British politics has been sliding down the Olduvai Gorge since the fall of Gordon Brown, the last Labour Prime Minister to hold office till 2010. What has followed the end of the Labour era has been a circus run by Tories; the residents of the famous 10 Downing Street since Gordon Brown have been David Cameroon, Theresa May, Boris Johnson aka BoJo and lately Liz Truss. With Rishi Sunak occupying 10 Downing Street, the slide has continued unabated.
Has the conservative Party or the Tories run out of steam or there is a more absurd circus left to be watched by the British people? This is a million-dollar question.
Political pundits like George Monbiot believe that British politics has hit rock bottom and the mere fact that BoJo could have, again become a contender for 10 Downing Street indicates the moral bankruptcy of democracy in Britannia. While discussing the current crisis in American digital TV Democracy Now, after the resignation of Liz Truss, George Monbiot opined that most of the top Tory leaders like BoJo, Liz Truss and even Rishi Sunak have had no connection with how common British were living or suffering. Rishi Sunak is not only ultra-rich but has always represented the ultra-rich; he has been apathetic to the plight of common British people and their problems.
Some of the legislations passed by the UK Parliament before Truss left office were horrifying—for instance, the Public Order Bill allows the government enormous powers to gag public voices and snatch the right of protest from the British people. This, according to George Monbiot, is repressive, draconian and unprecedented in British history.
According to Opendemocracy.net; Suella Braverman, the one-month home secretary under Truss, had quietly handed herself new powers to clamp down on the government’s political opponents. The home secretary pushed through a last-minute amendment to a widely criticised anti-protest bill on 18th October that would allow her to apply for injunctions against anyone she deems ‘likely’ to carry out protests that could cause ‘serious disruption’ to ‘key national infrastructure’, prevent access to ‘essential’ goods or services, or have a ‘serious adverse effect on public safety’.
The proposal would also give police the power to arrest anyone they suspect to be breaching such an injunction. Braverman had to leave the office after one month under Truss, lo and behold, Rishi Sunak has again appointed her back as Home Secretary. As reported by BBC and the Guardian, Braverman’s return was objected to by the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party MPs and even some Conservatives.
The Labour leader and Leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer, raised it as the subject of his first question to Rishi Sunak at Sunak’s first Prime Minister’s questions on 26 October 2022 and said “he’s [Sunak has] done a grubby deal trading national security” to get Braverman’s support for the Tory leadership. Sunak said Braverman “made an error of judgment but she recognised that she raised the matter and she accepted her mistake.” By contrast, Jake Berry said that “from my knowledge, there were multiple breaches of the ministerial code.”
Leading human rights groups say that the Public Order Bill, which passed a final vote in the Commons during Braverman’s first stint as home Secretary, would align the UK’s anti-protest laws with those in Russia and Belarus.
The current state of numbers in the British Parliament and the Tory majority does not leave any room for substantial change; the merry-go-round is likely to continue and we may find some old Tory faces back into power, in case Rishi Sunak is also shown the door; that’s how ruthless the British democracy has become.
British democracy may have had its moral issues in the past two decades but three more factors that have pushed it down the Olduvai Gorge are Brexit, Covid 19 and the Ukraine-Russia war.
While the Eurosceptic wing of the conservative party pushed and nudged the British people to go for Brexit through lullabies of freedom and nationalism, it lost sight of the economic damage it would cost to the British economy in the long run. According to India.com, by April 2019 and beyond, multinational companies transferred over $1 trillion out of British banks and further transferred nearly $150 billion of their assets out of the country.
This created a serious liquidity crunch for the financial institutions, which were already facing a crisis due to the change of currency. Foreign direct investment reduced drastically and the British property market which used to be the most lucrative in all of Europe recorded massive negative growth. All this led to a steep fall in the economy which became irreversible in 2022.
Covid 19 also tested the British economy and governance and found that the leadership failed its people due to apathy and arrogance—no wonder BoJo’s tenure in 10 Downing Street was marred by unabated booze parties and violation of SOPs on Covid, when common British people were running from pillar to post to fend against this devastating pandemic.
Similarly, the Russia-Ukraine war became an exogenous shock which has not only jolted the Euro-Atlantic security architecture but also put an enormous cost on Western and even Eastern Europe. Funding the Ukrainian War machine and stemming the Russian onslaught has disrupted any meaningful recovery that the British people expected after the Brexit fiasco, technically speaking the British economy is unlikely to break out of the current economic morass in the next couple of years.
As reported in India.com; the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted the growth of the UK in 2023 to be less than 0.3 percent which may be catastrophic for the country, especially in the current wake of high inflation and overall recession.
While the ruling Conservative Party is going to elect its new leader on the 28th of October 2022, the challenge remains at large and the economic crisis is deepening with each passing day. The tell-tale signs were visible right in August 2022 and things became clear with the Mini Budget of September 2022 that the road ahead is not smooth.
The bigger question remains on why is there so much of a perception gap between British political leadership and the common people; the Tories are hell-bent on continuing with this circus, while the Labour Party is yelling for a fresh mandate. Should the King impose martial law to save the British people from the shenanigans of their political leadership? This could be one option.