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You can see Zaha Hadid’s buildings where there are no right angles. You can tell a Frank Gehry piece because it appears to have been frozen in an explosion. The great architectural pragmatists Herzog & de Meuron left no such calling card.

Between Bordeaux Stadium (the airiest, most humane venue I’ve ever watched an elite game), 1111 Lincoln Road in Miami (the only multi-storey car park where I spent an afternoon) and California’s Dominus Winery There are no big ideas in between. Sure enough, when the company won world acclaim, it was the era of non-dogmatic politics around the turn of the millennium. The proposal it won for London’s Tate Modern was an architectural Blairism, adapting existing structures rather than attempting revolution.

The Herzog & de Meuron exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts is one of those shows that inadvertently captures the spirit of the times. Britain is a country that has re-embraced pragmatism. Boris Johnson quits parliament. The same goes for his St Paul Nadine Dorries. Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer is promoting centrist politicians in his incoming cabinet.

Scotland is becoming less of a one-party state. Tony Blair is no longer persona non grata. From time to time, the UK government makes some kind of compromise with the EU: a scientific research funding agreement might be the next step. In 2019, Britain had to choose between Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. Next time, voters will choose shrewd and meticulous technocrats like Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir. A country is normalizing when the main complaints about its leaders are a lack of charisma and grand vision.

Britain is becoming pragmatic again with astonishing speed. I say this not to say that all of its policies are wise, just that the people behind them are responsible adults who know that government is about trade-offs and half-assedness. By contrast, the spread of plausible results in the next US election includes another Donald Trump administration. In France, extremists will not take on the twice-elected Macron.Even in Germany, which avoided the worst wave of populism, the “Germany Alternative” is now second best polling party. (Equivalent parties in Britain are polling in single digits.)

What can the world learn from Britain’s political purge? First, parliamentary systems fail very quickly. When heads of government do not have direct authority, legislators can simply and legally remove them. Liz Truss was fired within 50 days.

Second, don’t be critical of your savior. Sunak and Starmer are not visionary moralists. One of them stood by Johnson until the end. Another is campaigning for Corbyn to be prime minister. But by doing so, everyone has more “permission” to change their own party than a lifelong liberal.

Yet the most important lesson is too painful to state bluntly. To oppose radical politics, a country has to suffer considerably. The UK is unique in that it votes not only for unconventional individuals, but also for unconventional people. project. In the form of Brexit, it has brought immediate post-liberal politics to a degree rarely seen in mature democracies.

The far right will forever follow the French Fifth Republic because it has never had a devastating test in office. The same goes for Trump, who, despite becoming president, was stymied by the Democratic House within two years and himself slack on details from day one. Even the populists ruling Italy must take into account the divisive nature of the regime.

Brexit is different: it is a concrete, discrete venture, and it has been fully implemented. one third of voters Feels like a good idea now. I don’t think the disillusioned majority will change that decision any time soon. (That’s not pragmatic.) But they’re vaccinated against anything with grand visions, simple answers, personality-led demagoguery — left, right, or hard to pinpoint. Even on the airwaves, the fake people and undergraduate communists who were so good in the Johnson-Corbyn era are less and less heard. No, one country stands firm: we won’t do it again.

“You can’t always self-made’ said Herzog & de Meuron at the opening of the Tate Modern in 2000. It was an obvious statement for a pragmatic nation in perhaps its most pragmatic phase ever. A generation on, it Stands out as a warning, but people are too late.

janan.ganesh@ft.com

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