Blair's Britain

Blair's Britain

Martin Walker

Tony Blair is dismantling the British state as it has existed since the 18th century. Is his new Britain a fair trade for the old?

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Britain has been scourged this year by a series of natural disasters and plagues of almost biblical proportions. The worst floods ever recorded and a series of fatal rail crashes embarrassed the world's oldest railway network and led to disruptions and the imposition of speed restrictions. At snail's pace, a traveler could lurch past flooded fields to more somber landscapes, where the pall of the funeral pyres of some three million slaughtered cattle drifted dark against the lowering skies. The slaughter was not the result of mad cow disease, by which Britain had been uniquely ravaged, but of the more prosaic foot-and-mouth disease. In an effort to stamp it out, national parks and ancient footpaths and rights of way were closed across the country.

Heading north, the traveler might have seen a different kind of smoke drifting across the sky, from burning cars and looted shops, as a sudden wave of race riots swept across the old textile-mill towns of Burnley, Leeds, and Oldham. These pockets of industrial depression made fertile ground for the neo-Nazi agitators of the new British National Party, whose campaigns for the repatriation of immigrants won them 16 percent of the vote in those areas in the general election in June.  

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