The fall of Conservatives – Analyzing Political Instability in the UK

| Aayush Pal

From giving the world Winston Churchill, a controversial yet one of the world’s most famous political personalities, to the recent former PM Boris Johnson, the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom has a rich history. The Conservative Party has seen it all as it has been in power from one of UK’s and the world’s toughest periods, be it WW2 or Brexit to the recent war in Ukraine. In 2019, the Conservative Party came to power again with a thumping majority of 80 seats against the Labour Party. This led to Boris Johnson becoming the PM of the UK. He was the PM till 5th September 2022 after which Elizabeth Truss, his fellow conservative leader, succeeded him. Following her as PM was Rishi Sunak, who took over the reins after Truss resigned.

Unfolding Political Instability

Former President Boris Johnson, who took office in the second half of 2019, came with a lot of promises and changes. One of his prominent pre-poll promises was Brexit, meaning the exit of the UK from the EU.  This was officially done on December 30, 2020. Johnson explained the benefits of Brexit and had his own version of merits attached to it. Brexit was done looking into the entry of a large number of illegal migrants to the UK from the eastern part of the EU. Boris Johnson’s administration said that the move of Brexit would massively curb the entry of migrants to the UK. It was also claimed that Brexit would help in reducing red tape in the UK, boost UK’s economy, and strengthen its aspirations of becoming the top performer in Europe. At present, the UK is finding it difficult to achieve the desired outcome of Brexit. Moreover, months after Boris became the UK, the world saw the deadly COVID pandemic which again halted UK’s progress. COVID plummeted the UK economy, stressed the health sector and brought criticism to Boris’s Administration. This was not just the end to Boris Johnson’s problem, rather something more was waiting for him, and one such was the party-gate scandal.

Party-gate and fall in Conservatism

The response to the COVID pandemic in the UK was lockdown in the early phases of the pandemic, similar to any country’s approach. But something was different in London than anywhere else in the world and that was Boris Johnson’s party gate saga which eventually led to his ouster. When the whole of the UK was under lockdown, Boris Johnson was seen partying with his fellow Conservative leaders in Downing Street Garden, and there have been multiple occasions in which his photo was seen with other leaders partying when the whole of the UK was under lockdown. This led to massive criticism of Johnson, and even the Tories of the UK threatened to withdraw their support to Boris Johnson’s government. Such was the situation that some of his own ministers asked him to resign, threatening his Premiership. The same anger was also seen among common Brits. It was also reported that on the night the day of the demise of Queen Elizabeth 2’s husband, Boris Johnson along with other party leaders was seen partying at 10 Downing Street, further inflaming the issue. 

At this juncture, the only thing that could have saved Boris was a distraction and the right distraction came in the form of the war in Ukraine. The war created a strategic emergency in Europe for the first time since WW2. Boris tried to capitalise on this by turning the moment into an opportunity to regain the support of the Tories and the Brits, by being the active voice of Ukraine. He did that and was able to keep the party gate on the back foot for almost 2 months. But the scandal came to the fore again and it was a dire situation for him as he apologised to people at the House of Commons. But it was too late and, one by one, his ministers decided to resign. The flurry of resignations was started by former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak followed by ministers like Sajid Javed, Liz Truss, Jeremy hunt, Penny Mordaunt, James Cleverly, Badenoch and many more. Finally, after days of deliberations, Boris decided to resign and his tenure as PM ended on 5 September 2022.

The Coming of Liz Truss

Lizz Truss emerged victorious in the race to become the next PM along with Rishi Sunak. She took office amid UK’s recession. To tackle this, she brought in her most trusted minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, as Chancellor of the Exchequer. But that only lasted for days as she and her ministers were not able to control the situation. With mounting pressure, she decided to resign, and with that, she broke the record which she didn’t want to make, which was being the UK PM for the shortest period of merely 45 days.

Rishi Sunak and Road Ahead

The UK witnessed 2 PMs within a span of 45 days when Sunak took the office after Truss’s resignation. Sunak came with a promise of fixing the UK’s economy. He delayed the implementation of his economic plan to November 13, 2022, in order to seek more time to execute it. It has been almost 3 months since the UK command has been under Sunak’s control but as of now, he has not been able to pull the UK out of its current set of problems. This in turn is increasing the pressure on Sunak.

Furthermore, time is also ticking by for the Conservatives to reshape their image before the 2024 general elections. The political pundits of the UK say that Keir Starmer leading the Labour Party is inevitable, and the unofficial poll conducted by YouGov suggests that the same people in large numbers are turning against the developments made by conservatives like Brexit. They also note that the promises from the Labour party to set the economy straight are appealing to many. It would be interesting to see the political developments in the UK in the coming months, leading to the general elections.

(The author is a post-graduate student in International Relations at Kalinga university, Raipur. The opinions expressed are the author’s own)

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