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Why the populists failed Every society needs its elites

Bureaucracy may have saved him (PETER NICHOLLS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Bureaucracy may have saved him (PETER NICHOLLS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)


September 8, 2022   6 mins

If you want to feel a certain sense of dread, look around you, at the accumulating challenges facing Western societies, and at the leaders chosen to manage them. The archetypal, boringly competent, technocratic politician of the past 40 years stands naked, revealed as unfit to deal with the problems of our time. The clever liberal voices don’t seem that clever anymore. Their words feel emptier, and their recipes have only increased social disintegration, institutional degradation, and economic polarisation.

These days, it’s commonplace to see garlanded technocrats such as Mario Draghi leaving office in shame. The decay of liberal elites has been the central political narrative of the last decade across the West. Surely, then, the time is ripe for a populist upsurge?

And yet, while a handful of insurgent leaders and parties have reached top office promising to shake up the liberal establishment, the first wave of populist and anti-establishment governments of the 21st century has so far shown itself utterly incapable of replacing liberal elites. Tragically or otherwise, the recent ousting of Boris Johnson is the perfect example. Thanks to Brexit, Johnson had the strongest mandate of any British leader in the last half a century. To the disappointment of many, however, the incompetence of his cabinet reproduced the same vices of the elites he aimed to supplant — elites to which, it must be said, he always himself belonged.

But for all its charming British idiosyncrasies, Johnson’s rise and ignominious fall is not a drama specific to the UK but a defining feature of the first populist wave. Under this label, we can classify a diverse range of anti-establishment forces and leaders which rose to power in the period from 2014 to 2022, whether Donald Trump, Syriza, or the coalition government between the Movimento 5 Stelle and La Lega. These movements all represented different ideas and varying degrees of claimed distance from liberal power brokers, but they all campaigned under the slogan of taking power from the elites and giving it back to the people, promises they all singularly failed to achieve.

The promise and virtue of anti-establishment forces lay in their capacity to build their strength by gathering support from aggrieved sectors of the working and middle classes who felt the system was failing them. They introduced topics to the public agenda that were excluded from political debate. The new communication techniques introduced by populists disrupted traditional political parties. This ensured populist coalitions were successful election-winning machines, but governing effectively was an entirely different story. Perhaps one of the most significant traits populist governments share is that absolutely none of them actually fulfilled their pledge of rebuilding their nations anew.

The constraints of real-life governance will always water down any promise of revolutionary change. Nevertheless, the problem with that recent wave of anti-establishment governments is not that the reforms they implemented fell short, but that such reforms never even began. The first thing Trump did was to suspend the TPP and the TTIP agreements, but then his government failed to present a programme to re-industrialise America. Boris Johnson eventually got Brexit done, but his real merit was preventing Brexit from being actively undone by technocratic liberal activists. Leftist Syriza passionately campaigned against EU austerity measures but, in the end, surrendered before a humiliating memorandum imposed by the Troika. Overall, almost no remarkable policy change was delivered by any of the numerous anti-establishment governments that took office during the past 10 years.

This is because these new forces were always weaker than hysterical liberal pundits wanted us to believe. To begin with, populist platforms have often been unwieldy coalitions of the disenchanted, united around a charismatic leader and common contempt for liberal elites. Their leaders have often been excellent communicators — especially compared with the boring centrist grey men — but they rarely had deep ideas of their own. If populist governments did not deliver meaningful change, that is partly because they didn’t know what exactly they wanted to do once in power. Political opportunism may get you into office, but it can’t reform a country.

Without a clear set of ideas, populists had a hard time framing social events in ways that could break with traditional political allegiances. And once in power, sooner or later, they all withdrew to their original  ideological safe space. When BLM protests erupted around the country, Trump took a traditional Republican stand, invoking “law and order”, though until then, a central part of his discourse relied on a strong mistrust of the deep state and the security apparatus. On the Left, we have seen how Bernie Sanders, Jean-Luc MĂ©lenchon and Podemos sided once and again with the liberal centre to “Stop Fascism”. For a brief moment, it seemed possible that Boris Johnson would unleash the sovereign power of the British state towards reindustrialisation and finally lead the Tories from under Thatcher’s shadow.

