Amid Brexit Failures, Over Half of Britons Want Strong Leadership, Say Main Parties Don’t Care About Them

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Britons are increasingly making a move towards populism, as opinions in favour of the legacy British political system are at their lowest in 15 years.

The Hansard Society’s Audit of Political Engagement 16 published Monday found that citizens are becoming more inclined to want to overhaul the current system of government, with 72 per cent saying they believe it needs “quite a lot” or “a great deal” of improvement.

From the data collected between 30 November and 12 December 2018 by Ipsos MORI, the annual report on political engagement also found that 54 per cent think that the UK “needs a strong leader who is willing to break the rules,” compared with only 23 per cent who disagree. Two thirds of Britons (66 per cent) also believe that politicians “should be able to say what’s on their mind regardless of what anyone else thinks about their view.”

Britons’ growing support for strong-minded, “strong leaders” willing to “break the rules” comes as across the Western world, support for centrist, progressive, and globalist governing is on the wane. This is typified by the UK 2016 referendum to leave the European Union, the election of ‘America First’ President Donald J. Trump, and the increased support for nationalist-patriotic and right-populist leaders in Europe such as Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and leader of the governing coalition party in Italy, the League, Matteo Salvini.

The think tank also observed that while citizens’ political engagement is stable, “the strongest feelings of powerlessness and disengagement are intensifying.”

Half, 50 per cent, believe that the main parties and their politicians do not care about people like them, with nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) believing that the British government is rigged in favour of the powerful and the rich.

Nearly half, 47 per cent, “feel they have no influence at all over national decision-making — a new high for the Audit series,” the survey authors wrote, with nearly one-third (32 per cent) saying that they did not want to be involved “at all” in decision making at a local level — up ten points in just one year.

The survey on Parliamentary democracy also found that only 25 per cent have confidence in MPs’ handling of Brexit — these responses coming in December 2018, before the recent weeks’ debacles in Parliament which has seen Prime Minister Theresa May delay Brexit, allow the House of Commons to rule out leaving in a clean break, presided over the Commons taking over Brexit Government business, and allow the Opposition power over Brexit decision-making.

Overall, Britons have more confidence in the military (74 per cent) and the courts (64 per cent) to “act in the best interests of the public” than MPs (34 per cent), the Government (33 per cent), Member of the House of Lords (33 per cent), or political parties (29 per cent).

Newspapers (29 per cent), big business (26 per cent), and social media companies (20 per cent) came last in terms of acting in the best interest of the public.

However, despite the low opinions held, there remains a sense that the balance of power could be retained by democratising decision making, with more than half, 55 per cent, believing that “big questions” should be put to the public in referendums — but this is down from 58 per cent last year, and an all-time high of 76 per cent prior to the 2016 Brexit plebiscite.

Director of the Hansard Society Dr Ruth Fox told The Times, “The public are increasingly dissatisfied with the way our system of governing works”, expressing concern that “sizeable numbers” of voters are considering “quite radical solutions” to the failures of Government.

“The public feel strongly that the system of governing favours the rich and powerful and that political parties don’t care about the average person.

“And people are not confident that politicians act in the public interest. Unless something changes, this is a potentially toxic recipe for the future of British politics,” Dr Fox added.

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