The definition of kakistocracy is government by the least suitable or competent citizens of a state. The first recorded use of the term was during the English Civil War in a sermon to support the monarchist cause. It had been used rarely down the years until the former Director of the CIA John Brennan accused Donald Trump of running a kakistocracy.

I first came across the term the other week in a Financial Times article (Global Insight 8 February 2019) entitled: “Only Britain leads US in contest for rule by the least competent”. This article may be fairly subjective and relates to western democracies, thus excluding the most dire forms of government on the planet, but I believe it contains some very interesting points.

  • The ramifications of the actions of the US administration may be felt around the world, those of the UK will likely be limited to this country, Ireland and, to a lesser extent, a few countries on the European mainland.
  • The opposition in the US may have wider appeal than that in the UK so Mr. Trump may only get one term. In any case, he could only serve for another term. For me, this makes the assumption that what comes after Mr. Trump is going to result in a far more competent administration. I would not be too sure about this but the point being made is that any damage might be limited and could be reversed.
  • For the UK, however, the situation looks very cloudy. The opposition looks no more competent than the current administration and there is no obvious “star quality” replacement for Mrs. May waiting in the wings of the Conservative Party. This implies that, if we are on a downward spiral, then there is no obvious alternative.

One aspect of the article which very much relates to our own campaign for a regional government for Yorkshire is the following differences that were cited between the UK and the US:- “The latter (the US) is fortunate enough to have a federal system. State governors and big city mayors do plenty of effective things without Washington’s toxic politics. Britain, on the other hand, is the most centralised democracy in the world. When its politics are poisoned, there are precious few safety valves.”

In my opinion, this further reinforces the arguments for meaningful devolution to Yorkshire. The current shenanigans in Westminster do nothing to instil confidence in our parliamentary democracy and, if allowed to continue, can only weaken it. Who knows what damage has already been done, not just in this country but to our reputation around the world.

The solution is simple, replace the kakistocracy with a functional, competent government but; unlike the current regional situation where we at least have a level of consensus and the potential to develop productive working relationships between local politicians and others involved in regional governance; it is difficult to see how this could be achieved at a national level, given the conflicting agendas and toxic relationships of the key players involved.

It looks as though the term, kakistocracy, could be here to stay and, when used to describe our own national government by well respected journals, that is certainly not good news!

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