UPDATE 0715 7/7/22 – the Prime Minister of Britain, Boris Johnson, has resigned.
For a Prime Minister so enamoured with William Shakespear (his magnum opus on the Bard, like most of his policies is stuck somewhere on the production line) Boris Johnson has fashioned himself a suitably Jacobean Tragedy in which to live.
But like so much in the early 21st Century it really doesn’t live up to its, nor its author’s bidding. As he fights for his political life, with condescension, intrigue and threat he has suggested that those amongst his erstwhile supporters who wished him gone would have to “dip their hands in blood” to rid themselves of him. The truth is though that it is not blood that laps at the elbows of those wishing to end his days in Number 10, but more the stuff that Hercules had to shovel out of the stables.
As this goes to publication the atmosphere in Westminster – and the country beyond – is febrile and ever changing. We have had the unedifying spectacle of the key post of Treasury Secretary (which we call the Chancellor of the Exchequer) change hands. First Rishi Sunak, husband of one of the country’s richest women, a man who upended years of a cautious Conservative approach to public finances by splurging taxpayer’s money across the road during Covid like a truck hit hydrant. He has since then retrenched by turning the party into a tax-hiking throwback. The combination of tax rises, record inflation and huge pressure on employers to ramp up wages (lawyers are demanding a 25% pay rise, not content with the 15% on offer).
Has left party loyalists first baffled, then shell-shocked and now incandescent with rage.
He was rapidly replaced by Nadhim Zahawi, a Baghdad born Kurdish businessman, who had held various ministerial roles, latterly that of Education Secretary was drafted into the No 2 job. Within 24hrs, he had turned on his benefactor. Like a Major being given command of the Broadcasting station to forestall the rolling coup d’etat, he decided instead to grab the airwaves and was now also calling for the Prime Minister to go.
Within 36 hrs over 50 senior and junior ministers had tendered their resignation. But the Prime Minister is still reorganising the furniture in his office.
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The British constitution is a venerable yet flexible beast. For hundreds of years it has grown, organically and slowly, changing bit by bit to deal with any political crisis that may face it.
On paper the Queen post election offers the job of her Prime Minister to the individual most able to command a majority in the House of Commons. If they fail to do so, she calls on somebody else to try to do so. If nobody is able to, then a General Election is called.
The problem the country faces right now is that only 3 short years ago, the Conservatives under Boris Johnson won a stonking election, based on promises to be, well conservative. Getting Brexit done was key, but so was the understanding that the majority would be used to spread the country’s economic prosperity to all corners, not just the LOndon region. There was also the understanding that it would stand up for the traditional culture of the country against assault across the board in government departments, academia and elsewhere.
This, on the whole, it has failed singularly to do. The woke agenda still rules the roost, chasing after the mirage of Net Zero hamstrings industry and buts supercharges under energy price hikes, and very little has been done to combat the rise of identitarian policies across society.
This leaves Conservative supporters wondering why they should bother, and the polls which only a year ago allowed the Conservatives to win by-elections in old socialist strongholds now ring funeral, rather than joyous bells.
Johnson is right now clinging on by his fingertips. The party machine wants him gone, indeed is poised to change the internal rules to allow him to be challenged by his own party, 11 months early. But, and here is the rub, there is no appetite amongst them for a general election.
So though he will certainly lose a confidence motion amongst Tories, if the opposition Labour party try to force a Parliamentary vote to force a General election, they will pretty much, to a man or woman, decide to support him – as the only way they can keep their jobs.
The public, what of it, they are less important now than almost ever before. The Prime Minister is playing his tragedy as farce, or farce as tragedy.
We are left railing against the sky, powerless, impotaent.
Meanwhile away from the headlines real things keep happening. The war in Ukraine continues to extract its toll of blood and treasure. The cost of living crisi is driving more and more into real financial hardship. The FBI and MI5 issued a joint statement of the severe and present dangers of a powerful China, and the UK Ambassador to Tehran was arrested by the Iranian regime. Not that anybody has noticed and they await the Falstaffian figure of Boris Johnson wriggle and squirm. In Shakespear it is the central character that learns to their own cost.
With Boris Johnson, it is the country.