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New Left Review I/191, January-February 1992

Robin Blackburn

The Ruins of Westminster

Britain, or the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as it is still officially known, resembles an ungainly, dilapidated, half-refurbished Victorian pile threatened by the simultaneous onslaught of subsidence, storm damage, woodworm and dry rot. [*] This article is based on a paper submitted to the fourth annual conference of the European Reviews Network held in Brussels on 3–5 December 1991. This year brings an election that could be dangerously inconclusive and that is certain to further encourage Scottish separatism. The distortions of the traditional system of constituency representation are now less acceptable to a public also increasingly sceptical as to the competence of politicians and the fair working of the legal system. Meanwhile, the inexorable advance of European unification undermines the authority of Westminster and Whitehall, and demands clear choices. The gathering storm clouds of an international recession will test and trouble all the major capitalist states, but will hit hardest at those economies that, like Britain’s, are enfeebled by the neo-liberal experiment in deindustrialization and social neglect. Britain’s ruling institutions have weathered many storms before, because they have been able to draw on reserves of popular respect.

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