Exclusive ‘Broken’ state of affairs: UK crumbles under pressure of tradition, says Alun Drake

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The increase in the number of people using food banks, the current state of affairs at the National Health Service, heightened pollution, compounded by a dysfunctional political system all have turned the UK into a “broken” state, British author Alun Drake told Al Arabiya English.

Speaking to Riz Khan, the author of ‘Fixing Broken Britain,’ said “I don’t think there’s any other way to look at it [other than as] broken Britain.”

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Drake builds on his experience living outside of Britain, like in France, where quality of life conveniences like prompt access to healthcare and a well-connected public transportation network, is ahead of a similarly wealthy country like the UK.

“…when it comes to, particularly, transport and health, there’s no comparison between the two countries,” he said. “…it was a sense of frustration that grew over the years that Britain was not progressing as it should for quite a wealthy economy in the world. And I guess Brexit was the last straw, because it’s affected my life directly,…” he added.

Compounding these commonwealth issues are the politics of the country and the spaces that politicians occupy, both of which Drake said are dysfunctional.

From the design of The Palace of Westminster which he called “not a democratic venue in a sense” to the risk of “sewage-ejection system exploding,” he said that the workplace for politicians is “not very functional.”

The Palace of Westminster is the meeting place of the parliament, and includes the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Lying beside Big Ben, it carries significant historical significance and attracts a large number of tourists.

“I think is the design of this place, which is originally a palace, it’s not a democratic venue in a sense, by definition…” Drake said. “…the whole design of the House of Commons at Westminster is confrontation and winner takes all. So, it’s not about collaboration and cooperation. It’s about one party lording it over the other parties,” he added.

Attachment to tradition, privilege and class

Drake linked the steady downtrend in the UK to the ruling class’s attachment to tradition, privilege and class.

“I think the British are peculiarly attached – and especially of the ruling class in Britain – to tradition and privilege and class. And I think that because things have been this way for so long, there’s a reluctance to challenge them because of a fear about what might happen if we change one part of the system,” the author said.

“I also think it has something to do with the fact that the UK has never been invaded for so long and therefore it’s never had to change through a kind of - through domination of a foreign power and there’s never really been a revolution in the UK in the French sense of the revolution. So, the ruling class has been and the ruling traditions have been - able to carry on without being challenged,” he added.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer was elected as the British Prime Minister on July 5 after 14 years of Conservative rule, ending with Rishi Sunak.

The landslide victory, celebrated by many still does not translate into enthusiasm for Starmer or his party and their policies. He has committed to not raising taxes for the working class while also facing pressure to find a solution for the looming migrant crisis, having backtracked the earlier government’s Rwanda policy.

It is not clear whether Starmer will be able to exact change in the UK, whose population has for some time been carrying the burden of tradition, privilege and class over other more present factors.

Additionally, the lack of a codified constitution in the UK, which instead works on a system of written and unwritten agreements, allows constant changes to the laws because it is not formally entrenched.

Drake said this lack of “hard and fast rules” can lead to “major disruptions.”

“The problem with the British system is that it’s an uncodified system. There are lots of pieces of paper around, but there are also lots of conventions... and these are things which depend on people’s goodwill and good behavior and, we’ve seen, over the last ten years that conventions are not always observed,” he said.

“…not having a clear constitution can lead to some quite major disruptions in the country because you simply haven’t written things down in a clear way, like an instruction manual,” he said, citing the example of the Brexit vote requirements.

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