Tony Blair is now almost universally being blamed for the crisis of confidence and faith in the British State that commentators have alleged is arising from the Iraq War. But is that really fair? Even without the war, wouldn't Britain have been spectacularly bad at living up to its democracy?

Seventy Eight per cent of the electorate did not vote for its government. They voted for someone else or not at all. The electoral system has consistently forced voters into a position where they have to accept what most did not want. Fifty two million of Blair's fellow citizens in England are essentially governed by a majority of just over five million scots. Judges and lawyers are now asserting that they and the European community--both of which institutions are unelected--are able to challenge parliament; and people who sit in the legislature sometimes appear to have bought their place. The members of the parliament who are elected are drawn largely from the political science departments which produced unrounded and often otherwise unemployable people; and the economy is now so intertwined with that of the United States and the EU, particualrly when it comes to defence procurement and finance, that it is difficult for any British leader to govern with any degree of independence. Even had the world been one in which plain sailing was to be had all round, rather than one characterised by energy neurosis, islamofascism and neoconservatism, any leader with those stats would have faced a suppressed public crisis of faith.
But no one wants to know about this sort of thing because it cuts to the heart of the legitimacy of the state. Unreported, the situation is distorting the public atmosphere, and pressures are releasing themselves eleswhere and in increasingly angry, alienated, or bizarre ways. This country needs a democratic audit. It needs to pay off debt, and free itself from bond traders. It needs to federalise itself, and to change its electoral system before it ends up with mad regional coalitions of parties which do not talk to half the country. It also probably needs some constitutional document to place a renewed Parliament at the centre of a renewed politics, national and local.
There are plenty of examples of countries which can do this after all, big and small. Australia and Jersey seem happier places, for example. If Blair wants to avoid the worst failings of a mix of Holland, Canada and the USA with none of the advantages of those places, and to recover a little of the grace and elan which was his before his wartime troubles, he should begin a national debate on these issues at once. After all, he is about to leave office; what has he got to lose?


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