Wed 2 December 2020

As the populist Brexit surge shows, we have taken liberal democracy for granted for too long in the UK.

Promulgating obvious untruths, propounding them with abandon, boosting them online with fake campaigns, our democracy has been assaulted by those unafraid to break the rules, and our constitution, regulators and the mainstream media have all been too weak to resist them.

For example, the exploitation by Boris Johnson of the murders of the London Bridge victims – two young criminal justice reformers – was shameful, but was either ignored or encouraged by most newspapers. The Conservative Party saw fit to trick Twitter users by changing the account name of its press office to that of a fake fact-checking site during a televised leaders debate. The standards of political life have never sunk so low in living memory.

Swerving an interview with Andrew Neil, while Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson had already agreed, Johnson has kept a parliamentary report into Russian interference in the UK locked out of sight and avoids a proper grilling over his record. Although the Labour Party has faced justified scrutiny over anti-Semitism, those tasked with holding power to account have hardly mentioned the problem of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. 

As it is predominantly owned by tax-shy millionaires, we didn’t expect much from our right-wing press, and we anticipated that millions of pounds of micro-targeted, unregulated ads from shady ‘third-party campaigners’ hiding their political affiliations would swarm social media.

But what we didn’t expect was that our much-revered public service broadcaster would let the electorate down. 

Like the Trump trade deal to pillage the NHS, the BBC is another national institution whose vulnerabitilies have been laid bare by the Brexit surge of populism. Perhaps we have taken Britain’s liberal democracy for granted too long. But, now we know, we have no excuse. If we can’t expect those institutions to save us, we must save them.

And so begins a long road of reform to renovate our creaking constitution and right those wrongs so radically revealed.

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