In This Review
The Death of Consensus: 100 Years of British Political Nightmares

The Death of Consensus: 100 Years of British Political Nightmares

By Phil Tinline

Hurst, 2022, 472 pp.

When I first cracked this book, the British Prime Minister Liz Truss’s Conservative government—itself the result of the shambolic collapse of governments led by David Cameron, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson—was less than 40 days old and already in its death throes. With interest rates rising and poll numbers plummeting, Truss fired her chancellor and reversed her signature tax reform policy, only to resign within days. What better moment to read this book about British political disasters by a prolific BBC writer and documentarian? Tinline offers an engaging anecdote-packed history based on the view that politics is driven not by hope but by fear. Politics lurches from crisis to crisis, with change occurring when politicians propose some way to exit a nightmare.The Great Depression and World War II encouraged necessary government intervention and social welfare provision. Thatcherism arose in response to the Winter of Discontent in 1978–79, when the Labour Party could not govern a gridlocked society or tame unreasonable unions. And the 2008 financial crisis, the Brexit debacle, the COVID-19 pandemic and, more recently, economic inequality and mismanagement are dismantling the Thatcherite model. Tinline clearly hopes that a more European-style center-left politics will take hold in the United Kingdom, but he does not explain why.