A week in politics can change everything. This is certainly the case for all those watching Westminster with sharp eyes. After a week of staccato resignations from top ministers, today, Boris Johnson delivered a speech riddled with narratives of betrayal by his own party and thanked the British public for their trust. Consequently, Johnson has bitterly announced his resignation as the leader of the Conservative Party and as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
This may come as no surprise for some, and perhaps Andrew Marr to say that there is a philosophical divide in the UK government up until a few weeks ago. On Tuesday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak and the Health Secretary, Savid Javid announced their resignation from office. Since then, over 55 Conservative Party members have announced their resignation from ministerial positions. In a surprising turn of events, newly appointed Chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, publicly posted a letter urging the Prime Minister to resign only 24 hours after his appointment. So, how did we get here and where do we go from here? Let us look a little at how these
Who is Boris Johnson?
Born Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson in New York City, Boris Johnson is no stranger to controversy. Starting from a young age, Johnson’s peers have told tales that reek of privilege during his time at Eton College and Oxford University. During his time at Oxford University, alongside former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Johnson formed part of the controversial Bullingdon Club, a private all-male club for members hailing from the UK’s most expensive and exorbitant private schools. The Club came into light for controversial reports of alleged vandalism, sexism and bullying during its dinner parties.
Johnson’s career has been wrapped in politics. Apart from holding political office as a Member of Parliament and as the Mayor of London, Johnson was the editor of the moderate magazine The Spectator. Johnson’s columns and articles have been known for including racial and anti-working class remarks, such as comparing women who wear burkas to ‘letterboxes’ and describing the children of single mothers as ‘ill-raised and aggressive’.
Johnson served both in David Cameron and Theresa May’s cabinets. What he is perhaps most remembered for by recent generations is his support for the Leave Campaign during the referendum that decided the UK’s fate as a member of the European Union and his, perhaps, jocular double-decker bus promise that several funds that fuel the European Union would instead be used to fund the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). After an internal coup by the Conservative Party on Theresa May because of pressure to deliver Brexit, Johnson contested for the leadership election for the Conservative Party and subsequently won. In 2019, the leader embarked upon his first general election and won with a majority, promising the people of Britain to ‘get Brexit done’ once and for all.
Since the start of his mandate as Prime Minister, there have been a series of events that can be said to be contributing to the leader’s decline. The United Kingdom’s handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the first few months was not an asset for Johnson’s political portfolio. However, the vaccine rollout redeemed the leader’s public trust at some point. From dismissing international rules at the prospect of Brexit, a leak of a video of his former Communications Advisor, Allegra Stratton, hinting at a party being held at Downing Street and the more recent Chris Pincher Scandal, Johnson’s leadership will forever be remembered for its explosive political roller coasters of distraction and diplomatic u-turns when it came to negotiating with the representatives of Brussels.
What comes next? Who is next?
For stalwarts who envisage a future where the Conservative Party is leading the way, the future looks bleak. Johnson’s premiership is not over just yet, after he announced that he will remain as ‘caretaker’ Prime Minister and appoint a ‘caretaker’ Cabinet till an election for a new Conservative Party leader has run its course in the upcoming Autumn. So what comes next? Divine Intervention? A u-turn on principals for the Conservatives?
So far, only Attorney General Suella Braverman has openly declared her interest in throwing her hat in for the leadership race. However, those watching with keen eyes have polled some of their own potential winning horses. According to The Guardian, the most popular contenders amongst bookmakers are Ben Wallace (Secretary of State for Defence), Rishi Sunak (Former Chancellor of the Exchequer) and Penny Mordaunt (Minister for Trade Policy).
Rishi Sunak, labelled as ‘The Money Bags’ by Politico in its Class of Influential People for 2022 is not new to the arena. Often seen in key talks by Johnson’s side, the former right-hand man gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the UK Government invest in schemes and exorbitant amounts of money to balance and maintain the country’s economy. Ben Wallace, a former member of the Scottish Parliament, is not as much of a home name as Rishi Sunak. However, he is popular for his leadership during the Russia- Ukraine war and having a firm-grip approach in a crisis or cataclysm. Yet, some critics also argue that since his primary area is the military, how he will handle other issues as a potential leader may very well be a case of trial and error. Penny Mordaunt, a former naval reservist in the Royal Navy, is a newer face in the race. From her track record, it appears that Mordaunt takes a centrist approach on an array of issues.
The UK Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats: Potential Dancing Partners?
UK Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer, welcomed the news of Johnson’s resignation. However, he noted that Johnson clinging onto Downing Street for the upcoming months till the Conservative Leadership Election anoints a leader, is not beneficial for the United Kingdom and as a result, the Labour Party will bring a vote of no confidence against Johnson in Parliament. Liberal Democrats Leader Ed Davey took a more critical approach, attacking the Conservative Party as a whole and the prospect of Johnson becoming a ‘caretaker’ of anything.
In a world where the Conservative Party does not govern the United Kingdom, who could lead the United Kingdom into a prosperous future? In the most recent data exhibiting UK Parliament Voting intentions, collected by Politico, the Labour Party takes the lead, polling ahead at 40%, while the Conservatives poll at 33%, followed by the Liberal Democrats at 12%.
Yet, all is not well for Starmer just yet. Starmer, who is still under investigation by the Durham Police for allegedly breaking lockdown rules, has yet to make amends with the Leftist circle of the Labour Party’s members, especially after his position on the recent rail strikes. Starmer may have also lost the support of Remainers within the Labour Party after contradicting himself with his 2020 leadership promises. This is after a few days ago, Starmer broke his silence on Brexit and said that if elected as Prime Minister, rejoining the single market will not be an option and instead, he will revise the current deal in place with the European Union.
More recently, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper in an interview on LBC Radio did not rule out a potential pact with the Labour Party on the UK’s future with the European Union, however steered clear on a position on whether the Liberal Democrats would enter into a coalition agreement with the Labour Party in the near political future. There are convincing arguments to be made that securing these two parties together could be exactly what is needed to override the Conservatives out of government, however, it shall be interesting to see how these events will unfold in the coming weeks.