Despite their use of disruptive communication and reliance on mobilised grassroots, the platforms that enthroned populist leaders were ultimately all too similar to the traditional electoral machines they aimed to confront. In the case of Johnson or Trump, they used conventional parties with almost no internal reform. Regardless of the lack of clear vision at the top, populist platforms lacked a competent, reliable line of middle-ranking officials able to translate the orders of the command staff to the tailored demands of everyday politics. History teaches us that reliable bureaucracies are the backbone of good governance. Every visionary start-up leader needs a bunch of boring Excel drones, but the boring work of government was never quite to the populist, crowd-pleasing taste of Johnson, Trump, or Salvini.

So, during their time in office, they often combined chaos and poor governance with the tendency to delegate their day-to-day responsibilities to individuals linked to the old political elites — their purported opponents. The introduction of technocratic figures with no interest in implementing the changes populists promised sucked out all transformative energy those governments might have possessed. They were like the barbarian Mongols or Manchus who conquered the Chinese empire: after some initial disruption of the system, they surrendered their hard-won power to the old mandarins. Of course, the difference is that the successful barbarian king could lop the heads of bureaucrats if they found them obstructing the advance of the new order; today, the old establishment successfully used the incompetence of populist governments to take them down. The crown changed heads, but sovereign power never changed hands.

Trapped by the system’s institutional inertia, anti-establishment governments focused on what they did best, attacking the establishment, but not on remedying its errors. Criticising the elites is both a necessary task and an enormously satisfying one. But voters who gave their confidence to anti-establishment leaders expected something more than just seeing liberal elites being owned on Twitter. They expected reformers that would govern well on their behalf, changing the functions of the state in their image. While liberals caricature populist supporters as ignorant bigots, what actually feeds anti-establishment sentiment has always been the search for a point of anchorage in a time of turmoil and the hope of good governance. And no matter how whiny and annoying they can be, elites can still, it turns out, perform far better than common citizens in the task of governance.

The endurance of liberal regimes always lay in their capacity to inoffensively integrate external pressures and to prevent any attempt to implement structural change. That’s because, as with any other successful social system, liberal regimes are sustained not only by their front-line political backers but also by an entrenched network of interests and social organisations operating outside the formal structures of governance. That network acts as a para-state, with power inside and outside the state neutralising any possible threat. That is where social elites play their essential role in sustaining even a failing system’s capacity for survival.

Any political movement aiming to deliver reforms and break with the constraints of decaying liberal systems will therefore require something more than just winning elections and producing viral memes. After gaining office, the executive action of the government will need to be supported by an external solid social coalition. This means that an alternative network of civil society organisations must have already been built, incorporating unions, intellectuals, businesses, communities, churches. This will equip the new elites with the tools to finally reform broken Western societies, while also safely accommodating elements of the old establishment without keeping them in the driver’s seat.

But in the meantime, the discontent that populist movements represented isn’t going away. In this state of permanent crisis, we will keep witnessing continuous social eruptions with strong anti-elitist sentiments: just wait for this winter when European voters leave their freezing homes to warm up the streets. Some of the new anti-establishment forces will try to recycle the old, failed populist form. Turbocharged with fiery rhetoric but incompetent at dealing with the most trivial tasks of governance, they will likely meet the same end.

Others, however, will learn the lessons of the previous populist wave and go beyond the outdated formula. This has been the historical pattern of past anti-establishment movements, from Chartism to Socialism; from the völkisch movement to the German Conservative Revolution; from the Russian revolution of 1905 to 1917; from the dispersed groups of American populism and the victims of the Great Depression to the coalition that brought the New Deal. In all of these, we can see the historical tendency to evolve from disorganised eruptions to disciplined structures, maturing from a general intuition about what is not working in our society to nuanced theories and complex doctrines, from the enfant terrible to visionary leaders and effective organisers.

Any well-functioning society still needs elites, no matter how bad they are. Populist revolts have removed the veil of liberal decadence, and our political systems have reached a point of no return. But inchoate populist rage is not enough. Whoever aspires to bring real change to Western nations must first work to build an elite class fit for the hard task of governance. As Boris learned, any fool can win power: the hard task is to wield it.


Miquel Vila is a political consultant specialising in international affairs. He is also the executive director of the Catalonia Global Institute.

