With yet another British prime minister tendering their resignation, the U.K. political landscape couldn’t look bleaker, or weaker – at a time when aggression from Russia and its allies demands that it exhibit strength.
What went wrong?
The resignation of Liz Truss follows a pattern of successive resignations from British Prime Ministers that has been unbroken for at least the past decade.
Brexit – a contentious issue that has significantly increased the divide amongst British politicians and the general public – should also not be overlooked. Nor should the impact of pressure from what is widely perceived as not-so-subtle political activism and bias from the British media.
In June 2013, then Prime Minister David Cameron finally promised that a referendum would be held to decide upon the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the European Union; the options boiled down to a simple choice for voters – remain or leave.
The announcement was partly the result of mounting calls from the public for such a referendum, but largely from the Nigel Farage-led U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), which gained four million votes during a general election by promising to give them exactly that.
With the swift arrival of 2016, I became a Coordinator for “VoteLeave,” the official campaign group seeking to ensure the U.K.’s departure from the EU and a complete restoration of the nation’s independence. We did so for many reasons, high on the list being a lack of transparency and democratic process within the EU, with bigwigs from overseas able to impose laws and legislation upon Brits, affecting their everyday lives, whilst denying them a vote. Economic problems were also considered – from the failure of the Euro as a currency, to the crumbling of Greece’s economy.
But, perhaps most of all, in my opinion, the EU was, and still is, ‘anti-patriotism’ and counter to a nation’s identity, self-preservation, and pride.
However, regardless of my views, I had to also acknowledge the sudden political divide amongst the British public as a negative aspect of the referendum’s arrival. Once-sensible debate morphed into heated, emotion-driven rantings. Leavers were unfairly labelled “racists” and “xenophobes”; remainers “far-left anti-Brits.”
After a long battle to win over hearts and minds, and with ballots cast and polling stations finally closed, myself and a few senior members of my team, including staunchly Eurosceptic MP Stewart Jackson, headed back to watch the results come in.
In the early hours of the morning, a visibly exhausted BBC presenter announced the news: we, the underdogs, had won.
However, whilst celebrating the end of Britain’s membership of the EU, that I still to this day believe to be in the nation’s best interests, it was clear from that night that the historical event would cast a tumultuous shadow over British politics for years, perhaps even decades to come.
Coups and Chaos
The following day, David Cameron stood beside his wife and announced his resignation, having campaigned heavily for the U.K. to remain and overconfidently, some may say arrogantly, expecting that the majority of the British public would have agreed with him.
Replaced by Theresa May, another remain-voting Conservative, the chaos in government intensified, with what was perceived by leave voters such as myself a sly attempt from the ‘losing side’ to delay or even scrap altogether the democratic voice of the people and for the U.K. to remain a member of the EU.
Yet the more they delayed and dithered, and the more that May seemed to bungle Brexit negotiations, the more the public grew restless, and the louder the calls from remain-backing activists and journalists to ignore the referendum’s result became.
The result – yet another British prime minister being forced from office, with Theresa May announcing her resignation whilst blubbering behind a camera-covered podium on a cold grey morning outside 10 Downing Street.
Enter Boris Johnson – not perfect, but likeable. Charismatic. A leader with a self-crafted “man of the people” image already planted in the minds of Brits during his popular stint as the mayor of London. And, most importantly, he was a prominent figurehead from the VoteLeave campaign, a true “Brexiteer.”
But resentment still festered. Simply put, the “losers” of 2016 – from the average Joe in Cambridge to Brussels-worshipping journalists in Fleet Street – wanted revenge against the “winners.” They wanted to remain in the EU, no matter the cost.
A pro-Brexit PM just wouldn’t do. And, almost instantly, the British press were out for blood.
A series of scandals, exaggerated, dripped-out, and milked by left-leaning newspapers and outlets began to dominate the headlines. A minor query over who had funded the redecoration of Boris’ home was spun into “Curtaingate.” The alleged breaking of Covid rules by the PM were twisted into “Partygate.” And whilst Ukraine was experiencing the first wave of Putin’s brutal invasion in February, the shocking, internationally significant news was largely pushed aside, squeezed down into small columns to allow the continuation of entire pages to be devoted to pressuring Johnson to resign.
On July 7, he did just that, and yet another leadership race was launched – this time mired by a lack of quality candidates and a lacklustre enthusiasm from the public towards the “crowning” of any of them.
With the general public left out of the process, the fate of the U.K. and its leadership was left in the hands of Conservative Party members who represent a tiny number of the British electorate.
Dwindling down the candidates, we were left with an amateur boxing match: Truss vs. Sunak.
Truss, a thrift store Margaret Thatcher, busied herself with photoshoots mimicking Thatcher’s famous images. But no amount of tank rides or elocution lessons could transform the inexperienced and socially awkward politician into the iron lady.
Contrary to Thatcher’s well-known line, “You turn if you want to, but the lady is not for turning,” Truss U-turned on almost all of her pledges, and now, just 44 days after she took office, she joined her predecessors in leaving 10 Downing Street, head bowed and dogged by the growing global perception that Britain has become a laughingstock.
“I’ll be back”
It is becoming clear that the 1922 committee, the powerful rabble of officials who govern the Conservative party, made a grave mistake in essentially forcing Boris Johnson to give in to pressure and resign.
Britain is bored to tears of cardboard cut-out politicians, fake, out-of-touch, synthetic characters; their robotic voices droning out what they know you want to hear, and echoing out promises and pledges and various other people-pleasers – never to make good on any of them, before trotting away to cushty jobs as one-day-a-month-working CEOs. They want ‘real’ people, like Boris – and expressed as much when, in 2019, millions headed out and voted for him.
Already, MPs from across the party are joining millions of Brits in calling for Boris’ return, with journalists reporting rumours he is planning to stand in the imminent leadership election, citing his belief that it is “in the national interest.”
But Johnson entering the fray to once again become the U.K.’s prime minister isn’t just in the nation’s interest, but in the interest of the free world.
Here in Ukraine, away from the Brexit-fuelled faux outrage and infinite ink poured by the British press into “Boris-bashing,” Ukrainians cannot understand why the popular leader had to resign to begin with. In Boris Johnson, they had a strong ally – a man who, despite his faults, understands the grave threat that not only Ukraine but the rest of the Western world faces from an increasingly deadly and aggressive Russia and its allies.
In his final speech to the House of Commons, a blonde-mopped Boris closed by quoting the famous line from The Terminator: “Hasta la vista, baby.” However, in light of recent events, and with the rest of the world in dire need of Britain regaining its strength and stability, those words should instead have been “I’ll be back.”
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter