When does the British system of government work well?

Following my critical post earlier this week, a few of you have asked me this question.  I have at least two conditions to nominate:

1. When social trust in government is relatively high, the notion of “giving one party the chance to rule” will work better.  People may disagree with policy choices made, but they won’t conclude the entire apparatus is illegitimate.  Unfortunately, the Brexit process showed that condition, for whatever reasons, did not hold.  It did hold for most of the 20th century in Britain.

2. When it is clear which reforms are needed in the system.  That was the case when Margaret Thatcher’s rule started, namely that taxes were too high, too many sectors have been nationalized, and the trade unions had too much power.  The associated solutions to those problems were not easy to pull off, but it was easy to see what they might be, at least in broad terms.  These days, one Tory PM cuts taxes and a few weeks later another Tory PM raises them.  Whichever view you think is correct, it seems the right approach is far from obvious.  And in those situations “the right to implement an agenda without many checks and balances” also is worth correspondingly less.

I don’t actually think the British should switch their system of government, as so many of the country’s institutions, for better or worse, are built around “the way things are.”  I think they need to wait until their system of government starts working better again!  Which at some point it will.  But that point is not now.


Comments for this post are closed