Liz and Boris What does the “cunning plan” look like in the British way
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Especially interesting for fans of intrigues and undercover arrangements in the event of the return of the extravagant Boris Johnson to the premier's chair will be the question of whether the cunning politician planned everything in advance. Indeed, in July, Johnson could not run, and Liz Truss became prime minister thanks to his support. Could Liz and Boris have staged the biggest political drama of the century, or could the gullible foreign minister herself become a puppet in the intrigues of the world's oldest parliament?
Focusunderstood the intricacies of the intrigues of British politics and found out what became the “hadron collider” that so accelerated the fall of the government in the United Kingdom.
Until the end of October, the UK will receive the fifth prime minister in the last 6 years. This is not yet the highest “turnover” in the government on the old continent, but for a balanced and stable Foggy Albion – a real kaleidoscope. It is worth noting that during the entire era of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, 15 prime ministers were replaced, and at the turn of the millennium, the carousel of change of prime ministers moved at a speed of three heads of government in three decades.
Let's start with the fact that the same ruling party has been in power in the UK for more than 12 years. Now the British Tories are the bastion of conservatism in Europe. After all, unlike many European like-minded people, they managed to avoid accusations of authoritarianism (which their “colleagues” faced, for example, in Poland), and even more so – in ties with Putin (which applies to almost all conservatives in the world, even in the United States) .
On the contrary, London is the main engine of Ukraine's struggle against Russian aggression in Europe. And, of course, the UK remains a model of democratic values for the whole world.
However, the conservatives of the island nation have one significant problem – this fall, the unchanged party in power will offer the nation its fifth prime minister during its reign. Of course, they are still far from Italy (where the average duration of the government is about a year), but for inert Britain, three prime ministers a year is, to put it mildly, too much. At the same time, we note that the Conservative Party has won all four election campaigns that have taken place in the country over the past 12 years.
So what is wrong in the intricacies of the latest British politics and why the party that securely holds power in the country cannot decide who personally hand over the reins of government?
In 2010, the Conservative Party went to the polls with an electoral manifesto that did not involve any sudden movements (the Conservatives).
What caused real interest in their promises were two referendums – on secession of Scotland and on leaving the EU.
In 2014, then Tory leader Prime Minister David Cameron managed to keep the kingdom intact by winning his first referendum – the Scots decided to remain part of the United Kingdom. Interestingly, Cameron himself preferred to have her Majesty's subjects say “No” in both plebiscites. And he announced referendums in order to further strengthen the unity of the British kingdom and its membership in the EU.
However, already in 2016, political luck turned away from Cameron: 52% of Britons voted for leaving the EU, therefore, speaking in favor of to stay in a united Europe, Cameron resigned.
And then it started spinning. The new prime minister, Theresa May, called early elections to garner popular support during the Brexit negotiations (as journalists called the process of leaving the United Kingdom from the EU). However, even the next victory of the Conservatives in June 2017 did not move the process forward. And two years later, the Conservative leader resigned again without losing the election.
The fact is that May, like Cameron, was not in the Brexit camp until the decision of the 2016 referendum. But in the summer of 2019, the Conservatives were finally led by his longtime bright admirer, the former mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
“The face of Brexit”, Johnson, a few months after winning the party elections, went to early parliamentary elections, where he received a significant advantage over his opponents with the Conservatives – the Tories took 365 seats out of 650 in the lower house of the British Parliament. This is a record result since the reign of Margaret Thatcher, even leading to the resignation of the leader of the Labor Party, the leading opposition force.
The people demanded that the UK leave the EU, which Johnson was determined to implement. Nothing foreshadowed trouble for such a symbiosis, and when Britain left the EU in 2020 (the process of withdrawing from all agreements dragged on for almost a whole year), it seemed that the charismatic politician had secured a cloudless life for himself until the next elections, which are scheduled for 2024. But it didn't turn out as expected.
Boris Johnson, who at one time was the mayor of London, in the status of a national-level politician relies precisely on the inhabitants of the province. According to Michael Kenny, a professor of public policy at the University of Cambridge, he has created a reputation as a politician who “listens to the problems of people outside the capital.” This paradox fully fits into the image of the extravagant Johnson, however, it does not go well with the image of the conservatives, the top of which, in its essence, fully corresponds to the name of the party.
Bloomberg News political commentator Joe Mays notes that Johnson has a stable personal support of about 40 deputies, who owe their election to Johnson's popularity. Thus, the charismatic prime minister, whose strong point was never political flexibility, having burst into the very top of the politics of foggy Albion, began to impose his will on the mastodons of British politics.
At the same time, the extraordinary steps of Boris Johnson, which provided mono-party power to the conservative , who were actively predicted an electoral failure against the backdrop of Brexit, appealed to ordinary conservatives – the party has about 200 thousand active members, people who pay membership fees (30 pounds a year) and ultimately choose the party leadership.
