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Britain was once renowned for the continuity and stability of its politics. The Conservatives were the natural party of government, occasionally replaced by Labour and supplemented by the Liberal (Democrats). Slow but steady progress was the hallmark. Although there were occasional jolts in a fresh direction — 1945 and 1979 for example — many admired the UK’s ability to push ahead gently with prosperity. All this was reliant on a political class that had the best interests of the country at heart. But has the populist revolution of Brexit destroyed that for good?

Janan Ganesh argues in his column that the country has become too reliant on its rulers, thanks to an ancient concentration of power in the executive branch of national government. This has resulted in an all-or-nothing system that is overly dependent on the individuals in charge. Whereas the United States has a ragged infrastructure, France has a resistance to change and Italy has a stubbornness to reform, he argues that the absence of a decisive centre in the UK comes at a cost for ordinary voters.

The 1990s were a point at which Britain was growing and succeeding, in spite of its dysfunctional government. But Theresa May is not John Major, and Jeremy Corbyn is not Tony Blair. The leaders in 2017 do not straddle the centre ground in the way their predecessors did two decades ago. As Janan points out, the rolling fiasco in British public life might eventually limit the nation’s exposure to its own ruling class.

Best of the rest

They voted for Brexit in a cry of pain — what happened to the left-behind? — John Harris in The Guardian

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100 years later, Bolshevism is back. And we should be worried. — Anne Applebaum in The Washington Post

Jeremy Corbyn is right: MPs could do with training — Isabel Hardman in The Spectator

Why the White House Dreads a Flynn Indictment — David A. Graham in The Atlantic

What you’ve been saying

The Swiss system gives a ringing endorsement to direct democracy— letter from Bruce Mathers

“As a dual British/Swiss citizen and resident of Switzerland for nearly 50 years, I am entirely convinced that the Swiss system of direct democracy works better than Britain’s representative democracy. The reason can be put succinctly: if you routinely give people responsibility, they take it. On the other hand, if you don’t, they tend to remain infantile, blaming disasters on their supposed leaders and taking no initiative themselves.”

Comment from BurnleyForever on Nick Butler’s Blog: Lessons from Britain’s broken energy market

“Helm’s main argument — that everything can be solved by applying a price on carbon — may be grounded in economic theory, but is simply unworkable in the real world. The notion that every iteration of every product and service imported into the UK will be charged according to its carbon footprint is a logistical challenge that would make a government weep at any time, never mind one in the middle of Brexit and sending ministers cap in hand around the world looking for trade deals.”

Infringers handed new tools to attack patents— letter from Frederick S Burkhart

“The most recent changes to the patent system have given alleged infringers many new tools for attacking patents. The most significant is the inter partes review (IPR) procedure, which was intended to allow patent challenges to be heard by the US Patent Office rather than the courts. The procedure is unfair to the patent owner. The Patent Office has used its new-found authority as an invitation to discard patents that it had previously issued in a procedure that is biased against the patent owner. Wall Street has discovered that it could make money by shorting the stock of bio-tech companies who rely on one or two technologies then initiate an IPR in order to challenge the patents of that company which are typically its major assets. The stock of the company tanks and is then sold at a reduced price and the difference is profit to Wall Street.”

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