“Brits must fight against new elite of left leaning radicals who think there are 72 genders,” screamed columnist Matthew Goodwin in The Sun last week. It’s part of a recent wave of criticism from the right that Britain’s culture and politics are being destroyed by a group of liberal minded public figures, including Gary Lineker, Emily Maitlis, and Alistair Campbell.
Forgive me, but I struggle to believe a bunch of podcasters run the country or even have much of a hold on public opinion. So who’s really in charge? Here’s the runners and riders.
The ‘liberal elite’
As much as I love Lineker, Maitlis, and Campbell, they’re too busy living their best lives to run the country. Unless it’s podcasting their way around the world, disrupting a weekend of BBC sports coverage while remaining the Beeb’s highest paid star, or touring the news channels to stick two fingers up to the government, these particular ‘liberal elites’ are not interested.
Conclusion: keen to expose injustice, have reasonable influence over the news agenda, and dominate what’s discussed in London coffee shops. Not currently plotting world domination.
Power points: 3/10
His Majesty’s Government
Elected to run the country, the Conservative Party holds all the major (and minor) positions in government and has done for the last 13 years. Conservatrives also hold a majority in the House of Commons, control what bills are presented to parliament, and are in charge of appointing ambassadors, civil servants, peers, chairs of public bodies, advisory councils, regulatory bodies…
Conclusion: I could go on, but let’s just agree they’re powerful.
Power points: 9/10
The official opposition
Outright rejected by the public when they asked to run the country in 2019, but with high hopes for 2024, the Labour Party has been trying to claw its way back to power since 2010. Let’s hope they’re better at governing than they are at winning elections.
Conclusion: control some of the parliamentary agenda and help pressure the government into change, also appoint a few peers to the House of Lords.
Power points: 6/10
The British press
They’re notoriously chummy with the last few Conservative governments. However much Evening Standard owner Lord Lebedev of Siberia protests, it’s pretty clear those in the top rungs of our newspapers have more power than they’d care to admit.
The press’s power has changed in recent years: as readership has declined so has the importance of newspapers in our daily conversation. However, especially since the rise of Boris Johnson (who famously binned off his security to attend one of Alexander Lebedev’s parties) we’ve seen the relationships between politicians and press reach new levels of cosiness.
Conclusion: friendly with those in power but no longer have mass readership or much influence over the public.
Power points: 5/10
Not a conventional choice you’d think, but recent evidence shows being a Tory donor gives you plenty of bang for your buck.
Richard Sharp, who donated more than £400,000 to the party, was appointed BBC chairman after facilitating an £800,000 loan to prime minister Boris Johnson. Meanwhile, Tory peer Michelle Mone was awarded a multi-million pound PPE contract after her husband donated £170,000 to the party. However, there’s trouble in paradise as anti-corruption warriors are increasing scrutiny – get your donations in while you can!
Conclusion: direct lines into government but terrified of Carol Vorderman.
Power points: 5/10
Whatever Mick Lynch says, these tribes aren’t what they used to be. Post-Thatcher their bark is bigger than their bite, but they’ve seen a recent resurgence, highlighting that there’s still plenty of fight in the old dogs yet.
Conclusion: influential on some issues, especially public sector pay and conditions, and able to quickly mobilise the masses to disrupt critical public services.
Power points: 5/10
Ex tech titan and philanthropist, or the man who invented a pandemic to achieve world domination, depending on your perspective.
Conspiracies aside, Gates is one of the world’s great thinkers and now dedicates his life to combatting the big issues in a one-man mission to save civilisation, but can he really do it all by himself?
Conclusion: access to huge amounts of resources with plenty of influence over world leaders.
Power points: 4/10
I can’t believe I’m even going here. Musk is much less powerful than he’d like you to believe.
Conclusion: controls your Twitter timeline but literally nothing else.
Power points: 1/10
What have we learned from this brief and very unscientific romp through the heights of British power? In short, the government holds most of the cards. Whatever anyone else may try to tell you, if something’s gone wrong (or very occasionally right), it’s probably something to do with them. The liberal elite will have to go back to revising their 72 genders for now.