The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, was a sovereign state located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. The country included the island of Great Britain (a term sometimes loosely applied to the whole state), the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands.
Previously a world power, the UK had established a worldwide empire, which by 1922 held sway over about 458 million people, one-fifth of the world’s population at the time. The empire covered more than 33,700,000 km2 (13,012,000 square miles. By 1945 and despite being a victor in World War II, the UK saw her prestige damaged and the demise of the British Empire quickly accelerated.
1945, a chance wasted.
Towards the end of the war, a new Labour government came to power and the architect of this victory, Clement Attlee, came to power as Prime Minister. This new Labour Government, in recognition of the parlous state of the post war UK economy and the grievous poverty then endemic across society, decided to put in place far reaching policies designed to make a positive difference to the population;
Social Security 1945
National Health Service 1948
Town and Country Planning Act 1947; 1.25 million houses 1945-1951.
Something that appears to have escaped the scrutiny of the policy makers was the potential for constitutional reform. At this point in the UK’s history the time was probably ripe to give serious consideration to the health of the UK democratic institutions. The post war world came as a great shock to the British Establishment view of itself. Still firmly entrenched in a medieval system of Monarchy, with the attendant top down system of patronage, the British democracy was not structured to cope with the new world order. In a post Imperialist Britain, the Elite found themselves increasing under threat from forces out with their control, namely a new world order where the powerful United States exercised economic control through a predatory form of capitalism.
The following thirty years saw the UK still clinging to an outmoded political system where the Elite were increasingly seen as an anachronism, with their traditional grip on the levers of power becoming ever more threatened. With the Elite unable to profit from the opportunities that the previous Empire had delivered to them, the economy went through cycles of pain with society fracturing.
The year 1979 was a watershed for the UK. A Conservative Government came to power and completely changed the path of a hitherto rudderless country. Again an opportunity for timely constitutional change was ignored and instead a completely unexpected direction was taken.
Thatcher and the adoption of Neoliberalism.
The new Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was a disciple of Adam Smith economics but also shrewd enough to see that extreme Right Wing economic principles could be moulded to fit the requirements of the traditional British Elite. In simple terms, Mrs Thatcher sought to maintain the hegemony of the British Elite by providing a tailored economic system into which they could fit, thus preserving a social system that had, from her viewpoint, served the UK well in the past. Thus were the Elite offered a new vehicle from which to dominate the social structure of the UK. The economic system has come to be known as Neoliberalism.
Neoliberalism is a very important, yet often misunderstood concept. To give a short, oversimplified definition: Neoliberalism is a small-state economic ideology based on promoting rational self-interest through policies such as privatisation, deregulation, globalisation and tax cuts.
The UK and its Elitist Establishment now found itself immersed in a truly Global economic system. Those with an eye for the historical picture could not fail to appreciate the irony of the situation. An Elitist, top down post imperial power had reinvented itself as an integral player in an Elitist, top down post democratic world. A very brief summary of the key UK Neoliberalist events, will suffice.
• 1979-2011 (32 years): Neoliberalist Governments, both Conservative and Labour, both effectively following the agenda set in place by Margaret Thatcher. In effect a one party State, with polices enforced for the benefit of the Elite.
• Key influences & personalities: Milton Friedman, Frederick Hayek, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Augusto Pinochet, Gordon Brown.
• Origins: Started in the wake of a few relatively* minor crises (1973 oil shock, late 70s industrial unrest) with the lowest levels of government borrowing in over a Century.
• Budgetary responsibility: Only managed to record budget surplus in 17 of 32 years with a best run of 7 consecutive years (1983-1991) which was partially funded by the fire-sale of heaps of state infrastructure (privatisation).
• Government Debt: Increased levels of national debt from 43% to 164% (including bailouts 91% GDP & PFI scams 15% GDP, which are misleadingly kept off the national debt figures).
• Economic stability: A period of increasingly violent economic instability despite the end of the Cold War partition of Europe, exponential improvements in IT capabilities and the influx of cheap Asian commodities.
