HOW THEY BROKE BRITAIN – James O’Brien in conversation

On Wednesday evening, James O’Brien launched his brand new book ‘How They Broke Britain’ to a packed out and spirited community in Komedia in the centre of Bath.

Described by the New European as a “story of loss and betrayal; of unbridled arrogance and unchallenged ignorance; of personal impunity, warped ideology and political incompetence”, James O’Brien’s cutting new book points out the ten most significant figures that he believes have contributed to the modern day decline of a once great Britain. 

O’Brien’s work, written over the last year, highlights the figures that either through “incompetence or by design” have contributed to the bygone Britain of today. The LBC presenter, who hosts one of the UK’s most popular commercial radio shows with 1.4 million weekly listeners, portrays Britain as a country where the economy has tanked, where freedoms are shrinking and where social divisions are growing – a nation that he believes is almost unrecognisable from the one that existed a decade ago. 

O’Brien’s book reveals the shady network of influence that has corrupted what he refers to as the “ecosystem”, creating a map or “rock family tree” as he liked to describe it of the most important figures in the corruption of modern-day Britain. 

Throughout ten chapters, O’Brien points the finger at household names, from former UKIP leader Nigel Farage and car bomb Prime Minister Liz Truss to the relatively unknown Matthew Elliott, founder of the ‘Taxpayers Alliance’ and head of the Vote Leave campaign. 

Described as a “damning account of how the country ended up in the current mess” by The Guardian, ‘How They Broke Britain’ is a tale of collusion and complicity at the heart of Westminster, spanning incompetent and disreputable politicians, discreditable journalists and the dark think tanks that seek to have a far-reaching and pervasive impact on our politics. 

Deceit at the heart of the ‘ecosystem’ 

O’Brien’s motivation to write ‘How They Broke Britain’ was largely, as he described, fuelled by a desire to find an order and reasoning to the chaos that has engulfed Britain. With successive scandals in Westminster, a disastrous Brexit, the highest Covid death toll in Europe, a dwindling economy and a cost of living crisis that shows no sign of relenting, O’Brien wanted to find out the variables of the formula that have resulted in the United Kingdom being in a “strange and unsatisfactory position”, as O’Brien delicately expressed it. 

For the 51-year-old, who was brought up by adopted parents after being born to a teenage single mother, a large portion of the blame rests on the lies told and deceit spread by politicians. 

The spread of “alternative facts”, as described by former counsellor to Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway, who coined the term to defend the former President’s brazen lying to the US public, has resulted in lies and poison being injected into the bloodstream of the British population, as O’Brien markedly explained. 

A recent news item that made O’Brien particularly angered about recently, is the COVID-19 inquiry in which members of the government and key members of Boris Johnson’s staff, including Lee Cain and Dominic Cummings, have been forced to give evidence to a House of Commons Select Committee.

While O’Brien was keen to point out the barefaced lies that were told over Partygate and Cummings’ trip to Barnard Castle ‘to test his eyesight’, the radio host also wanted to underline the amplification of these lies, especially by the media. 

When inquiries were made into Boris Johnson and key members of his cabinet, including Rishi Sunak, the right-wing media cynically spun the attempts to establish the nature of Johnson’s actions as “evil witch hunts” and echoed the claims that the then Prime Minister had no idea that the events that involved ‘bringing your own booze’ were actually parties. 

O’Brien believes that this failure to hold those in power to account has allowed incompetent individuals to rise to the top with no accountability for the abject and dishonest stories they tell. For O’Brien, this deceit has catastrophic consequences, with the potential dismantling of a fair and honest democracy. 

O’Brien also describes that the reason for this failure of accountability is because the established media have failed to sufficiently respond to this deceit by statesmen who should be telling the truth. He points out how the British media have failed to respond when politicians say “up is down, black is white” with the consequence being that “barefaced, evil lies” are told with no repercussions for those that spout dishonest claims. 

O’Brien mentions how the BBC, an organisation that he fundamentally loves, has been unable to deal with this issue. O’Brien described how its “nervousness” to be impartial and portray both sides of the argument has resulted in the poor reporting of debates. 

The editorial insistence of reporting both sides of the argument, often presenting it as a 50-50 debate when in reality the argument is often swayed 95-5 in a particular direction by the experts in that field, hides the fact of where the consensus lies. 

O’Brien pointed out that during Brexit the BBC could find thousands of economists to come on air to describe the benefits of staying with the European Union and the devastating implications if Britain left the organisation. However, when arguing in the opposite direction, the BBC could unsurprisingly find very few voices, with maverick economist and future source of inspiration for Liz Truss, Patrick Minford, often given a platform to promote his atypical and contrary beliefs. 

This inaccurate presentation of debates has left the British public unwise to the potential implications of decisions and the facts behind these issues. This inability to accurately report and call out lies has resulted in the rise of deceitful politicians who are now at the heart of our government. O’Brien argues that they have been left to hold their high offices with no liability and that this has played a role in the broken Britain we now find ourselves looking at.

Some of the names mentioned in the book 

As previously mentioned, O’Brien’s book covers ten figures with a chapter devoted to each individual, with the names spanning from the think tank and lobbyist industry to the media and No. 10 Downing Street. 

One figure that O’Brien focused part of his talk on was former UKIP leader and current Reform UK supporter Nigel Farage, who was also videoed dancing with Boris Johnson’s former cabinet member and ex-UK Home Secretary Priti Patel at the Conservative Party Conference in October. 

O’Brien comically joked that rather than calling the staunch leave campaigner a “sack of shit”, the author chose to describe him as an “electoral fertiliser” in his book, with the right-wing Brexiteer weaponising immigration and culture wars, helping to trigger the devastating 2016 EU Referendum vote and the subsequent dysfunctional political situation that Britain currently finds itself in. 

Rupert Murdoch is another figure to which a chapter has been devoted, with the media tycoon who owns the Sun, the Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Fox News Organisation among hundreds of other media publications, having an irrefutable impact on both British and global politics. 

For Murdoch and other media figures such as Jonathan Harmsworth, who is the owner of the Daily Mail and hopeful future owner of The Telegraph, their objective has not been simply to build successful commercial operations, but instead to buy influence in both UK and global politics, often to the detriment of the nation’s and citizens’ interests. O’Brien pointed out how GB News currently operates at a loss of £30 million every year, demonstrating his point that the desire is to “sow the seed” for their beliefs in the political system and buy influence within British politics rather than present factual and well-informed debates to the public. 

Elsewhere in the book, chapters discuss Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, Suella Braverman, Dominic Raab and Matthew Elliott. Some are well-known and others previously unrevealed but all have a tremendous impact on British politics with their actions, either through pure incompetence or preconceived design, thus contributing to a broken Britain.

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