Boris Johnson’s Blue Wall Starts to Crack

Boris Johnson Angela Merkel
British prime minister Boris Johnson and German chancellor Angela Merkel pose for photos at the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, June 11 (10 Downing Street/Simon Dawson)

British Conservatives woke up Friday morning to the news that a once-safe seat in Parliament was no longer blue.

Liberal Democrat Sarah Green overturned a majority of 16,000 in Chesham and Amersham, bordering the London Green Belt, with a remarkable 25-point swing away from the Conservatives. It is one of the largest swings away from the ruling party since the early 1990s, when Tony Blair launched New Labour.

Extrapolating from a by-election is risky. Britain has had many by-elections which were heralded as the dawning of a new political era that never arrived. But a center-right party losing the suburbs after lurching to the populist right sounds like a familiar story. Read more “Boris Johnson’s Blue Wall Starts to Crack”

British Conservatives Shouldn’t Root for Trump

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump gives a speech in Paris, France, July 12, 2017 (DoD/Dominique A. Pineiro)

Like in 2016, there are those on the British right who are rooting for Donald Trump’s reelection.

Like in 2016, they are deluding themselves if they think the Republican will be better for Britain than his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. Read more “British Conservatives Shouldn’t Root for Trump”

Conservatives Learned the Lesson of the 2017 Election

Boris Johnson, then the mayor of London, visits Hampstead Heath, April 15, 2012
Boris Johnson, then the mayor of London, visits Hampstead Heath, April 15, 2012 (i-Images/Andrew Parsons)

Britain’s Conservative Party learned the lesson of the 2017 election, when then-Prime Minister Theresa May lost her majority on the back of some rather limp campaigning.

This year, under the more charismatic, if perhaps less reliable, Boris Johnson, the Conservatives have been in an optimistic mood, emphasizing hoped-for possibilities of economic, political and social renewal after Brexit.

The mantra of their campaign was to “get Brexit done” after three years of back-and-forth negotiations with the EU. The calculation was that this would appeal to working-class Labour voters in constituences that want to leave the EU. The exit poll released by the three major broadcasters after polling places closed on Thursday night appears to bear this out. Read more “Conservatives Learned the Lesson of the 2017 Election”

Stakes Are High in British Election, But Outcome Is Up in the Air

The Houses of Parliament in London, England, February 19, 2013
The Houses of Parliament in London, England, February 19, 2013 (Martin Robson)

In a month, Britain will have its third election in four years. Once more the reason is Brexit, or rather the lack of Brexit.

I’ve argued before that Britain’s departure from the EU is accelerating a breakdown of the two-party system. The upcoming election is like a kaleidoscope. Every time you shake it, a new pattern appears.

Yet the stakes are simple enough. For the Conservatives, all that matters is winning a majority. The other parties merely have to stop this from happening to claim victory.

Already we can say the new Parliament will be more partisan and less experienced. Sixty lawmakers with 750 years of combined legislative experience are not seeking reelection. Many blame the coarse political discourse of recent years. Read more “Stakes Are High in British Election, But Outcome Is Up in the Air”

After Week of Turmoil, What Next for British Politics?

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Aerial view of Westminster in London, England (Unsplash/Ricardo Frantz)

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 “After Week of Turmoil, What Next for British Politics?”

Even Parliament Must Make Way for Brexit

Elizabeth Tower London England
Elizabeth Tower of the Palace of Westminster in London, England, February 23, 2017 (Unsplash/Kate Krivanec)

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 “Even Parliament Must Make Way for Brexit”

Conservatives Put Party Before Country. They’ve Harmed Both

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 “Conservatives Put Party Before Country. They’ve Harmed Both”

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

Boris Johnson
British foreign secretary Boris Johnson answers questions from reporters in Kiev, Ukraine, March 1, 2017 (Shutterstock/Nazar Gonchar)

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

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 “Boris Johnson and the Brexit Ultras Deserve Each Other”

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 “Johnson Warns Brexit Delay Will Benefit Labour”