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Government and Bureaucracy

Government and Bureaucracy

The English like to believe they are ruled by consent. They have a well-developed sense of personal freedom and, whatever the realities of the situation, have to feel that they are the masters of their own fate. They do not take kindly to control of any sort and insist on the fiction that they do so only on a voluntary basis.

When it comes to bureaucracy, the English view it as a necessary evil. Their innate concern that "things are done properly" inclines them to accept yards and yards of red tape whilst their natural instinct for directness as well as their love of complaining incline them to reject it.

English bureaucracy and English red tape, like everything else English, are perceived as being the best of their kind in the world and definitely boulevards ahead of anything Europe has to offer.


Politics for the English is largely a gentle game: a rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic. Not for them the unseemly riots and histrionics of foreign parliaments.

To the English, politicians are not to be trusted. They are out for their own ends and only there to be despised. Only when compared to the politicians of other countries, and those of Brussels in particular, do they have any saving graces.

Nevertheless, when it comes to General Elections, many English men and women turn out to vote as a matter of course. Most of them vote according to family traditions but a few occasionally change horses which keeps everyone in government on their toes for a few weeks.

Deep down the English are a conservative bunch and do not like change, which is just as well because they seldom get it.

In the Mother of Parliaments at Westminster (in a building designed in the last century to look five hundred years old) English politicians carry on their business with much historical pageantry and partially in period costume. Continuity and pugnacity mingle here too as witness the recent reincarnation of Boadicea - Warrior Queen of the Iceni - who made the fatal mistake of going one confrontation too far. For, as every English person knows, it is not only "all for one" but also "one for all". English solidarity finally finds the English back-to-back looking outwards. Rather like musical chairs, you must not risk ending up outside the circle.

When it comes to the home front they recognise the overwhelming danger from outside which always threatens to destroy their way of life. Cold shoulder is fundamentally to cold shoulder even across political divides.

It is this common sense of the threat from over the sea that has been responsible for the fact that there has never been a unified English revolution. Even when everyone else in the world was having one, the English resisted it. Revolution, then as now, would have meant backs being turned on the Channel with the certainty of their being stabbed by the wily French.

This dearth of any real social upheaval has resulted in a staggering lack of change in the English way of life.

Typically the English have made a virtue out of even that necessity and it is reflected in their politics. It is no accident that the political scene in England is dominated by two political parties called not Republicans, Democrats, Christian Democrats, Solidarity or any other namby-pamby names but Conservative and Labour. The former echoes the unchanging quality of English life. The latter, the Puritan work ethic with its dignification of labour for its own sake.

There is, of course, a third political group - the Liberals. They just chose completely the wrong name on both counts and start with a crippling disadvantage. Changing it to Liberal Democrats was yet another step in the wrong direction. They may never achieve power.

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