Britain's Electoral Cliffhanger

By Simon Schama, The New Yorker - May 3, 2010

Once upon a time, almost two and a half centuries ago, there lived two systems of representative government, separated by an ocean. English was their common language, and talk of law and liberty their common habit, but there the resemblance stopped, for one was fair and one foul. On the eastern shore, the body politic was engorged with money. Venal interests bought the services of legislators and rewarded them once their dirty work was done. Swarms of lobbyists battened on the body politic. Election rhetoric was disingenuous cant punctuated by maddened rant. But in the west, baptized by revolutionary fire, there unfolded something fresh: a democratic politics that (though averting its gaze from the enslaved) was open in manner, radical in utterance, mistrustful of the moneyed interest, and fruitfully unstable in party allegiance.


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