Review of Government Crisis in the UK: what next?
Monday, 25 July 2022, at the Café Ministerium
By Wolfgang Geissler
If we did not know it already, there’s trouble at t’mill. And that latest, when Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, at the end of his resignation speech, borrowed Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous valediction: „Hasta la vista, baby!“ The trouble is another part of it remaining unsaid: „I’ll be back!“ What sounds like a gentle promise is a thinly veiled threat. Johnson is reported to have said he wants to lead the Tories in the next election and has already gathered around 10.000 signatures amongst the faithful Tory membership of about 250.000.
A hot subject on a hot evening under the shades of umbrellas and a canopy at the Café Ministerium embedded within the silent witnesses of a grand imperial past. Thus enclosed, over 50 members and friends of the Austro-British Society, suitably fortified with ample food and drink, swiftly served by the staff of the Café, listened to the lecture of the UK political experts in Austria, Prof Melanie Sully, Director of the Go-Governance Institute in Vienna and Colin Munro, former British Ambassador and Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) expertly moderated by our President Prof Dr Kurt Tiroch.
The poor little street-bred people that vapour and fume and brag.
They are lifting their heads in the stillness to yelp at the English Flag…
What is the Flag of England? Ye have but my breath to dare,
Ye have but my waves to conquer. Go forth, for it is there!
You can’t be more bombastic in extolling the elite as Rudyard Kipling did in this poem, „The English Flag“, 1891, dripping with fervent English patriotism.
But was that not precisely what was happening? The elite was leaving the „poor little street-bred people“ behind.
Boris Johnson succeeded Theresa May as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party and UK Prime Minister on 24 July 2019. He resigned as Party leader on 7 July 2022 after over 50 MPs, including the finance minister Sunak had resigned. However, he remains a „caretaker“ Prime Minister until a replacement is found.
Government Crisis in the UK: what next?
At a Pre-Brexit meeting in the Vienna Burgtheater, Colin Munro tells us that Tom Tugendhat, Chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, the first candidate, by the way, in the succession stakes to be eliminated (Prof Melanie Sully had something to say about this process of elimination) had an answer to this question „what next?“: „I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue.“
Colin Munro comments: Don’t blame Eton or Winchester- where Sunak was a head boy- for the recent misfortunes that have befallen the UK. Johnson went to Eton. The problem is not the education provided but that so few people can afford the astronomical fees.
Early signs of „elitist“ behaviour.
Johnson’s Classic master wrote to his father when he was 17: „He thinks he should be free of the network of obligation that binds everyone. He believes it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception. He really has adopted a cavalier attitude to his classical studies. He sometimes seems affronted when confronted with what amounted to a gross failure of responsibility, and surprised at the same time that he was not appointed school captain.“
Boris Johnson adopted the same cavalier attitude to his duties as Prime Minister. His appearance in Parliament on 20 July this year said it all, present and looming crises and uncomfortable facts do not matter. The only thing that matters to Johnson is Johnson:
„Mission largely accomplished-for now. But I’ll be back. Brexit done. Politics transformed. National independence restored. Helped save another country from barbarism. Got the country through a pandemic.“
Britain is a tragedy…sunk to begging, borrowing, stealing. (Henry Kissinger, 1975)
Like in Frank J Green’s Version of „Ten Little Niggers“ from 1869, six contenders were whittled down after several elimination rounds to the final two: Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. For many, Dishy Rishi is too rich and too clever. They don’t want their politicians to be too bright, and Liz is too „wooden“ for many.
They are pressing flesh over the next few weeks with the mainly male, elderly and white Tory membership of about 250.000. The members will have a chance to decide on someone, but, as Prof Sully pointed out, they had previously no say in the elimination battle. Attendance to the hustings cost £5, even for the members, which raised a few eyebrows.
As Johnson has eroded the British Civil Service, Prof Sully predicts that whoever follows Johnson (if not even he?) will do their damn best to curtail it further.
- The Old Tory Elite: Pro-EU, often guarded towards America, politically gradualist, support capitalism but also see a role for Big State and international law,
- The New Tory Elite:Anti-EU, pro-Anglosphere, (i.e.) pro-US), want radical change towards small state and „buccaneering capitalism“ free from international controls.
In their quest to find a leader, Conservatives claim to look for one who can:
- Win the next election
- Make a success of Brexit
- Deal with the cost-of-living crisis
- Level up
- Resolve the NHS and social care crises
- Keep the UK together as one country.
Neither Sunak nor Truss, especially Truss, will accomplish any of these tasks. For the mainly prosperous members of the Tory party, they do not need to. And as far as keeping the UK together? A Scottish member emphatically pointed out that none of the Dramatis Personae has shown any interest, knowledge or empathy for, mainly, Scotland, disparagingly still being treated like a mere county of England, nor for Northern Ireland. It’s like in Humpty Dumpty because „all the king’s horses all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpy together again.“ Or, as Prof Sully, in her conclusion, sighed: „I don’t see much of an improvement, to be honest.“