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The Washington Post gets the British elections wrong

Nobody in Britain is politically literate

December 10, 2019

11:45 AM

10 December 2019

11:45 AM

Cockburn was back in the old country this week, stuffing small brown envelopes with money and slipping them through the letterboxes of wavering Conservative voters before making his personal Brexit back to DC to read the articles of impeachment. As the wheels went up and the gin and tonic went down, he reclined in Club with the newspapers, and also the Washington Post.

‘Americans should be jealous of British elections,’ was the headline. Henry Olsen, the Post’s in-house Deplorable, covers ‘populism and American conservative thought’. He’s just spent a few days in Britain and arrived at the appalling conclusion that the British are ‘fully politically literate’, and that British campaign regulations produce ‘a well-informed populace, vigorous debate, and a free and fair election’.

Cockburn hears that ‘Americans should be jealous of British elections’ is the first in an intended series of Post articles, including ‘American should be jealous of British cooking’ and ‘American should be jealous of British teeth’.

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Was Olsen smoking some of the local Spice when he visited Britain last week?

The ‘vigorous debate’ part was on show on Monday, when Labour activists organized a WhatsApp flash mob to barrack a Conservative minister as he visited a hospital. The debate was so vigorous that a Conservative aide was struck in the face, accidentally it appears. The flash-mob intended to go from there to Boris Johnson’s next campaign stop, and that forced Johnson’s team to cancel what might otherwise have been a ‘free and fair’ exchange, possibly involving the chanting of obscenities and plenty of pushing and shoving.

The British populace are famously well-informed about politics. In a 2008 poll, one in five British teenagers confidently informed the pollsters that Winston Churchill had been a fictional character. By 2010, the vast amounts of skunk weed that all British children smoke on their way to and from school ensured that nearly half of them were unable to recognize a photograph of the real or fictional Churchill at all.

The voters of Pudding Island are so well-informed that they have swallowed Labour’s absurd claims that if the Conservatives get a Brexit deal through Parliament, the supermarkets of Britain will be flooded by cut-price ‘chlorinated chicken’ and Donald Trump will take over the National Health Service.

Cockburn is still recovering from the digestive trauma of a late-night kebab in Leicester Square, so he’d be more than happy if all British street food were heavily chlorinated, if not deep-fried in the stuff. The British are a proud and independent people. They don’t want their poultry markets flooded with low-grade American imports. They’re perfectly happy with horsemeat from Romania. It’s much cheaper.

As for the National Health Service, when Donald Trump was in London last week, he was asked about his nefarious intentions towards Britain’s antiquated and filthy hospitals. The germaphobe looked appalled and denied any intention of laying his hands on Britain’s dirtiest assets.

Labour have also incubated a serious anti-Semitism problem, in which arguments over taxation and foreign policy tend towards claims about shape-shifting Rothschild lizardmen and Israeli mind-control. At third of the populace is so ‘well-informed’ that it’s nevertheless still voting for Labour this week.

Cockburn’s chest puffed with pride like a pigeon in Trafalgar Square when Olsen called his fellow countrypersons ‘fully politically literate’. It’s true that if you go into any pub on a Friday night, you’ll find groups of men in powdered wigs and breeches, discussing timeless questions of Anglo-American political theory such as Edmund Burke’s ‘Address to the Electors of Bristol’, John Stuart Mill’s theory of individual freedom, and whether Enoch Powell was right about immigrants. Especially the Enoch Powell part.

But nobody in Britain is politically literate. It’s not possible to be fully politically literate in a country which has a semi-constitution and where, as the Brexit saga shows, the politicians and judiciary make up procedures on the fly. The only literacy the public can have is bothering to read the impossible spending plans being promised by both parties.

British voters are either ill-informed or not fussed, and British politicians are a bunch of unscrupulous liars. The admirable part, to Olsen at least, is that elections, like everything else in Britain, are run on the cheap. This is the only real difference between British and American campaigns, and the British don’t find it admirable. They find it humiliating.

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