The man who would be world king is now facing some rather more limited career choices. It seems that someone else will have to live with the expensive bad taste of the Boris Johnson’s refurbishment of Downing Street. The nation will have to live with the even more expensive consequences of two and a half years of chaos.
That doesn’t make it easy for the small number of Conservative MPs and then the members of the Conservative Party who will choose the next leader of our country. A near universal consensus has gradually developed in that party that their leader was a liar who wasn’t up to the job. Who knew? Why weren’t we told?!
Very little consensus exists about what to do next. It is of course possible that the contest to lead the Conservative Party will be conducted politely and with dignity before the different factions loyally line up behind their new leader and those who lose their jobs meekly accept the consequences. It is also possible that genetically engineered pigs will fly.
Influence of the far right
A large faction of the party has been heavily influenced by political thinking coming from the far right in the United States and is determined to deliver their ideas about the full benefits of Brexit. Their agenda is focused on deregulating the economy and making Britain the cheapest place to do business and especially financial business.
These people are driven by ideology and by faith in a cause. They are not interested in moderation. Which is why they are so very dangerous. It is always those who are absolutely sure that they know what is best for others who are capable of inflicting the greatest pain on them.
There will be candidates for the leadership who will throw red meat to their base and try and claw their way to the top as the representative of the radical right. Given the small size of the group of people who will make the decision at the expense of the rest of us it is entirely possible such an extremist will win. That would leave significant parts of the parliamentary party with some very difficult choices. How loyal does someone stay to a party that has been led by Johnson only to find that he is replaced by someone even more delusional?
Will Conservative factionalism return?
If all attempts at a far-right coup fail and a more managerial candidate tries to steer a less-fanatical route towards the next election then the new PM is going to have to face constant challenges from an angry right wing. Jacob Rees Mogg and Nadine Dorries aren’t the kind of people to go quietly onto the backbenches and loyally line up behind someone who has dumped them out of the Cabinet. The vicious factionalism that caused Theresa May such problems could return with a vengeance and vengeance has no fury like a politician scorned.
The country is therefore faced with a long period of fresh chaos. At a time when the challenges have never been greater. The consequences of decades of fuelling the economy by burning fossils are becoming increasingly obvious. There is an urgent need to modernise the entire economy at speed in order to position the country at the forefront of the coming wave of net zero technology. There is a war in Ukraine that will consume huge amounts of resources if it is to be successfully fought and produce even more extreme horrors if it isn’t. There is a cost-of-living crisis that is leaving people worried sick about how they pay their bills. On top of all that many of the consequences of Brexit are still to play out and are a very long way from being fully or easily resolved.
Another unelected prime minister
Any prime minister and any chancellor would struggle to steer a successful route through such choppy waters. Someone chosen from Johnson’s pool of over-promoted lacklustre loyalists is unlikely to possess the skill to do so. Particularly as the choice will be made by such a narrow group of very peculiar electors.
The nation is going to be left to watch powerlessly as an incredibly small group of completely unrepresentative people makes the choice about who leads it. We can expect to be told with great frequency that they have this right because Johnson won a thumping majority at the last election and gave the Conservatives the right to rule for five years.
It is therefore worth remembering the actual result of the last election. Just shy of 53% of voters cast their ballot for a party to the left of the Conservatives. A little over 47% of voters backed either the Conservatives or a party to the right. There was no endorsement of Johnson. Huge numbers of voters didn’t like either of the candidates from the major parties. People on the streets told me again and again that they didn’t trust Johnson but also didn’t trust Jeremy Corbyn. Most people cast a vote against the candidate they least disliked and many people didn’t bother at all.
Trust in politics
Trust in politicians has never been at such a low level. There is a conviction amongst huge numbers of the British people that all politicians are the same and that there is little point in voting. That is one of the key things that has been so damaging about Johnson’s time as a major influence in British politics.
Significant numbers of people did place their faith in him at some moment in time. Many believed it when he told them that Brexit would be easy and would quickly provide a great future for the country. Many more believed him when he told us that we were all in it together during the pandemic.
He has destroyed their trust and left British people even more cynical and despairing about the honesty of the leaders of their country. It is going to take a huge effort and great wisdom to restore that trust. The chances that the candidate chosen by a viciously divided Conservative Party is going to be able to do that look slim indeed.
Apres lui, le deluge.