Is the UK a failed state?

The question arose in the early hours of this Monday morning after a dream in which my UK state pension had sunk to half its value.

These days, it is difficult to determine what is worth worrying about and what is not. I watched the spectacular end of the Tour de France yesterday after three weeks of unusually open competition, and then, as I do every year I thought, “Oh well, back to normal life tomorrow.” The next thought was instantaneous: “But wait… Is there now any normal life?” I sent that question in a Whatsapp to a couple of people and back came the answer from both in remarkably identical words: “There is no more normality.”

The author of one of those Whatsapps was my friend Steve, who happened to be at Alicante airport on route to the UK. I asked him to look out for failed things to help with my enquiry. Like this. Today Paddy Power, the online betting firm is apparently offering odds of 12-1 on rationing in the UK before the end of the year. That’s good evidence for identifying a failed state, isn’t it?

A Clockwork Orange, the controversial 1970s film set in a dystopian UK future: the inspiration for the great political cartoon by Martin Rowson below.

More failed state evidence: in the news today, a “Brexit War Cabinet” will be meeting every day in Whitehall, as if this was 1940 all over again. Except this time the UK has declared war on itself.

Before breakfast – indeed even before feeding the donkeys – I googled “failed state” + “UK” and up came a very good article by David Pratt in The National (Scotland) earlier in July: Gripped by Brexit and dysfunctional, the UK is nearing failed-state status. After looking at the definitions of a failed state the author quotes the Annual Fragile States Index which identified the “most worsened”.

(There is a link to this Fragile States PDF report below.)

Five countries made the rankings as this year’s “most worsened”. While Venezuela and Brazil tied for the undesirable first place, the others who performed worst this year were Nicaragua, and yes, you guessed it, the UK hotly pursued by Togo. Has it come to this?

From the report: “The United Kingdom is this year the fourth-most worsened country… with increases in its indicator scores for Group Grievance, Factionalized Elites, and State Legitimacy, among the same indicators that have been driving the country’s spiral over the past decade. Much of the current turmoil can be attributed to the country’s farcical efforts to make good on the 2016 referendum where, after a highly divisive — and arguably, disingenuous and even dishonest — campaign. Given that the government’s efforts to execute “Brexit” have gone from bad to worse in the early months of 2019, it is likely that the United Kingdom’s score could easily have been much worse — and may well be in the 2020 FSI.”

I recommend reading both the above Scottish press article and the Fragile States Index. Both identify some very clear symptoms of failed states and the evidence is mounting up fast in the UK. (Links are provided below.)

Cartoonist Martin Rowson’s chilling depiction of the Brexit no-deal cabinet in The Guardian (26 July 2019)

Having fed the donkeys and the chickens, I then read today’s Guardian article by Matthew d’Ancona over breakfast and it closely matched my thoughts on the UK as a “failed state”. He doesn’t use the phrase in his article (The Vote Leave gang now running Britain do not want to govern. They want to win.) but he comes very close to that thought: ” Today, the question is: how come we are suddenly being governed by a rightwing populist single-issue campaign group?”

D’Ancona then goes on to detail a key feature of the new regime in Whitehall and it is a key feature of a failed state: the confusion of the Party interest and the mechanism of state democracy. “Cummings (the policy head appointed by the PM) addressed the new cohort of special advisers in No 10 on Friday. Though they worked for individual ministers, he said, their first loyalty was to Johnson and his Downing Street apparat. Whatever department they worked in, their primary objective was to achieve Brexit – “by any means necessary”.

In a functioning state, their first loyalty would be to the interests of the country and its citizens. I believe that readers of this blog will be able to say – in a few months time – you read it here (almost) first: the United Kingdom now has many symptoms of a failed state. Let’s hope other states, like Venezuela, Brazil, Nicaragua and Togo, will show solidarity with their new member of the failure club and be first in the queue to strike the Brexiters’ promised global trade deals with the UK.

Will the UK strike a good trade deal with these guys in failed state Nicaragua?


David Pratt, The National, 12 July 2019: “Gripped by Brexit and dysfunctional, the UK is nearing failed-state status.”

Matthew d’Ancona, The Guardian, 29 July 2019: “The Vote Leave gang now running Britain do not want to govern. They want to win.”

The Fragile States Index 2019. The PDF File can be found here:

A Clockwork Orange:

Update Mon July 29, 7pm

Startling evidence has just been sent in from Steve, our on the spot Failed State Correspondent, just arrived from Alicante at Sheffield railway station today. There are compelling signs here of imminent collapse.

Sheffield station today

2 thoughts on “Is the UK a failed state?

  1. Manchester Airport. What a delightful place. Escalators not working. 10 minute wait for lift. Cash machine refuses my card.
    Rain due later this afternoon. All quite normal so far. Why is everyone rushing?
    Can’t wait for the rail journey to Sheffield…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Steve, our Failed State correspondent in the UK. Good luck with the trains. If you see anything suspicious, like columns of tanks heading towards London, people dressed in black uniforms and jackboots, or stacks of bodybags being got ready on street corners, let us know. (Anything with the weather is due to the climate disaster not the no-deal disaster.)


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