Britain’s unwillingness to address systemic problems

Since at least the 1970s, growing inequality between comparatively rich southeast England (including London) and the rest of the country

has spurred all parties to pledge to “rebalance the economy” and make it less reliant on the capital.

Yet large parts remain poorer than the European average. According to official EU figures,

Britain has five regions with a per capita gross domestic product of less than $25,000.

France, Germany, Ireland, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden have none.

If Britain were part of the United States, it would be anywhere from the third- to the eighth-poorest state, depending on the measure.

Britain’s performance in this crisis has been so bad, it is damaging the country’s reputation,

both at home and abroad.

According to one senior British official, who has decades of experience and who does not serve Johnson,

there was a sense of shock internationally that Britain had so obviously fallen short,

a feeling echoed along the corridors of power in Westminster.

Inside Downing Street,

officials believe that the lessons of the pandemic apply far beyond the immediate confines of elderly care and coronavirus testing,

taking in Britain’s long-term economic failures and general governance,

as well as what they regard as its ineffective foreign policy and diplomacy.

The scale of the pandemic, Itself is enormous.

The reaction in Downing Street is a reminder that the Johnson program is revolutionary in instinct,

aspiring to do far more than tinker,and Reaganite in its desire to overturn the status quo

Also usher in a new political zeitgeist that is more assertive on the world stage and more dynamic at home.

Whether one believes the government or its self-perception does not change its intention to be transformative.

One Johnson adviser told me

Our government  remembered

“restructuring the British state.”

[Read: Boris Johnson can remake Britain like few before him]

The trouble for the prime minister is that although the pandemic might reinforce the belief that Britain’s problems are deep and structural,

his handling of it may serve to undermine the country’s consent for him to pursue the kind of program he says is necessary.

Scale of the task itself is enormous.

“We need a complete revamp of our government structure

because it’ does not fit its purpose.

” Boyd told me. “I just don’t know if we really understand our weakness.”

In practice, does Johnson have the confidence to match his diagnosis of Britain’s ills,

given the timidity of his approach during the pandemic?

The nagging worry among even Johnson’s supporters in Parliament.

although he may campaign as a Ronald Reagan,

he might govern as a Silvio Berlusconi, failing to solve the structural problems he has identified.

As Blair and others pointed out to me,

it is not just in the big calls that Johnson,

his scientific advisers, and the system

but in day-to-day governance as well: the ability to get children back to school,

open restaurants, protect the economy, and roll out a working contact-tracing system.

The prime minister indicated the kind of big-thinking optimism that he believes is necessary

with a recent speech detailing his plans

to bring Britain out of its coronavirus pandemic slump with a Rooseveltian New Deal.

Yet what did it amount to? Little more than a mishmash of existing projects

A speech and a plan that seemed to confirm Johnson’s own critique

about the country’s systemic failure to think big and act boldly.

periodic crises

Britain is, of course, not alone in being beset by structural problems, failures of governance, and periodic crises.

France, Italy, Spain, and the EU as a whole have obvious and lasting dilemmas that have not been addressed.

Divided by racism and inequity.The United States is.

Britain’s international reputation may also dramatically shift if it discovers and shares a working vaccine.

while avoiding the worst of a second wave.

This is not a story of pessimistic fatalism, of inevitable decline.

Britain was able to partially reverse a previous slump in the 1980s, and Germany,

seen as a European laggard in the ‘90s, is now the West’s obvious success story.

One of the strengths of the Westminster parliamentary system is that it occasionally produces governments

like Johnson’s—with real power to effect change, should they try to enact it.

But just because other countries screw things up does not mean Britain’s problems aren’t real and serious,

and just because the country has recovered in the past does not mean it will again.

Overtaken by many of its rivals Britain

whether in terms of health provision or economic resilience, but does not seem to realize it.

And once the pandemic passes, the problems Britain faces will remain:

how to sustain institutions so that they bind the country together, not pull it apart;

how to remain prosperous in the 21st century’s globalized economy;

Also how to promote its interests and values;

how to pay for the ever-increasing costs of an aging population.

If Britain is to solve them,

it needs to up its game

or  left behind as a result.

to realize it is no longer “world leading” in as many fields as it thinks,

and that its problems run far deeper than whichever crop of politicians is in charge.

“The really important question,

” Boyd said, “is whether the state, in its current form, is structurally capable of delivering on the big-picture items that are coming,

whether pandemics or climate change or anything else.”

Britain was sick before the crisis hit. If it is to survive the next one intact, it has to address its underlying health conditions.