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M VC14
M VC14
1 year ago

The suggestion Boris Johnson is a populist can only be willful blindness to how Johnson governed. For example, his response to the Covid crisis was to leave decision making to his technocrats. (Was the destruction of the UK economy deliberate I wonder).
Johnson may have campaigned like a populist, but he ruled like the metropolitan elite he is. Massively high immigration, green policies, and as woke as they come.
Do you really believe these policies are dinner table talk in the working class areas of the North and Midlands? Johnson’s populist credentials disappeared in a wisp of smoke within hours of his election.
He tried to implement the World Economic Forums playbook, “Build Back Better”. You can’t get much more elite than that.
The irony is Boris was the elites best bet to create the totalitarian technocracy they so desire and yet they kicked him out.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  M VC14

The author has failed to explain why the likes of Johnson – elected to form an Executive – fail to deliver. The answer is structural. There is no mention of NMIs and the creation of a permanent non elected technocratic para state first by Blair. This was a part of the EU imperial mission to diffuse power away from and so weaken national parliaments. The public health bureaucracy demonstrated who had real power forcing the limp executive into lockdowns. Boris pulled levers but nothing happened – remember? The ongoing scandal of illegal migration again sees the Executive powerless to enforce its will due to the second problem – the mass of leftist human rights and regulatory controls embedded in our laws. Together this suffocating Regulatory Blob and its laws render the 30 odd Executive around the Cabinet utterly impotent. The Civil Service is now openly hostile to any effort to destroy the status quo which has enriched the elite via a rigged property market and pauperized vast chunks of the nation outside London. So called populism is the correct educated response to a venal corrupt elite who do not even recognise the need for energy. But no one can vote out these incompetents. For the UK, read UKSSR. The parallels are there to see.

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Absolutely. And the USSA, too, squandering its money on wars and weaponry, defeated in Afghanistan, with an unreformable bureaucracy, feather-bedded arts and academic establishment dedicated to support of the regime’s ideology, show-trials of political enemies, criminalisation of opposition, mass drug addiction (fentanyl instead of vodka) – and even a delusional geriatric waxwork of a ‘leader’, Joe Biden, the west’s answer to Yuri Andropov.

Last edited 1 year ago by Peter Joy
Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

The permanent “expert” bureaucracy is not nonpartisan. The first wave of populist governments made the mistake of thinking bureaucrats would follow orders. They didn’t and won’t. Trump in particular was sabotaged completely by his own permanent bureacracy. However, I think the next populist Republican president, whoever he/she is, has the tools to make things very different.

The next Republican president should remember the Department of Justice, FBI, State Department and the Intelligence Community are all tools of the Democrats. He/she should fire everybody that the president can in these agencies on day one. Temporary caretakers can be appointed without Senate confirmation to fill crucial slots.

Security clearances are a privelege, not a right. They are ultimately controled by the president as Commander in Chief. The president can and should use clearance revocation as a tool against an entrenched leftist bureaucracy. The president should immedately suspend the security clearance of anybody even remotely suspected of leaking to the press, civil service or not.

As the head of the executive branch, the president can reassign bureaucrats. The president should reassign anybody who doesn’t follow legal orders. If the reassigned fight it, remove their duties, then string out the process as long as possible.

A Republican Congress should use reconciliation bills to cut federal head count in the Department ofJustice, FBI, civilian levels of the Department of Defense and analysis divisions of the intelligence services. The bill can allow the president to allocate the personnel cuts where he sees fit, and not according to seniority. Reconciliation can also be used to make it easier to fire civil servants for insubordination.

Agencies that are part of any “Resistance” need to downsize.

Only the shock and awe of terminations will bring the leftist bureaucracy to heel.

I’m not familiar enough with the Prime Minister’s powers to make similar suggestions for the UK. However the theme is the same. Only massive firings can scare the bureacracy into following orders. Any populist PM has to find ways to fire quite a few resisting bureacrats pour encourager les autres.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago
Reply to  M VC14

You overlook the arrival of Carrie almost immediately after his campaign phase so that the ‘ruling phase’ fell largely under her influence. For he never had a mission, a programme he wished to achieve beyond ‘getting brexit done’ so in she stepped who did indeed have a programme, but not the one the electorate had wanted.

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

Totally agree but strangely overlooked by correspondents. I’m pretty sure it was her that converted him from Climate change atheist to Climate change zealot.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Martin

The UK badly needs to legalize fracking to produce its own natural gas and oil. Perhaps Liz Truss will see the light, or maybe not feel enough heat? Probably not.

