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How They Broke Britain, by James O’Brien

Terry Kemple is a retired GP living in Bristol. He has various roles promoting greater sustainability in general practice. He is a past President of the Royal College of General Practitioners. He is on X: @TKemple

Dissatisfaction with our national services is high and the public’s trust in our politicians has never been lower.1 So many services that we used to take for granted such as easy access to good quality NHS general practice almost seem broken beyond repair. The list of essential services that have serious problems is long and growing. The country seems to have fallen into a steep decline. Planning for the future to cope with major challenges like climate change seems poor.

James O’Brien is a writer and broadcaster and hosts a popular daily current affairs programme on LBC radio. He chooses ten influential individuals with their facilitators and allies to blame for the current dismal state of the nation. Not all are well known. The named include Rupert Murdoch, Paul Dacre, Andrew Neil, Matthew Elliott, Nigel Farage, David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn, Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. He explains how he believes they broke Britain with their mix of arrogance, incompetence and cronyism. He details how they influenced the loss of honesty and integrity in the worlds of politics, media and wealth; and allowed too many other individuals without calibre or competence to rise to the highest offices in the land.

It’s unusual and either brave or foolish to cite prominent and powerful individuals as personally responsible for the nation’s decline.

It’s unusual and either brave or foolish to cite prominent and powerful individuals as personally responsible for the nation’s decline. He describes this as a ‘…tale of loss and betrayal; of unbridled arrogance; unchallenged ignorance; of personal impunity; warped ideology and political incompetence’. He wants to identify the people and organisations that sometimes by accident and sometimes deliberately set the UK on a course of unnecessary decline and international diminishment. This is his charge sheet against them: a compendium of poor behaviours and bad actions. It’s an attempt to record and explain the creation of a culture in which dishonesty flourishes and the facts wither.

It’s not an exhaustive account of their actions. There seem to be plenty of referenced facts that implicate all these political, media and think tank individuals and their associations with each other. The scandalous episodes reported will frequently prompt memories of many more wrongdoings. The conspiracies of silence about all their labyrinthine links, social connections and rampant cronyisms in our corridors of power are exposed in O’Brien’s account.

The evidence of arrogance, incompetence and cronyism reveal enough for the reader to see more clearly the who, what and why behind many of our national misfortunes.

It’s an angry book. O’Brien writes this book partly as a review of the facts for himself so that he is confident in his radio show and journalism and so that he avoids misremembering and inadvertently committing slanders and libels. The book is an attempt to collect as much proof as he can for his own peace of mind and to offer an explanation of how it all happened. O’Brien believes all his named individuals have made big contributions to the denigration of the nation. They are portals into their wider world, where we can understand how they broke Britain.

The evidence of arrogance, incompetence and cronyism reveal enough for the reader to see more clearly the who, what and why behind many of our national misfortunes. It’s an angry book. The author frequently uses pejorative adjectives to describe his villains and their accomplices. All the facts about the many bad actions caused by the ten accused and how they happened can make the reader feel angry about what has happened and that bad actors succeeded in diminishing the nation with impunity.

Importantly the book links the many revolving doors for cronies that can take individuals back and forth from think- tanks to media to politics. When the existence of all these doors and how they work at our expense for the great (but not so good) is revealed, it is like confirming the Wizard of Oz is really humbug.

After giving us an exhaustive list of bad actions by bad actors O’Brien offers no solutions. We can only hope that the next UK government, whatever its politics, can make a fresh start, bring back trust, and repair our national services.

Featured book: James O’Brien, How they broke Britain, WH Allen, 384 pages ISBN 978-0753560341, Hardback £20, Paperback £10.99 (with new material), Also available for e-readers and as audiobook.

Deputy editor’s note – see also : https://bjgplife.com/the-political-determinants-of-health/ , https://bjgplife.com/how-westminster-works-and-why-it-doesnt/ , and https://bjgplife.com/book-review-why-we-get-the-wrong-politicians-by-isabel-hardman/

Reference

1. https://natcen.ac.uk/publications/bsa-41-damaged-politics accessed [14/6/24]

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