After Week of Turmoil, What Next for British Politics?

Elizabeth Tower of the Houses of Parliament in London, England
Elizabeth Tower of the Houses of Parliament in London, England (Unsplash/Paul Green)

Tuesday was an historic night in British politics, and one whose outcome could reverberate through the coming months and years.

Lawmakers voted 328 to 321 to take control of the parliamentary agenda from the government in order to demand that Boris Johnson, the prime minister, ask for an extension of Britain’s exit from the European Union if no withdrawal agreement is in place by October 17.

Johnson, who currently has a 100-percent loss rate in Parliament, and is the first British prime minister since William Pitt the Younger in 1793 to lose his first vote, refuses to delay Brexit and called for an early election instead.

But that too failed. Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, a two-thirds supermajority is required to call an early election. Many opposition lawmakers, who fear an early election is a government trap to bring about a no-deal Brexit, abstained. Read more

Even Parliament Must Make Way for Brexit

The statue of Richard the Lionheart and the Palace of Westminster in London, England, August 12, 2014
The statue of Richard the Lionheart and the Palace of Westminster in London, England, August 12, 2014 (Shutterstock)

To its supporters, Brexit is all that matters. If it means plunging the country into deep uncertainty, undermining the public’s trust in institutions, trashing Britain’s alliances, causing Northern Ireland and Scotland to leave the United Kingdom, even destroying the Conservative Party — so be it.

The latest victim of this obsession is parliamentary democracy.

In the battle between popular and parliamentary sovereignty, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sided with the former and suspended Parliament, so it will have almost no time to prevent the United Kingdom from crashing out of the European Union without an exit agreement. Read more

Conservatives Put Party Before Country. They’ve Harmed Both

Former Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, former British prime minister David Cameron, former London mayor Boris Johnson and American president Donald Trump
Former Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, former British prime minister David Cameron, former London mayor Boris Johnson and American president Donald Trump (La Moncloa/The Prime Minister’s Office/Georgina Coupe/Shutterstock/Nazar Gonchar/Michael Vadon)

Center-right leaders in Britain, Spain and the United States have put the interests of their parties ahead of the good of their countries. Both their parties and their countries have suffered as a result. Read more

Election of Britain’s Next Prime Minister Feels a Little Ridiculous

London mayor Boris Johnson waves at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, England, October 9, 2012
London mayor Boris Johnson waves at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, England, October 9, 2012 (Andrew Parsons)

The contest to succeed Theresa May as Conservative Party leader and prime minister of the UK is about halfway through. A field of more than two dozen candidates has been whittled down to two by parliamentarians. The final contenders are Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

The entire thing has an air of ridicule to it. Many in the country have watched the televised debates between the candidates setting out their policies on not just Brexit but controversial domestic issues, such as social care and high-speed rail. But out of millions, only 150 to 160,000 party members have a vote.

On top of this, to spend the better half of two months choosing a new leader, who will be the new prime minister by default, when the country faces perhaps its greatest crisis in half a century seems rather like rearranging the deckchairs on a sinking ship — futile and even a little insulting to those who suspect more could have been done with the six-month Brexit extension granted by the EU in April. Read more

Boris Johnson and the Brexit Ultras Deserve Each Other

Then-British foreign secretary Boris Johnson answers questions from reporters at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, June 18
Then-British foreign secretary Boris Johnson answers questions from reporters at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, June 18 (UN/Jean-Marc Ferré)

When Boris Johnson’s last bid for the Conservative Party’s leadership failed, I argued here that the former mayor of London’s many flipflops had finally caught up with him.

“You can only change your mind so many times before people start to see you for the political opportunist you are,” I wrote.

My mistake was to think the British right cares about principle and integrity. Read more

Johnson Warns Brexit Delay Will Benefit Labour

Britain's then-foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, answers questions from reporters in Kiev, Ukraine, March 1, 2017
Britain’s then-foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, answers questions from reporters in Kiev, Ukraine, March 1, 2017 (Shutterstock/Nazar Gonchar)

Boris Johnson has finally put his head above the parapet and launched his bid to become Britain’s next prime minister.

At a well-orchestrated event on Wednesday, which saw the former foreign secretary joined by a number of Conservative Party heavyweights, Johnson warned that his party faces an existential crisis if it fails to deliver Brexit.

“Delay means defeat, delay means Corbyn,” he warned.

Britain is due to leave the EU on October 31. Read more

Brexit Is Tearing Britain’s Conservative Party Apart

British prime minister Theresa May attends a NATO summit in Brussels, July 11, 2018
British prime minister Theresa May attends a NATO summit in Brussels, July 11, 2018 (Shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis)

In last month’s European elections, Britain’s Conservative Party outdid expectations that it would perform poorly by performing terribly. It placed fifth with just 9 percent support, the party’s worst result since 1832.

This is a humiliation for a party that prides itself on being Britain’s “natural party of government”. Theresa May promptly announced she would step down as prime minister and party leader. Twelve candidates are vying to replace her, including the former mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

A fresh face won’t be enough avert the next electoral disaster, though. The Conservatives have lost their reputation for competence and prudence during the Brexit process and the issue of Europe — which has brought down every Conservative prime minister since Ted Heath — is unlikely to go away. Read more