These days I'm thinking a lot about "The Decline Fall Of The Roman Empire", the famous weighty tome by Gibbon that chronicled the last thousand years or so of the Roman Empire.
In the UK today, it feels as though we're living through a British version of that, only the "reality TV" version, where the government plots the decline for everyone else to deal with.
"The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire", if such a book were ever written, would probably start at the beginning of the First World War, and (supposing this happens) end with the secession from the Union of Scotland from England after the general election of 2015; a period of roughly a hundred years. Even if the Scots choose to remain in the Union, it is clear they want control of their own economy, rendering London's real power over Scotland to be marginal, and little more than symbolic. From controlling roughly a quarter of the world's population, a hundred years later the British government would no longer be in control of even its own island, let alone anything else of importance.
This is the geo-political reality. The strategic, economic and social decline of the former British Empire's situation is even more marked and desperate.
The real decline of British governance started in the 1970s with a variety of factors: economic stagflation, a decline in real living standards, and the unions' increasing hold over the government. This led the Thatcher government to make an abrupt change - a virtual non-violent economic revolution - to severely restrict the power of the unions, while at the same time selling-off various government assets to companies, and handing over handling of the economy to the banking sector, trusting them with the job of re-building the British economy.
This philosophy worked well, at least for twenty-five years. Successive governments of both parties agreed with this new ethos - gradual privatisation of government assets and a ripping up of the regulations that controlled the actions of the banking sector. And, overall, this seemed to work, as the British economy, without an empire any more, thrived up to the first decade of the 21st century.
But the whole concept was an illusion, and a catastrophic one at that. Without rules to rein them in, banks became to think they were infallible, and the more the economy grew on profit built from non-existent, inflated assets, the more the government thought the banks should be indulged. In as much as there was a system explaining where Britain's financial sector was getting its money from, anarchy reigned.
The implosion of that system and the financial chaos that followed has been documented before, and don't need to go into further detail about that. Suffice to say, when the banks succeeded in extorting from the government the bailout that the government then felt obliged to pass on to the public sector and the British taxpayers, the decline of Britain's status as a sovereign power was set in stone. From the 1980s onwards, Britain had gone from being at the beck and call of the unions, to being a servant to the mercenary and amoral banks; a nation-state in the pockets of companies that knew nothing of honour or patriotism. And if the government tried to complain, the banks' threat to flee the country, threatening to leave the country economically in the lurch, was always effective in keeping British government voices quiet. Britain was hostage to the banks' protection racket.
By 2010, when the Conservatives came to power with the LibDems, the decline was accelerated. The public sector cuts (the government's price of the banks' bailout) that had tentatively been discussed under the Labour government, were now marked as the new government's main economic strategy to improve the economy - largely because this was what the banks told them to do. Worse, this strategy had the opposite effect as intended; worsening the economy, expanding the government's debt, increasing unemployment and deprivation, while the government refused to accept any responsibility for creating it.
That, along with "reforming" government institutions such as education, health and welfare - slashing their budgets, terrorising staff, and selling off government services to companies - as well as firing thousands of police, and reducing Britain's military to a bare minimum, the government had succeeded within two years in alienating almost every major sector of society. Only the rich were the ones unaffected, as they knew how to milk the system - or lack of - for themselves. For those at the top, as with the banks, wonderful anarchy reigned; for the rest, it was misery, a situation of financial poverty, or something close to it. In either case, the majority of the British population were living in times where collective morale at its lowest in living memory.
When not alienating various sections of society - either with perverse intent or ignorance - the Conservative government was demonstrating almost unbelievable levels of incompetence, adding to the British public's sense of disbelief piled upon helplessness. Because those of the Conservatives now in government were mostly chosen through their connections to the Prime Minister's circle rather than their merit, it led to people being chosen far above their station.
People like the Home Secretary Theresa May, and the Culture Minister, Jeremy Hunt, are the prime examples, though there are others. These two in their first two years in their respective positions in government, presided over various chaotic blunders, scandals and generally bringing the position of minister into disrepute through their own glaring incompetence. But these two remained in their positions even after all this, refusing to accept any responsibility for anything, with the Prime Minister still gamely supporting them. His seeming refusal to take many things very seriously, Prime Minister David Cameron presided over a situation where government contracts were passed out to companies that were ran (or part-owned) by ministers or the friends of ministers. This is more commonly called corruption, but the government would still refuse to accept that anyone had ever done anything wrong. As the Conservatives saw it, as no one had ever intentionally done wrong, then no-one could ever be blamed for wrong-doing: there were only "mistakes" or "omissions".
This is the mentality you expect in a banana republic. And this is what Britain had been reduced to after two years of Conservative government.
The government has stated the intention of staying in power for a full five-year term. The LibDems, in their cowardice of the British electorate, are maintaining this government-by-banana-republic. In other words, because Britain is a democracy, that's why the government doesn't want to have elections.
The rest of the British people, the ones not rich anyway, have to wait another three years before they have the right to use their "Get Out Of Jail Card".
It's a five-year prison sentence that the government has enforced on us - five years of austerity; destruction of the public services and selling off of government assets; government indifference towards unemployment and investment; and five years of the UK being ran by corrupt, mindless buffoons allowing their friends to run amok with what was once called the homeland of British Empire, while blaming it on everyone else.