With Brexit unfulfilled, a party leader to elect and another election possible, there has never been a better time to read Aeron Davis’ Reckless Opportunists: Elites at the end of the Establishment (Manchester University Press).

Written after 20 years of talking to individuals in power, it seeks to explain our new generation of leaders, “plugged into power, money or both: someone who knows where their interests lie.” But not really in charge. Neither expert nor visionary, nor really in control. “Too many are just reckless opportunists making the best of what they have amid the chaos they have helped create.”

Davis explores the way in which neoliberalism, preaching a smaller state, poorer employees, and untaxed capital, has undermined the Establishment which relies on security, law and social stability. Both Blair and Cameron refashioned their parties as “election winners rather than representative parties,” leading to a fall in membership and the 2016 election in which the political elite, “were given a good kicking.”

At the same time, ambitious civil servants learned the only path to advancement was cutting their own departments and company directors came under pressure from investors to take decisions which would create short term gain and long term pain.

According to Davis, politicians with expertise or experience of the outside world have gradually been replaced by PPE graduates, most of whom work in think-tanks or other political organisations before standing for Parliament. Once elected, the ambitious MP is moved from post-to-post relying on briefs from Civil Servants and party advisors to plug the gaps. The same principle applies to company executives and journalists. “Being a leader means subcontracting out judgement to others who may, or may not, have hidden agenda. It means confidently speaking lines that others have written for you.

Cynics will take comfort in the chapter exploring public consultations, which quotes a former permanent secretary saying, “..many a consultation has already decided the outcome by the time you get to the formal public stage.” The same chapter observes that, “in public, elites of all kinds refer to economist opinions as almost scientific facts. But in private, personal experience shows that too much of economics is too abstract for personal application.

Yet despite this, everyone sticks to the party line. Davis quotes the story of Tony Dye, one of the few fund managers who saw through the dot-com boom but spoke too soon. “Those people who had done the wrong thing – in finance – in politics – had not only survived, they had flourished.”

Davis concludes that the people who run our Government, Business and Finances may be highly educated, but they are far less in control than we think. “They follow more than they lead.”

Davis ends by suggesting “Systems and Principles for reigning in the Elite” in order to produce more appropriate leaders. Although, as he says elsewhere, turkey’s rarely vote for Christmas.

Reckless Opportunists by Aeron Davis – £9.99 Manchester University Press