishment doesn’t know what to do about it.

The 1970s culminated in the 1978/79 Winter of Discontent, which paved the way for Margaret Thatcher to take power and begin the long, painful but ultimately successful battle to reverse the downward spiral. Those who followed her largely built on her achievements, even those who had been critical at the time.

Indeed, standing back from the short-term ebb and flow of politics it is possible to see the three decades from 1980 as something of a golden age (certainly compared with what went before and what has come after) under successive Tory and Labour governments which, despite ups and downs and various wrong turns, presided over decent economic growth and rising living standards — and which threw off that sense of decline which has now returned with a vengeance.

It is not clear who will come to the rescue this time. Certainly not the current Tory government, which is exhausted, divided and bereft of any radical ideas to turn things round.

But Starmer is no saviour either. He doesn’t have the vision or the policies and his party lacks the competence to make a seminal difference to our current plight.

I mentioned in my tweet that these were dangerous times. In fact, the greatest danger has yet to come. That will happen after the Tories are dispatched to the wilderness of opposition but it has become all too apparent that Starmer’s Labour Party is not the solution either.

It is then that the anger and frustration might turn to the wilder voices of politics outside the mainstream, as it already has in other European countries and might well do again in America this November. The Tories in opposition may even be tempted to pander to such nefarious sentiments.

It’s not inevitable. I have enough faith in the common sense and moderation of the British people to get through the rest of what is proving to be a very tough decade without recourse to extremes. But I also fear things are likely to get worse before they get better.

The current malaise will not be easily assuaged, the widespread anger and dismay not quickly dissipated.

We face a rocky road ahead in which we will need wise heads to emerge to guide us on to better paths, wise heads which are as yet largely unknown.

Nor is the people’s patience inexhaustible. It could crack well before the decade is out, with unforeseen but probably unpleasant consequences. The next stage of British politics will not be one for the faint-hearted.

Post source: Daily mail

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