M VC14
M VC14
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

When does an eco-loon get hooked up with a populist? When he’s not a populist but a globalist.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. If you want to know Boris’ true nature check out his Dad. Another eco-loon and lover of the EU.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

It really it isn’t that hard. Fire half the civil service, put a handful of ideologically allied reformists in top roles, use an electoral mandate to unilaterally abandon sovereignty eroding membership of international conventions and organisations, cease funding your enemies immediately and begin creating a network of allies using the funds. The above could be done in six months.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

Perhaps the surge in ‘populism’ is anti-Elite-Establishment – you can argue that the Elite Establishment has run its course and a fresh way forward is desired. Unfortunately the early populists have been obliged to work with the Establishment and this has blunted their progress.
In Cliodynamic theory there is a period of around 10 years or so of chaos between the old Elite and the new Elite. The march back through the institutions takes time. Trump failed to significantly ‘drain the swamp’ because the swamp fought back. Boris did get Brexit done but the Establishment worked hard to punish him for it.
I guess that in 5 or 10 years time we will look back and wonder how the old Establishment managed to hang on so long, but until then we have to live with the chaos of change.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Yes. Maybe it’s just the beginning: clumsy and new lessons to be learned.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
rob clark
rob clark
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Trump failed to significantly ‘drain the swamp’ because the swamp fought back.”

Spot on, and the swamp is still resisting any real reform!

Andy Moore
Andy Moore
1 year ago

Note to author; Boris Johnson was not a populist.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy Moore

Why’s that?

Andy Moore
Andy Moore
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

None of his policies were populist, he didn’t change anything. He was just like previous recent PM’s, he desperately wanted the top job and didn’t have a clue what to do when he achieved that. So we were left with just the same old establishment running things.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy Moore

I don’t know enough to judge. But is his failure to hold onto the leadership proof of not being a populist? It wasn’t the people that removed him.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

But ultimately it was the people. The Tory MPs who removed him were taking decisions based on the public mood and their own judgements of their future prospects in the next election. Of course, there were many interest groups involved in removing Boris Johnson (certainly a merdia vendetta amongst them) – but the large drop in popular support in the country was almost certainly the deciding factor.
Back to the point – I don’t see any good reason to label Boris Johnson a “populist”. But I’m not sure the label has any real meaning anyway. How can one test whether someone is or is not a populist (or “fascist” for that matter) ? And what exactly is wrong with pursuing “populist” (i.e. popular with the public at large) policies if that is what the majority of people want ? Are we just looking for problems where there are none ?

Jim Denham
Jim Denham
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

“But I’m not sure the label has any real meaning anyway. How can one test whether someone is or is not a populist (or “fascist” for that matter) ? “: you mean you cannot recognise a fascist (eg Trump, Orban, Bolsonaro) when you see one? Seriously?

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Denham

You have precisely made my point. The label is almost meaningless if you can assert this as a “fact” and three other people immediately disagree. I don’t like using undefined or subjective terms.
Do feel free to let us know your definition.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Denham

Politicians and people holding different views to you doesn’t make them fascists.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

I had posted a reply to this but it disappeared.
“The public mood 
 “ is that the polls or the frightened MPs?
“Ultimately it was the people.” Hardly, if there was no vote.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Tory party members are not all of ‘the people’ but they are people and not members of the parliamentary tory party (not MPs). I read that you left out “know” between don’t and enough.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy Moore

he desparately wanted the top job and didn’t have a clue what to do when he achieved that. Yes, so said Tony Blair’s Biographer.

Andy Moore
Andy Moore
1 year ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

All PMs who came after Thatcher, have been the same.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Amazing. I get a negative vote for asking a question,

andrew harman
andrew harman
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

I advise you to stay away from the BBC HYS section – it would send you into orbit. I don’t touch it now. It is frequented by a mix of disgruntled remianers (who seek to blame Brexit for everything), liberal-left Labour partisans (who blame the Tories for everything), obtuse keyboard warriors (who just want to insult and blame anyone but themselves) and die-hard Johnson fanboys/girls who will not hear a word against their hero. They will downvote even the most reasonable and balanced comment. I actually think there are some who genuinely do not know what they are downvoting, or indeed upvoting. Pond life, some of them.

