Political instability in the UK is serious. British Prime Minister Liz Truss has resigned from her post. She could not keep her big promises. More than a leadership crisis for the country’s Conservative Party, this appears to be a setback for this world power.
Truss was indeed very popular among members of the Conservative Party. His fall is a bad omen both for British politics and for the whole of the European continent. She has now gone down in UK political history as the country’s shortest prime minister. Only after 44 days did she have to leave 10 Downing Street, the residence of the British Prime Minister. Before Truss, it was George Canning who was Prime Minister for only 119 days.
Truss became Britain’s prime minister after winning an internal party poll against front-runner Rishi Sunak just a month and a half ago. And eventually, she took over from Boris Johnson, another controversial British Prime Minister and Conservative leader of late.
Now the big question is who will be the next occupant of 10 Downing Street after Truss? According to official Conservative Party sources, a new leader of the largest party in the House of Commons (Lower House) will take over as the new Prime Minister. In addition, his name will be announced by the party on October 28.
Interestingly, the main opposition party, the Labor Party, is now set to win a landslide victory, according to opinion polls. At the same time, senior Labor leaders are demanding a snap general election in the country. Keir Starmar, Labor’s greatest statesman, said: ‘After 12 years of failed Tories (Tories), the British people deserve so much better than this revolving door of chaos. We need general elections now.
It is absolutely true. Even top world leaders like US President Joe Biden have called for stability in the UK. But psephologists and other international political experts believe that a new general election is no guarantee of stability for this great old nation.
Who are the most likely contenders for the top job right now? Among the most likely, Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister), is in the front line. He turned out to be a prophet of the demise of the Truss government today. Many of the predictions he made during that summer leadership contest about Truss’s economic plan have come true. Only then did he say his massive unfunded tax cuts would push the pound to a point of no return. Furthermore, he also warned the British people that this would lead to a severe panic in the bond market and a stern warning from the International Monetary Fund. Perhaps he would have been surprised at how quickly his predictions came true and ultimately brought down the Truss regime. It must be remembered that Sunak had a difficult experience in managing his country safely during the global pandemic called Covid-19.
Another contender is Penny Mordaunt, the Leader of the House of Commons. Mordaunt has a great chance. Many say she has already done the dress rehearsal for the coveted office. She came third in the last leadership election held among party members. She was also the former Secretary of Defense and is a moderate party like Sunak.
The third leader is Kemi Badenoch, who finished fourth in the last leadership election. She was continuously ranked as the favorite by rank-and-file members of the Conservative Party. The young leader comes from the right wing of the party which argues that the current government’s climate targets could be too costly and a heavy burden on the economy. She has the support of the great conservative Michael Gove.
The fourth suitor could not be other than Boris Johnson. Many pollsters say he could be a unit candidate for the top job. After failing to deal with numerous scandals, he had to resign a few months ago. He still has a plan to offer stability to his compatriots, maybe this time with a new dream, much bigger than what he promised last time.
In fact, during his resignation speech, Johnson referenced a historic chapter in ancient history. He made it clear that he would return to his plow as did the Roman statesman Cincinnatus. It was therefore indicated that he would live the life of a backbench MP in Parliament. But then what happened to the Roman leader was entirely different from what he had prophesied – the next time he was called upon to take the lead, he reverted to mainstream politics, but then only served his second term than as dictator. Who knows what goes through Johnson’s head?
The other contenders are Grant Shapps, Ben Wallace, Suella Braverman, Theresa May. We have to wait until the 28th of this month to see a new face at 10 Downing Street. The great expectation is underway with the new King Charles III, who has just taken over after the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II last month. The king will find it difficult to lead his country to stability with such unpredictable politicians. He will go through a difficult period at a time when the world is grappling with the war in Ukraine and a growing Chinese threat. For a new British Prime Minister, the first and foremost job would be to settle the home front before moving on to the world stage.
Today, the United Kingdom has become the vortex of political chaos on the European continent. When Brexit began with David Cameron’s tenure as Prime Minister in 2016, many believed it would be the last period of uncertainty for Western Europe. On June 23, 2016, the British people voted in a referendum and 51.8% of the people, the majority voted in favor of leaving the European Union with which it shared a partnership of more than four decades.
On record, Britain was the first sovereign country to leave the Union. After four years of fierce negotiations, under two Prime Ministers – Theresa May and Boris Johnson – the country finally left the EU for good on January 1, 2020. Political disputes persist between the UK and the EU. It set a bad precedent for all of Europe.
In short, there is an old, a new and an anti-politics in Britain at this time of political uncertainty. From Labor leader and former Prime Minister Tony Blair to Cameron, Theresa May and finally Johnson, all have taken the British people on a ride. What they all did during and after the general election was not made public. Gradually, people lost all faith in many public institutions in the country, especially the parliament, the very heart of democracy.
The bitter truth is that British politicians simply fail their people. The great nation has long awaited a sensible leader who could lead the nation on the world stage. Ordinary people are reeling from the severe pressure of inflation, climate change and the rising cost of daily living. This time the Tories should rethink and renew their promises to make Britain a better place. Labor is already on the sidelines. The responsibility therefore rests solely with the curators.
(The author is Associate Professor, Department of International Relations, University of South Asia, New Delhi)