• Poverty: Massively widening of the poverty gap and the creation of pockets of absolute poverty in formerly industrialised areas.
• Consumer spending power: Squeezed levels of discretionary income, especially since UK Chancellor, George Osborne’s “self-defeating austerity” programme and VAT rises kicked in.
• Employment: Kept unemployment high on a long term basis, with several nasty unemployment spikes during recessions caused by the instability of deregulated markets.
• Housing: Increased levels of slum housing and increasing difficulty for working people to find access to decent housing due to unsustainable speculative house price inflation.
• Public Health: Erosion of free public health provision (dentistry & eye care), and the gradual privatisation of the National Health Service (PFI hospitals, private sector providers, 2011 Health & Social Care Bill).
• Overview: Resulted in the Neoliberal Economic Crash and “the crisis of capitalism”.
* = By “relatively” is meant in comparison to the economic consequences of the World Wars or the Neoliberal Economic Crisis.
In addition to embracing Neoliberal economics, Mrs Thatcher introduced another key element into the UK structure, intended to assist the Elite in maintaining dominance over society. In summary the traditional mainstream media was effectively absorbed into the new political economic system. The media thus became the propaganda arm for the Elite. The system, as adopted and evolved in the UK can best be summarised as follows;
Editorial distortion is aggravated by the news media’s dependence upon private and governmental news sources. If a given newspaper, television station, magazine, etc., incurs governmental disfavour, it is subtly excluded from access to information. Consequently, it loses readers or viewers, and ultimately, advertisers. To minimize such financial danger, news media businesses editorially distort their reporting to favour government and corporate policies in order to stay in business.
During this period the model was best summarised by the authors Herman and Chomsky’s “propaganda model” which describes five editorially distorting filters applied to news reporting in the UK media:
1. Size, Ownership, and Profit Orientation: The dominant mass-media outlets are large firms which are run for profit. Therefore they must cater to the financial interest of their owners – often corporations or particular controlling investors. The size of the firms is a necessary consequence of the capital requirements for the technology to reach a mass audience.
2. The Advertising License to Do Business: Since the majority of the revenue of major media outlets derives from advertising (not from sales or subscriptions), advertisers have acquired a “de-facto licensing authority”. Media outlets are not commercially viable without the support of advertisers. News media must therefore cater to the political prejudices and economic desires of their advertisers. This has weakened the working class press, for example, and also helps explain the attrition in the number of newspapers.
3. Sourcing Mass Media News: Herman and Chomsky argue that “the large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidize the mass media, and gain special access [to the news], by their contribution to reducing the media’s costs of acquiring […] and producing, news. The large entities that provide this subsidy become ‘routine’ news sources and have privileged access to the gates. Non-routine sources must struggle for access, and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of the gatekeepers.”
4. Flak and the Enforcers: “Flak” refers to negative responses to a media statement or program (e.g. letters, complaints, lawsuits, or legislative actions). Flak can be expensive to the media, either due to loss of advertising revenue, or due to the costs of legal defence or defence of the media outlet’s public image. Flak can be organized by powerful, private influence groups (e.g. think tanks). The prospect of eliciting flak can be a deterrent to the reporting of certain kinds of facts or opinions.
In the 2010 general election held on 6 May, the Conservatives won 306 seats in a hung parliament. After five days of negotiation, Cameron formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems), a hitherto obscure third Neoliberalist Party, that had been hiding in plain sight masquerading as a progressive left of centre intelligentsia.
The Cameron coalition years witnessed a continuing of the Thatcher legacy, ably supported by the Labour Party. The UK experienced the collapse of Social Morality and the further erosion of the social foundations that had been put in place by the post war Attlee administration 70 years previously.
In 2014, one of the constituent nations of the United Kingdom, Scotland, divorced, in metaphorical terms, from the UK Elitist Neoliberalist economic system that was failing the requirements of the Scottish People, held a referendum on Independence.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland effectively ceased to exist from this time.