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The Daily ParadoxLeadership

The Political Centre’s struggle for survival

The British parliamentary election that swept Labour to power on 04Jul24 is more a reflection of the quirky first-past-the-post voting system than a massive swing away from one ideology to another. Britain has many problems which stem mainly from misguided beliefs that (a) Brittania still rules the waves and (b) the country is rich enough to be an almost excessively kind nation. Assumed power without participation is a myth in the 21st Century even for the United States, even for China. Kindness without discipline is a weakness at any time.

The democratic process has lagged far behind the educational, technological and informational developments that make one person one vote no longer a rational concept. This is not a new discovery. Mr Lee Kuan Yew, founding father of modern Singapore, pointed out that it was starting to happen decades ago. The only people who can change it are the politicians and today’s incumbents of most democracies are not trusted enough by their electorates to do so. It might look like just another form of gerrymandering.

Britain is not a country of extremes. Its temperate climate, beautiful landscapes, genteel culture and enchanting propensity to ‘muddle through’ has won it a reputation for moderation and somewhat bizarre common sense. Even though this is still changing, there remains a touch of Somerset Maugham and a tinkle of Noel Coward about the culture. Where else would still regard Dunkirk as a military triumph? What other country would, in 2024, elect a Knight of the Realm to head its Labour Party?

The country was changed as much by immigration as by the gradual dismantling of the old class structure, itself a result of education. As with all Western based empires, the inflow of new citizens came as much from unrelated territories as from former colonies. Initially seen as obedient workers to fill the manual jobs vacated by those who now had degrees, they quickly became part of the fabric of society. In many cases they congregated in groups around areas where ethnic and religious bodies were already established.

Little attention was paid to the proper integration of old British and new British peoples, the tradition of freedom of association and faith taking precedence over harmonious living. The common sense generosity of the National Health Service (‘free at the point of delivery’) was quickly abused as ‘I am owed this’. Bureaucratic bungling, something of a speciality in Britain’s attempt at unequivocal fairness, became rampant, causing a complexity of administration that led to ‘an administrative error’ being an acceptable excuse for incompetence.

Through all this the British way of life tried to stick to its course as firmly as a Roman Road to its destination. All of which has led inevitably to a clash of ideologies which had become regarded as rights rather than optional beliefs. The evolving language, now a mixture of Shakespeare, Singlish and South Bronx, has led to louder voices to impress ideas. Louder voices become rants and end up as violence. So sad if the Chelsea Flower Show becomes a battleground – well, it very nearly did, of course.

To reintroduce values that are being systematically lost and to persuade a whole society to adopt a more disciplined approach to life is not beyond the wit of humans but it is not easy. Sir Keir Starmer and his Cabinet have their work cut out. I think they will need to administer a major shock to the system if they are to succeed. If I were doing it I would immediately introduce a modest charge for initial medical attention. I would probably be shot dead for doing so but I would have made the point that we get what we pay for.

Even though I live 8,000 miles away from my country of origin I still care deeply about it. And I care deeply about Singapore where I have lived for half my life. But I care for neither of them as much as I care for today’s world.

Sir Keir Starmer’s message, and the message of all of society’s leaders, now must be that it is vital that we love not just one country but the whole planet.

That’s what matters.

Good morning
John Bittleston

What do you think? We would love to hear at [email protected].

Thank you in advance for your views.

08 Jul 2024