The new governability crisis

From rioting to strikes, stock market runs and basic questions of the rule of law, the UK is suffering from a governability crisis.

I was born in 1982. My staunch Labour-supporting parents would argue with mainly Conservative friends and family about the tumultous events of the 80s and early 90s.

The charge always thrown at them was that Margaret Thatcher inherited a country sliding into chaos in 1979.

When I studied politics A-Level, I learnt that the academic term for this sense of chaos was the ‘governability crisis’ – mounting unemployment, the growth of the far right, union miltancy and what appeared to be something close to civil war in Northern Ireland gave the impression of a country that could not be controlled.

The morning after dozens of London suburbs and a handful of other cities  have gone up in flames, it appears fair to ask if we are entering a new governability crisis:

  • The list of areas that have seen violence is staggering – outer boroughs such as  Bromley, Croydon and Ealing as well as those perceived to have longer-term problems have been affected
  • During the rioting, the stock market has continued in full-on bear market mode. It is being reported as a ‘bloodbath in panic-stricken markets’ as FTSE-100 index fell 3.4 per cent or 178 points in  one day, the first time in almost three decades that there has 100-point falls four sessions in a row
  • We still have the potential for widespread union strikes affecting public services. Rightly or wrongly,  many unions believe they are in an existential fight of their lives, and that large-scale industrial action is their only resort
  • The media appear to be  a state within a state, being able ensure that certain laws do not apply to them.

The  question of how to be able to deal with this governability crisis will be debated endlessly over the coming weeks and months. But it appears as if ‘business as usual’ is not good enough.

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