June 5, 2023

Democracy Endangered: The Case of the United Kingdom

Event Series: Free Speech at the Crossroads: International Dialogues

Showing the Democracy Endangered: The Case of the United Kingdom Video

On January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union. Nearly three-and-a-half-years later, many feel that “Brexit” has not worked out as its proponents had hoped. Amid arising political polarization, educators and unionists are on strike, the National Health Service remains in disarray, and a cost-of-living crisis plagues the country. Following the resignation of both the scandal-ridden Boris Johnson, who had made Brexit a central part of his program, and Liz Truss, whose brief term was beset with accusations of gross economic mismanagement, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been attempting to quell the chaos left by his Conservative Party predecessors, with some hoping he will bring an era of integrity and accountability to British politics, while others predict the party’s disintegration. Is the young leader doing enough to get democracy back on track? Or has general discontent made a victory by the Labour Party, led by Keir Starmer, more likely in the 2024 national election?

This event was co-sponsored by the Free Speech Project (Georgetown University) and the Future of the Humanities Project (Georgetown University and Blackfriars Hall and Campion Hall, Oxford).

Photo courtesy of Flickr user UK Government


John Battle is a British Labour Party politician who served in Parliament for Leeds West from 1987 to 2010. He now chairs the Justice and Peace Commission of the Diocese of Leeds. Battle served as minister of state for trade and industry from 1997 to 1999 and as minister of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 1999 to 2001. He is a fellow at Leeds Trinity University and Blackfriars Hall, Oxford.

Laura Beers is a professor of history at American University whose research focuses on modern Britain. Her most recent book, Red Ellen: The Life of Ellen Wilkinson, Socialist, Feminist, Internationalist (2016), a history of Britain's second female cabinet minister, won the 2017 Stansky award for best book in the field of modern British history. She is also the author of Your Britain: Media and the Making of the Labour Party (2010).

Max Colchester is the Wall Street Journal's U.K. correspondent, writing about British politics and national security. Previously, he covered the banking industry out of London, chronicling the fallout of the late 2000s financial crisis. Before that, he was a correspondent in Paris, covering a range of subjects from fashion to nuclear energy and technology. He holds a master’s degree from City University London.

Baroness Jenny Randerson has been a member of the House of Lords since 2012 and is a Liberal Democratic Party spokesperson there for Transport. She has served as parliamentary under secretary of state for Wales and a Lords’ Minister for Northern Ireland. She has also been a Welsh Assembly member for Cardiff Central, including a year as acting deputy first minister of Wales.

Michael Scott (moderator) is senior dean, fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, college adviser for postgraduate students, and a member of the Las Casas Institute. He also serves as senior adviser to the president of Georgetown University. Scott previously was the pro-vice-chancellor at De Montfort University and founding vice-chancellor of Wrexham Glyndwr University.

Sanford J. Ungar (moderator), president emeritus of Goucher College, is director of the Free Speech Project at Georgetown University, which documents challenges to free expression in American education, government, and civil society. Director of the Voice of America under President Bill Clinton, he was also dean of the American University School of Communication and is a former co-host of "All Things Considered" on NPR.