‘WESTMINSTER works,” declared Andrew Neil opening his Channel 4 Sunday political programme. His argument was that unlike presidential systems such as the US and France, or “European social democracies” made up of coalition partners which find it difficult to get rid of leaders, the UK can act decisively – and did so by overthrowing Liz Truss.

Former Tory chancellor George Osborne quickly agreed, stating “the system works”. Britannia might have had a shaky few weeks causing leftists, liberals and European cosmopolitans to scoff, but once again, in a time of crisis, old Blighty has pulled it out of the fire.

Back to business as usual. Back to believing in the innate superiority of the British government based on a wilful ignoring of facts.

This self-delusion is only possible because it draws on a deep, embedded belief among elites of how Britain works – run by and for them. The ruling class story of Britain has always been a problem. In 1953, the American writer Edward Shils pondered the state of the British government, and was staggered that one of the most prominent left-wing intellectuals in the country waxed lyrically and uncritically that “the British constitution was as nearly perfect as any human institution could be”.

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No-one serious would make that outrageous and laughable claim today, but British arrogance, insularity and exceptionalism from the likes of Andrew Neil and George Osborne draw from this well.

Here is Tim Stanley supporting Boris Johnson in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph, talking about the upside of Brexit, writing that the UK now has “greater sovereignty, an empowered parliament, municipal conservatism, controlled legal migration, levelling-up, a renaissance of journalism, books and independent TV”.

This fantasy take would be laughable if it were not for the fact that in uber-right-wing land, this is the sort of waffle they tell each other.

Back in the real world, things are very different. There is the ongoing scandal of Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who was reappointed to her post six days after being removed for compromising national security. She had been using her mobile phone to send official documents – including to the wrong account.

Braverman infamously told Christopher Hope of The Telegraph at Tory conference that she had a “dream” – to make the world unbearable for vulnerable people crossing the English Channel in boats: “I would love to be having a front page of The Telegraph with a plane taking off to Rwanda. That’s my dream.” Words that should haunt Braverman all her life in public office – which will not be for very long – and afterwards.

Related to this is the dehumanising treatment of migrants who come to the UK, locked up in Manston detention centre for weeks on end when they are meant to be there for 48 hours and processed. The centre is hugely overcrowded, even more so after the attack on the nearby Dover detention centre while conditions have seen the breakout of diphtheria – with this descent an act of deliberate policy under sequential Tory home secretaries.

Conditions at Manston have degenerated so much that when local Tory MP Roger Gale visited, he found grounds for grave concern in how the UK treats people held there, stating that it was a “breach of humane conditions”. Gale is an exception among Tory MPs who, for all the rhetoric of “global Britain”, want a “Fortress Britain” which pulls the drawbridge up and says no entry to people in distress trying to come to the UK.

If this were not enough, the weekend saw the emergence of a massive political scandal, with The Mail On Sunday revealing that when Liz Truss was foreign secretary, her phone was hacked – potentially by the Russians – and at least a year of communications was accessed.

This was known by then prime minister Boris Johnson and head of the civil service Simon Case, and they did nothing – “suppressing” the information during Truss’s disastrous 49-day premiership.

This is one of the most serious political scandals in recent times in the UK, and parts of the media are in collusion with the political elite to make it a non-story. This is the truncated, atrophied democracy we live in where an increasingly partisan right-wing media and political discourse think they can get away with shaping a debate about “illegal migrants”, the UK as a “soft touch”, and endless “culture wars” to save our statues and single-sex toilets. It is a grim offer, but they cannot exactly run on their economic and social record.

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Alongside this, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has let it be known that the energy price crisis will not go away realistically for the rest of the decade, and will blow an even bigger hole in UK finances, which, in the Tory world, will be paid for by brutal cuts and taxes on those of working age and average earnings. This stands against a grim backdrop of benefit cuts to the poor, while the English and Welsh prison population reached its highest in 100 years, and the death toll in prisons hit 371 people last year, the highest on record.

One of the drivers of the state of the UK and politics is the hollowing out of how voters understand and follow politics, and the information and knowledge people have to make informed choices. The world of right-wing media consciously keeps voters’ information poor and ill-informed so that they can be whipped up by moral panics about “woke campaigners” – Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil – which are invoked to justify ever-more frightening authoritarian laws.

Look at the welcome victory of Lula against Bolsonaro in the Brazilian presidential election.

Despite the latter’s disastrous rule, Lula’s victory was by a narrow margin of 50.9% to 48.1%. We have yet to see whether Bolsonaro will accept the result or challenge it in a Trumpian “Stop the Steal” way which destabilises democratic norms.

George Monbiot noted about the Brazilian result: “The results of this election are also highly disturbing. After such grotesque misrule, mass death, corruption and destruction, the votes he received show how powerful misinformation has become. People would vote for Vlad the Impaler if his spin doctors were good enough.”

Monbiot cites studies in the US showing that “the great majority of voters possess no useful political information at all. Without the time or tools needed to understand politics, we are led blithely into the arms of people who would destroy us”.

This is the backdrop to the global war on democracy being conducted by the far-right, populists and nationalist authoritarians.

There can be little room for complacency in the victory of Lula – or Biden in 2020.

The forces of anti-democracy have to be taken on by a politics which challenges their broken model of the economy and society and instead puts empowerment, egalitarianism and humanity centre stage. Doing so cannot involve, as too many on the centre-left have done, defending the rotten status quo, presenting iniquitous social order and a flawed, thin democracy. That road allows the right to claim that they are radicals standing for change.

Britain’s ruling classes used to believe that their supposed wisdom and insight allowed them to preside over a world of continuity and stability. Despite this no longer being the case, they still believe they have the right to rule over us but increasingly have to do so by peddling messages of disinformation and deception.

Whenever someone says “Westminster works” or “the system works”, they are talking from and for the interests of Britain’s insider classes and pretending to reassure the rest of us when the opposite is the case. We need to wake up and realise the high stakes here at home and across the world.