It has been an interesting time in politics, albeit disastrous for Britain, and quite disastrous for the conservative party, considering the fact that the majority they had achieved has been whittled down in Polls due to events around the leadership of Boris Johnson. The problems are manifold, and centre on a Prime Minister who brought his most loyal MP’s together to form a government after expelling 21 time-honoured and experienced conservative MPs from the party for disagreeing with him, including Winston Churchill’s grandson. The senior MPs, almost all of whom are former Conservative government ministers, included former chancellors and secretaries of state, had admittedly joined with opposition parties to vote for a plan that could delay the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union and prevent a no-deal Brexit. Nonetheless, it signalled a jolting change of leadership.
But that was in 2019, and now in 2022, something like 47 MPs have expressed their lack of confidence in Boris Johnson by resigning the positions they had, some of them in government, so that on the day after this historical 24 hours, government was no longer able to function. Having already had a vote of confidence shortly before, there are MPs now jostling about trying to make a vote of no confidence possible at short notice. Of course, the whole issue is not doing the reputation of British democracy much good and reminds one of the aspirations of the 45th American President to stay in power after a majority of the American electorate made an extra effort to have him removed from office. As we know, that also didn’t happen without incidents that raised concerns about the state of the American democracy.
Boris Johnson, in his last PMQs before the move by his party to encourage him to leave, tried to brave the surge that was already in the air, having lost his chancellor and minister for health. His smiling face and banter with the opposition was obviously not taken well. Probably the statement, that he “probably” met with a former KGB Agent Alexander Lebedev without officials as Foreign Secretary, that he gave to the select committee was the final straw for many more MPs, who then followed suit and called for his resignation by resigning themselves. It is worth mentioning that their salary for the positions held is paid in arrears. As at the moment, he is reportedly resigning as Party leader, but remaining Prime Minister until a replacement is found, which could take until well into autumn.
The Wikipedia entry on Johnson states:
Johnson is a controversial figure in British politics.[i]/[ii] Supporters have praised him as humorous, witty and entertaining,[iii] with an appeal stretching beyond traditional Conservative voters.[iv]/[v] Conversely his critics have accused him of lying, elitism, cronyism, bigotry, and amorality.[vi]/[vii]/[viii] Johnson’s political positions generally follow one-nation conservatism, and commentators have described his political style as opportunistic, populist, and pragmatic.[ix]/[x]/[xi]/[xii] [Endnotes included]
Boris Johnson, despite his obvious success, has always been a bluffer, if you take the quotes from the Wikipedia entry at face value, and it seems that he has always had a privileged position from which to be so. It has been interesting to follow his incredulous rise from Germany and to observe the reactions of Europeans to his appearances. The connection to Trump was quickly made by European observers, and the clowning, which was often portrayed as some sort of affinity for ordinary people, was seen only as blunt populism, and presumably traditional conservatives also thought it was a “bad show.” The fact that my family addressed him as “Boris” showed that his showmanship had paid off to some extent, and the demonization of Jeremy Corbyn helped him on his way to power.
It was also clear that on international conferences, Johnson stuck out like a sore thumb and didn’t have the recognition he had at home. It reminded some of the presence of Trump at his first international conference, though without the blundering attempt to get to the front of the queue, that showed Trump to be what he is. It seemed to me to show that the attempt of the far right to subdue Europe, and show it its considered place in history, was recognised by European politicians and not appreciated. The calling cards of Trump and Johnson embodied the exceptionalism their countries had always displayed, and Brexit was a glaring example.
The curious thing about Johnson, however, is his position towards the Ukraine, especially considering the connections and the payments that have been revealed made by Russian sources to the conservative party and his connections with the Lebedev family. The delivery of military equipment and weapons for €120 million in January 2022, which were transported on RAF C-17 planes that flew to Ukraine, as well as the sanctions on Russian assets, raised several eyebrows, and his position has been, other than Trump, critical of Russia. Additionally, Wolodymyr Selenskyj wants to belong to the EU, which Johnson has always treated with contempt. This apparent ambiguity suggests that somewhere there may be a skeleton in a closet somewhere.
What happens to privileged people who are shown the door? Well, they often don’t go away, so it will be interesting to see if he manages to make a new appearance at some time.
[i] Davies, Guy (23 July 2019). “Meet Boris Johnson: The UK’s controversial new prime minister” (https://abcnews.go.com/International/meet-boris-johnson-controversial-figure-uksprime-minister/story?id=63861394). ABC News. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
[ii] Blitz, James (23 July 2019). “Why is Boris Johnson such a divisive figure?” (https://www.ft.com/content/bd03b736-ac7d-11e9-8030-530adfa879c2). Financial Times. Archived (https://archive.today/20190724054418/https://www.ft.com/content/bd03b736-ac7d-11e9-8030-530adfa879c2) from the original on 24 July 2019. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
[iii] Gimson 2012, p. 20
[iv] Kirkup, James (7 January 2015). “Boris Johnson goes looking for Conservative friends in the north” (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/11329569/Boris-Johnson-goes-looking-for-Conservative-friends-in-the-north.html). The Telegraph. London. Archived (https://ghostarchive.org/archive/20220110/https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/11329569/Boris-Johnson-goes-looking-for-Conservative-friends-in-the-north.html) fromthe original on 10 January 2022. Retrieved 5 May 2021
[v] Purnell 2011, p. 327
[vi] Edwards & Isaby 2008, p. 110
[vii] Conn, David; Pegg, David; Evans, Rob; Garside, Juliette; Lawrence, Felicity (15 November 2020). ” ‘Chumocracy’: how Covid revealed the new shape of the Tory establishment” (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/15/chumocracy-covid-revealed-shape-tory-establishment). The Observer. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
[viii] Purnell 2011, p. 365.
[ix] Purnell 2011, p. 121
[x] Staunton, Denis (23 June 2019). “Boris Johnson: The UK’s deeply polarising next prime minister” (https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/uk/boris-johnson-the-uk-s-deeply-polarising-next-prime-minister-1.3933181). The Irish Times. Retrieved 8 May 2021
[xi] Berend, T. Iván (2020). A century of populist demagogues: Eighteen European portraits, 1918–2018. Budapest: Central European University Press. p. 239. ISBN 978-963-386-334-3. JSTOR 10.7829/j.ctv16f6cn2.1 (https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7829/j.ctv16f6cn2.1).
[xii] Letters (13 December 2021). “Boris Johnson’s amorality has been proven beyond doubt | Letters” (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/dec/13/boris-johnsons-amorality-has-been-proven-beyond-doubt). the Guardian. Retrieved 6 July 2022