It's been a long time since Britain last tried to turn itself into a fully fledged banana republic. But there are troubling signs that the oldest and greatest continuously functioning democracy in the world is succumbing once again to a serious bout of bananaisation.
The news from home as reported overseas makes it look as though the country has stepped into a 30-year time warp. The papers and television are full of stories of fuel-price protests, power cuts, new airport terminals that lose your baggage, panicky Budget measures to placate angry constituents. The country seems gripped by a lowering mood of economic stagnation, social disorder and political paralysis.... No other country, as far as I know, has had a Latin American-style run on a bank in the past few months. There are troubling indications that inflation is now rampant. It may not quite qualify as banana-style hyperinflation yet but real progress is being made in that direction. In April producer prices rose at an annual rate of 23 per cent.
There are strong indications that double-digit declines in property values are around the corner. No one has called in the IMF yet, but perhaps we shouldn't rule it out. With the Budget picture deteriorating rapidly it won't take much for the UK to be tipped into a classic currency-fiscal downward spiral of the sort made famous by banana republics everywhere.
There are signs too that the political culture is becoming bananised. ...the most alarming sign of bananisation to date is the feverish talk that the governing party is plotting once again to throw out the leader...The public seems to favour leadership qualities that emphasise personality traits over the faintest evidence of competence or aptitude for the job. I can't be alone in seeing Boris Johnson, the blond aristo with a large popular mandate and a cultish following among the capital's youth, as a very English version of Eva Perón. Don't blub for me Argentina, old chaps.
At least, I suppose, we don't have to worry about a military coup. The repeated privations and humiliations visited upon Britain's Armed Forces have reduced them to a state where they couldn't overthrow a statue.