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
1 year ago
Reply to  andrew harman

Yep: that’s all the Maitlis-Packham-Lineker Broadcasting Corporation has left now.

Last edited 1 year ago by Peter Joy
David Simpson
David Simpson
1 year ago

What’s needed are to find the “grey elves” (cf Curtis Yarvin) inside the current elites – those who know the current system is broken, but who are too weak on their own to do anything to change it.

John Croteau
John Croteau
1 year ago

I can’t speak to Boris Johnson and the UK, but the US has always had elites. You can’t describe George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Ben Franklin any other way. The difference today is that America’s political elites have become corrupt, regressive, and anti-liberal in nature. Lies, gaslighting and weaponizing government against citizens has become accepted political practice. They no longer represent a government by and for the People. Trump was elected (and will likely be re-elected) to blow up and reset the Swamp. He would have made much more progress if true, Liberal elites in BOTH PARTIES united to drain the Swamp with him. Moderate Democrats could have implemented their Liberal agenda much easier if they allied with Trump – who’s NOT a true Republican – rather than the Lunatic Left. Trump would have been a passing, albeit objectionable, figure who served a temporary purpose, much like George S. Patton during WWII. Now we’re stuck with him another six years.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 year ago

I was almost worried that populism would be here to say. It turns out all elites have to do is a half way decent job and have the populace believe they care even slightly about them. If they do that, the populists will go away. That should not be too hard, right?

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt Hindman
polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

“It turns out all elites have to do is a half way decent job…”
Ah but there’s the rub. Maybe it’s time for us populists to take the gloves off.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Maybe the populists are just learning some truths. Each attempt makes them smarter and stronger. Evolution in politics.

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Exactly. In the end, these buggers either get a P45 this decade, or the guillotine some time in the 2030s. .

Last edited 1 year ago by Peter Joy
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Sarcasm?

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Honest sarcasm. They could stop populism, but that would involve changing their very nature and to stop pretending everything is fine.

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

You’d think. But they trouble is that they don’t care, and are proud of it.
The plebs are ‘deplorable’ and they openly despise them. ‘Let them eat cake’, and all that. These are not people with very much self-awareness or sense of objectivity, particularly where their own immediate interests are concerned.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
1 year ago

The alternative to technocrat is not populist. Good governance involves consent. Consent is not involve disdain of the public. It involves listening carefully, and elected officials then deducing what will work and what won’t work. The deep legitimacy of the British state was squandered by the decision to enter the EEC. Labour insisted on a referendum and parliamentary sovereignty, the heart of British identity, went out of the window: Harm was compounded by the eagerness Whitehall became a pillar of the Brussels system, far removed from the hoi polloi. That was revealed in the June 2016 vote. It will continue to be revealed until we learn again to govern by consent. So far, my judgement is that Truss has got off to a promising start.

paul clayton
paul clayton
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Story

Really? And your basis for saying so?

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
1 year ago

Arguably the populist revolt has been the most successful in Britain with a Farage led Brexit being the barometer of change.

This populist legacy was deepened by Brexit Boris which failed on the right culture left economy platform due to the incessant flanking attacks from the EU neoliberal left and the libertarian right.

However the populist revolt continues from what was a social democratic rightwing platform to a more nuanced libertarian Keynesian one where a libertarian elitist social infrastructure is more well formed.

Therefore I would wholeheartedly disagree with your analysis. British populism is alive and well. It might have been coopted by the libertarian right but they know that without the populist red wall, then their electoral chances are doomed.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Gwynne

Spot on.

Tim Luckhurst
Tim Luckhurst
1 year ago

The march through the institutions is certainly long.

John Sanchez
John Sanchez
1 year ago

An old Etonian who has been a politician at a long established political party for most of his life cannot be classified as a “populalist”.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
1 year ago

I agree with this survey: 100%.
A further thought. In the United Kingdom we have had 4 all-visibly failed Prime Ministers 2010-2022, who have left office despondently in something like disgrace – BECAUSE they and the Parliaments around them would not take account of popular discontents but simply doubled down on the old miserable economic and other nostrums of the alliance between Big Money and the Political Left which has run the western world these past 30 years.
Their parties, no less than those chieftains, have been perpetually tormented by the discontented voters.
This has been true in other western democracies.
Might not even some Occidental legislators – staggeringly unintelligent, uninformed, managerially incompetent and above all COWARDLY as they are – decide one day that actually catering to the public’s wishes would make for a much more settled manageable, even contented, professional career than the plank of anguish they nowadays perpetually walk?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Eh? This is completely wrong. The liberal elites lost when we left the EU – which was a step change or revolution – I still hear them whingeing about it every day. The liberal elites lost again when Johnson supported Ukraine – they’d rather reach a comfortable accommodation with authoritarian regimes as long as they stay off their lawns.