The key to Boris Johnson's success in non-conservative districts was the idea of balancing the economic development of regions. In particular, infrastructure projects in the north, which required significant budget expenditures. According to Robert Ford, at least 50 deputies from the “classical” constituencies, who are in favor of maximum liberalization of fiscal policy, for limiting budget spending, became the inner-party opposition to this. It can be assumed that for their support they rely not only on the wealthy British, but also on the business circles of Albion.
While Johnson was organizing, as it seemed to many, a suicidal project for Britain to leave the EU, no one wanted to interfere with him . However, the process itself went smoothly for ordinary residents of the kingdom, most of them in 2021 did not feel the consequences of leaving the union.
That year, most attention was focused on the problems of the UK related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The criticism of the opposition was based on the unpreparedness of the medical system for the challenges of the pandemic. Johnson's opponents, such as Tim Bale, professor of politics at the Queen's University of London, called him a right-wing populist. Obviously, the opposition has focused on the unreliability of Johnson's plans in the medium term.
In the end, it was the consequences of covid that hit the rating of the charismatic prime minister the hardest. However, not in the way one might expect. In January 2022, it turned out that during the hard lockdown, when some Britons were even denied farewell to deceased relatives, Boris Johnson, with members of the government and parliament, held loud parties in the government building. At the same time, quarantine norms were grossly violated.
A scandal erupted, but the prime minister escaped with only a fine. His decision (which in many ways demonstrates the essence of this non-standard personality) was original – to lift all restrictions in the UK against the backdrop of this scandal. After all, then the prime minister turned out to be guilty of a crime that was no longer relevant.
It was at this time that the Russian aggression against Ukraine began and all public attention was focused on the confrontation with the Russian Federation. James Nixey, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at Chatham House, calls Boris Johnson's actions in this direction his most obvious success. The war caused the deterioration of the economic situation in general throughout the world and, in particular, in the UK. It is clear that the ratings of the ruling party in such conditions are falling. However, Boris Johnson remained the most popular politician in the Conservative Party. His rating stubbornly held on, despite all the new scandals that accompanied him and his entourage. This forced Johnson to submit a vote of confidence in the government to a parliamentary vote, which, along with a year of immunity, it eventually received in June 2022.
However, just weeks after that vote, Boris Johnson was sabotaged by members of his own government, who almost collectively resigned en masse under the pretext of disagreeing with the unethical behavior at a private party event of Johnson's henchman. Left without a majority of government members, Johnson was forced to resign on July 7, 2022.
The leader of the rebellion was Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, whom bookmakers immediately called the favorite for the premiership.
However, Johnson's popularity among ordinary party members became an obstacle to Sunak's path to a political career. The procedure for choosing the leader of the party among the Conservatives is approved by a special body – the Committee of 1922. And he decided that the members of Parliament determine the two main candidates, and the final choice will be made by ordinary members of the Conservative Party over the next two months, while the holidays at Parliament continue. Throughout this time, Johnson continued to act as head of government.
Rishi Sunak easily won the primaries among the members of parliament, which indicates his popularity among the top of the party. However, the general party election was won by Liz Truss, supported by… Boris Johnson.
The new prime minister took office on 6 September. In difficult times, she presented complex and radical solutions. Interestingly, her economic policy (dramatic tax cuts) was based on the core values of the party, while the containment of energy prices should have appealed to her new supporters, who were attracted by Boris Johnson.
However, a new force intervened in the game – international financial markets, which experienced a collapse in both the pound sterling (a record for a decade) and the debt obligations of the United Kingdom immediately after the presentation of the prime minister's program. This brought down the rating of Liz Truss and, as it turned out, put an end to her premiership, which was the shortest in history (lasted 45 days). Bookmakers again consider Rishi Sunak to be the favorite for the post of the new head of government.
This time, the 1922 Committee significantly shortened the duration of the election campaign, which was due to end on 28 October. It was decided to significantly raise the entry barrier for those wishing to run. Now, a candidate needs at least 100 parliamentarians to get into the final vote (it took 20 in the summer).
This could become a significant problem for Boris Johnson, who announced his desire to return. He is still the most popular conservative among party members, but he can only count on the votes of 40 deputies.
At the same time, Rishi Sunaku , who should not have problems with parliamentarians, it is to be hoped that no one else will be able to collect the necessary hundred votes, then he will automatically become prime minister – as the only candidate.
If there are two candidates, the party chairman and then the country's prime minister will again be elected by members of the Conservative Party, but now by online voting.
The main intrigue remains whether Johnson will be able to get the necessary 100 votes of members of the British parliament to gain access to the general party elections. Also intriguing is whether Sunak can defeat any other candidate than Johnson (who Johnson is likely to support – by analogy with Liz Truss).
The question of the political weight of the prime minister, who, in fact, will be elected several dozen parliamentarians, effectively going against the will of the majority of voters who elected Johnson in 2019, and members of their own party who elected Truss and rejected Sunak in the summer of 2022.
If Boris Johnson becomes prime minister again (after a short break, which actually lasted less than two months), the question is how he will get along with the disloyal Tory faction in the House of Commons …