The Brexit vote in 2016 shook up the British political class far beyond its relations with Europe. Before Brexit, before the referendum, successive governments had become detached and distant from those they represented – now they were forced once again to listen to the people. It was quickly recognised that the vote to leave the EU, in going against the government’s own advice, reflected a widespread disenchantment with the consensus of an out-of-touch elite.
Ever since, the governing Conservative Party has faced the difficult task of positioning itself in relation to this populist upsurge. Under Rishi Sunak, however, the latest Conservative government seems to have given up this struggle entirely. Instead, it is returning to type – to a form of managerial governance just as remote and unpopular as anything that went before the Brexit vote.
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