British political crisis is about more than Boris Johnson

Photo by Henry Nichols/Reuters: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement at Downing Street

Contributed by Jim Hayes

Britain’s Prime Minister has resigned at last. The writing has been on the wall for Boris Johnson for some time. He leaves behind a history of corrupt behaviour, offering favours to his mates. His repeated disregard for even making a pretence of basic decency over sexual conduct, through habitual lying, and in his callous way of treating those close to him are legendary. His inaction over the Covid pandemic meant Britain suffered more than most other nations. And his own disregard for protective measures, as revealed by the Partygate scandal revealed, was not a good look.

The would-be emperor had to constantly hog the limelight and couldn’t tolerate anyone else threatening to upstage him, according to a range of detractors.

Boris Johnson’s lockdown party apology

Video from The Times and The Sunday Times

Under Johnson’s watch, Britain has become more rigidly fixed into Washington’s orbit and the channelling of resources that could be used for other purposes towards engagement in military exercises and foreign wars.

The sexual misconduct scandal involving former member of parliament Chris Pincher was the last straw.

Boris Johnson is an odious person. He has proven this himself. But this is not the reason why the members of his cabinet and backbench have turned on him. They have acted in the interests of their own self-preservation. They knew what sort of man they had put at their head and accepted his misbehaviour for as long as they thought they could benefit from it.

The situation has changed. Boris Johnson was now quickly leading them to political defeat. The public has woken up to him and the circus was no longer sustainable.

Today’s leadership crisis is not all about Boris Johnson. There have long been symptoms of decay.  After all, the Conservatives have had 5 leaders in 20 years. The Labour Party opposition has done no better. Something is going on in British society, and the event surrounding Johnson’s resignation can’t be properly appreciated, without taking this into account.

The economy is in a mess and the standard of living is falling for the majority. Instead of pulling the nation out of the slump and bringing in the promise of a new golden age, Brexit has done the opposite. Now the economy is facing a steeper fall, rising inflation, and is stumbling towards a much worse situation.

Boris Johnson’s rise came because he appeared and talked like an ordinary bloke. This attracted a portion of those who had become tired and distrustful of silver tongue politicians. Boris Johnson came along as an anti-politician. He never was. But the political establishment went along to harness this image and hid behind it, and politics continued as usual.

Government failed to address the problems felt by the majority. On the contrary, it went about applying policies and taking actions that aggravated these problems. This has been governments for the elite at the expense of everyone else.

The fall of Boris Johnson is positive because it helps tear the mask off the elite and had the potential to lift the debate on the best way forward. But the elite are still in control of the political process and government, and their immediate aim is to provide the emperor with new clothes and continue business as usual.

There is no talk about bringing in new leadership to change direction and put the need for far more equity in the British economy on the table. There is nothing to restore the damage inflicted on the National Health Service and other government departments.

Boris Johnson will be replaced. Little will change, and there is little comfort in a Labour Party that had decidedly moulded itself as a pale copy of the Conservative Party. Public distrust will continue to grow, and it is this that will ensure the political crisis continues to deepen. Combined with a deteriorating economy, this promises future upheavals.

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