The Conservative Party selection for the next Tory leader is in full swing and the adage that a day in politics is a long time could not be more apt. Rishi Sunak, a descendant of Indian origin was slated as the runaway front-runner in what many saw as a foregone conclusion. Liz Truss is now the frontrunner, leaving many bookies cutting their loses and paying up early. In a twist of democratic ironies, only 1% of the British electorate would be choosing the next British Prime Minister in September. Many, and especially those in the Sunak camp are scratching their heads, about this turn around. That has not stopped the conspiracy theorists from making their conclusions. Some have concluded that choosing Liz Truss over Sunak was a statement by the Tory Party, that Britain is just not ready for a Prime Minister from an ethnic minority background. Ring any bells? Interestingly, there were many candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds during the early rounds of the contest. Some hastily concluded that Britain and especially the Tory party was finally evolving. Wrong.
So where did it go wrong for Sunak and Co?
Politics is a fluid concept. Thanks to his questionable moral and ethical inadequacies, Boris Johnson out of power by his own kind. Though many saw his departure as long overdue, a new wing of Boris supporters toyed with the idea for his reinstatement. Those who clamoured for his return believed that Johnson was a victim of a Julius Caesar-esque coup, and that Rishi Sunak had made the unkindest cut of all. They saw Sunak’s resignation as the last nail to Boris Johnson’s leadership coffin, and they never forgave him for his Brutus- Cassius relationship with Boris Johnson. Interestingly, how many of Johnson’s supporters remember what he did to Theresa may? Against such a backdrop, it was inevitable that the Tory grandees would back anything and anyone but Sunak.
Many see the criticisms against Sunak as smokescreens to hide the real message from the Tory wing. Sunak is filthy rich, no question about that. Sadly, it is beginning to sound like it is a treasonable offence to come to these shores and make it big; except if you’re a Russian oligarch who could roll up to British banks and deposit large amounts of unverified money. The irony lies in the fact that the Tory party is widely seen as the rich man’s friend. The same party is vilifying someone who made it through the system. You wonder what “the poor man’s friend”, the labour Party would make of that.
On the other hand, many see Liz truss as gaffe grenade. They have pointed many instances where she has changed sides, views and statements on policies within 24 hours of making them. Many now question whether she thinks before she speaks or just shoots from the hip. Liz comes with a message of hope, even in the face of dire prospects of repression and very hard times ahead. Liz has conveniently dressed up Johnson’s robes of bravado; the same optimism, which saw him sleep walked Britain into Brexit. Liz Truss, an anointed Remainer is now singing the chorus of the Brexit anthem which some see as deceitful. Liz criticises Sunak’s national insurance and tax hikes. In the meantime, Boris Johnson’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dominic Rabb has described her “emergency tax cuts” as a Tory electoral suicide note. If Johnson can preside over a national self-harm called Brexit, Truss might as well rubber stamp it with a suicide note. . She does not only promise to reverse them but cut taxes. She believes that this would offset the looming recession that many economists predict.
Like many other countries, Britain is in the midst of a living crisis. While Sunak’s tax plans look more suited to a general election, Truss wants to strike the iron whilst it is hot. Sunak offers a sombre but realistic approach to the crisis. Sunak borrowed heavily to massage the pains from the Covid fallout. His tax plans and national contribution hikes were payback time and to boost NHS and social care funding. Many see him as more realistic with his economic policies, while some feel that Liz Truss is plucking figures out of the sky to provide a soothing balm to the already economic fatigued British public. Having dealt with a previous economic crisis, Sunak is seen by some as better suited to deal with this situation, while Lis Truss has so far borrowed Johnson’s Brexit boosterish attitude, in an attempt to seize the moment and swipe Britain’s credit card further. Sounds like music to the suffering masses. It is no wonder some see Truss as an extension of Boris Johnson.
Liz Truss appears to present a sterner relationship with Europe. She was quoted as saying that the only language that Europe understands is the language of strength. That brings us to the question of Brexit, which the majority of analysts see as a national self-harm. Since the divorce between Europe and Britain, the effects of Brexit some how dissipated in the aftermath. Britain had just signed the Decree Nisi with Europe. Some conspiring hand of fate plagued the world with Covid. This provided a convenient canopy to disguise the impact of Brexit. Every strand of hardship was summarily attributed to the Covid pandemic. With the vaccinations showing signs of hope, it was time to return to normal. However, just like the Covid, Putin invaded Ukraine for a sport of star wars this year. The effects have been universally devastating. Interestingly, the war in Ukraine have shielded attention from the latent impact of the Brexit conundrum, but for how long.
In the meantime, some sections of the British public have been waking up to the reality of Brexit. The summer chaos at airports and ferry crossings have been disruptive to say the least. Attempts to attribute the delays and chaos to the war in Ukraine have failed. How does travelling across to France have anything to do with a war far, far away? With Brexit have come several immigration checks for Britons. British travellers only used to wave their passports or driver’s licence at border crossings, to go to Europe. British people now have to join queues and follow immigration procedures, like any other third country from the sub-continents. The chaos is predictable, and that has nothing to do with Putin. It is no wonder many feel that Boris Johnson had been a lucky leader, with Covid and Ukraine conniving to disguise the impact of Brexit during his term.
Is there a parallel with America?
The British electorate will have a new Prime Minister in September and Truss is already the favourite to be. However, there have been some parallels with Britain’s shoulder-to-shoulder cousin over the Ocean. Conventional wisdom has it that Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of America, thanks to White grievance. Trump came with a long rap sheet of ethical and moral inadequacies. In 2016, America was ready to lower its expectations, moral standards and etiquette for the office of the President to accommodate him. It is unquestionable, that the election of former President Obama, not once but twice, was too much of a shock to the status quo. In 2016, even a pig with a lipstick would have won the election against Hilary. Trump draped himself in the American flag, whipped up anti-immigrant sentiments in exchange for pseudo patriotism, laced with a tinge of isolationists’ stance to the world. It worked, though he lost the popular vote. His victory was built on emotionally laden firecrackers. Amidst a wall of litigations and potential criminal charges for one of the greatest assaults on American democracy, many see his flirtations with 2024 as one deliberate attempt to insulate himself against prosecution.
In little Britain, Truss has tried to give a semblance of strength towards Europe. Unlike the general elections, none of the contenders is talking about immigration, the subject that was used to blind voters to today’s reality. With Sunak still in the race, and with ethnicity already rearing its head in conversations, talking about immigration would be a self-own. The irony would not be lost on the Sunak brigade. It looks like in spite of her gaffe prone tendencies. Truss has threatened to pull Britain out of the European Human Rights Convention, opposed the monarchy, and described the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon an attention seeker. Both may belong to the same party, but one is realistic and the other is hopeful. One of them provides a sombre assessment of a crisis, while the other takes a jolly ride on hope. Most of Sunak’s economic policies are long-term ideas that could appeal to voters, if it were a general election. Perhaps, Sunak should wait for a general election to run, a time when voters are ready to give politicians a lifetime to deal with problems. Liz Truss is telling conservative members, 1 % of the electorate about her quick fix ideas.
If Sunak does not become the British prime Minister, you know that Britain is not ready, and it is not because they do not like him. Will the conservative party cut its nose to spite its face? Another self-harm? Only time will tell. You can tell a ripe corn from its look.
Don’t forget to turn the lights out when you leave the room.