The British political system is a wonderful and mysterious thing. For most of my lifetime we have had Conservative governments. The received wisdom is that they are, and they certainly believe themselves to be “the natural party of government”.
Which is weird because the most cursory inspection shows that they govern in the interest of a very small minority of Brits. Any party which seriously proposes something euphemistically described as ‘trickle down economics” is sort of admitting that it is making policies which are designed for an elite.
And it has become increasingly obvious to anyone paying attention that it is normal for policy decisions to be ‘bought’ by vested interest. There are too many examples to mention, to the extent it’s surely not in doubt.
It is what Dye and Zeigler described as ‘the irony of democracy’ in one of my political science textbooks. The way, a bit like some competitive markets move inexorably towards monopoly or oligopoly, a democratic system veers uncontrollably towards rule by interest groups. They were talking about the USA in the 1980s but it is equally true today, or so it would appear.
So how is it that people vote for a government which basically screws them time after time? It can’t simply be that the comms machine is so smart it convinces them that black is white and good is bad, can it?
That’s what people said about Brexit, where Brits voted, like turkeys for Christmas directly against their own interests but that was surely also more complicated.
And why aren’t people more angry about the increasing inequality in Britain? Or the way ordinary folks are facing a cost-of-living-crisis while corporate profits are booming? Or as the Unite trade union calls it the profiteering crisis?
Well, I think I have found the answer.
As, so often, it was discovered by Douglas Adams:
“[Ford said] “.. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
“Odd,” said Arthur. “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”
“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
“But,” said Arthur, going in for the big one again, “why?”
“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in.”
― Douglas Adams, The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy