Strangers in Strange Lands: Constitutional Formalities, Power Realities, and Comparative Anglophone Responses to Foreign Electoral Meddling

Both the UK and US experienced foreign meddling through social media disinformation campaigns sponsored by foreign powers in 2016. The American backlash against this meddling yielded the greatest challenge to executive power in decades. The response in the UK – a committee report that Boris Johnson's Downing Street has procedurally suppressed – has been far more muted. This apparently poses an ominous paradox for UK governance: the UK has fewer formal mechanisms (a written constitution, robust judicial review) for checking a perhaps-tainted democratic will. Yet a closer look reveals a more subtle parallel: in the UK leadership selection mechanisms insulate actual state power from the electorate far more than in the US. The UK reaction may reflect particular political realities; a more general lesson is that foreign meddling must be considered in its broader constitutional and political context.