The empty cockpit
The British government isn’t asleep at the controls: it doesn’t exist at all. Also this week, everything I learned from ScotRail’s 2,400 pre-recorded announcements; and a map of these islands’ rivers.
There’s a New Yorker cartoon by the excellent Will McPhail that occasionally does the rounds on social media. It shows a middle-aged man, speaking to a plane full of airline passengers. “These smug pilots have lost touch with regular passengers like us,” the caption reads. “Who thinks I should fly the plane?” Before him are a sea of hands.
I think about that cartoon a lot. Okay, the tone is a bit smug and, well, New Yorker-y, in a manner perfectly calculated to annoy people on the other side of the fence and encourage them to write terrible editorials about it. Nonetheless, the collapse in respect for domain-specific expertise feels like a major factor in The Mess We’ve All Got Into Since 2016: sometimes other people just know more about a thing than we do, and if our governments had been more interested in hearing from experts and less concerned with owning the libs then the world would be in a much better state.
Anyway, this last month it finally dawned on me that there is something worse than the guy who isn’t a pilot flying the plane. It’s nobody flying the plane at all.
Tomorrow it will be seven weeks since Boris Johnson was forced to say he would resign as Prime Minister. By now we all know who his successor will be: a YouGov poll released last Thursday found that 57% of Tory members had already voted, 68% of them for Liz Truss. That would mean that Rishi Sunak would need to win nearly three-quarters of all the outstanding votes to win. Unfortunately, nearly half of them (44%) say they’re going to Truss, and only a quarter (26%) are still undecided. This thing is over.
Yet neither the outgoing Prime Minister, nor the incoming one, are doing a bloody thing to fix the escalating series of crises that have been piling up all summer.
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