And with Johnson’s demise the liberal elites have, hilariously, lost yet again as net zero green policies that they love and can afford, but which everyone else pays for, are being scrapped by Truss.

The liberal elite in the U.K. are losing comprehensively. Once we get silly identity policies ruled as illegal, which is underway right now in various cases, they’ll have lost completely.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
William Brand
William Brand
1 year ago

The next populist leader will need a reign of terror to make real changes. Example the French and Russian revolution. I only hope that the blood shed is removing bureaucrats from their jobs and not from their heads as in France or Russia

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  William Brand

Is there a chain of events that leads you to this certainty? Because, obviously, this is not 1917 and nor are the circumstances similar. It does suggest that the weight of the people will have no affect. But I can’t help thinking that the constant change of leadership is a sign of political panic. Eventually it might dawn on politicians that it might just be easier to address themselves to the people.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

One of the few ” systems” in Britain that still functions is The Military, based on unabashed elites, visible rank and hirearchy, with defined executive and support functions and roles, and detailed management ” top down” orders systems…..

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
1 year ago

Not really. All three services have gone trans-rainbow mad now. The RAF is actually not functioning, the RN barely and very little is being asked of the Army at present.

Last edited 1 year ago by Peter Joy
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Joy

Spot on! Even the Army has gone to pot and not just on this ‘rainbow rubbish’, but even on tactical matters, such as fire control where we have ‘adopted’ the US policy of suppressing fire rather the doctrine of aimed shots which had served us so well for years.

One Infantry Battalion recently returned from Afghanistan having fired seven million rounds of small arms fire in a mere six months and probably hit no one! Why? Because the SA80 rifle permits it, as does the new doctrine. So much for “shoot to kill” and “ cowards shoot first” etc.

Another odious development in ‘medal inflation’ again probably by osmosis from the US. In the past, nasty yet at the same time splendid little ‘wars’ such as Palestine, Cyprus, Malaya, Borneo, Aden, or Northern Ireland earned a bar on the General Service Medal (GSM) but now ever tin pot little event gets another medal, with the result that some young soldiers look like Christmas Trees they are so over medaled.
I could go one about women in HM Submarines but it would make a mockery of the once ‘silent service’.

As for the RAF, deplorable is the only appropriate word. In fact due the impending financial crisis it should be disbanded forthwith.
More tea Vicar?

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
1 year ago

Not sure that I would agree that Trump failed to implement populist reform. He made huge strides in US foreign policy, viz. The Abraham Accords, North Korea, and cowing China, Russia, Iran. The open border was effectively closed and unemployment, especially among racial minorities, went down. He even superseded the constraints of the party he hijacked to win election. But Rome wasn’t built in 4 years, and the antagonists of this article,(liberal elites) remain strong within all parties, all over the globe.

Last edited 1 year ago by Richard Ross
Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
1 year ago

As the German political scientist Michels said: the band leader changes but the music stays the same..

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago

The overall thesis advanced here is persuasive. However, I find the argument confusing in that it almost seems to identify the scribes and mechanics who implement their orders (our civil service) with ‘the elites’ while such an identification may be common on twitter, I don’t think its what the title of the essay suggests, nor mention of Mongol chiefs as exemplars of elites. It seems to me that the likes of Boris and Trump are undone when they leave the job to those scribes and mechanics, for they want things to remain as they have always been. One then needs a separate argument to show how ‘the elites’ team up with those disobedient scribes and mechanics.

Jordan Flower
Jordan Flower
1 year ago

This is correct. Next step: read Yarvin.

Michael Parkhill
Michael Parkhill
1 year ago

Could it be the Pandemic was the undoing of Johnson? . As Parliament wasn’t sitting nothing else was done?

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
1 year ago

Populists may not be able to make governments change course, as Lipset alreay showed, but they can destroy a lot: regulatory agencies, research institutes, funding agencies, and so on. They can do a lot of damage that way.