(Back blogging again, just because I feel the need to write something for the non-academic audience, no matter how small!)
There is a furore over paedophilia. Every part of the establishment seems to be under suspicion: the church, all three political parties, the NHS....
Let's think about what happens if, as seems quite likely, many cases are uncovered where paedophiles were protected because they were important people. I fear there will be a serious disproportion between the policy response and the public's response. The policy response will essentially be more safeguards for children, more criminal record checks, more whistleblowing laws. What else could it be? One makes policy to fix problems.
The political consequences, though, would surely be a final, wholesale collapse of trust in the political system. Duck houses on the taxpayer are one thing, but enabling child abuse.... If that happens, the best – best! – outcome I see is that UKIP sweep the board at general election time, bringing Neil Hamilton into office alongside a slew of fishy populist coves.
But a worse, and just as likely, outcome is: nothing. The duopoly nature of first-past-the-post elections means that no outside party can coordinate the voters to break through. Labour and Conservatives continue to dominate Parliament, with an absolute majority of the electorate not bothering to turn up. Democracy becomes a cynical game of mobilizing the parties' core supporters. There is a vacuum not of power but of authority. Politicians simply lack the credibility to impose change against any group's will. Through the first half of the new century, Britain flies on autopilot.
... condemned to watch the lingering agony of an exhausted country, to tend it during the alternate fits of stupefaction and raving which precede its dissolution, and to see the symptoms of vitality disappear one by one, till nothing is left but coldness, darkness, and corruption.