On Boris Johnson’s Demise

It is usually hard to understand the politics of another country. This fact is illustrated by Boris Johnson’s resignation as Prime Minister of the U.K., more or less at the point of a sword.

The offenses that ostensibly brought Johnson down were trivial, especially given that not three years ago, he led his party to their biggest victory since 1987, under Margaret Thatcher. Johnson was hounded by “Partygate.” I didn’t follow the details closely, but apparently some people had one or more gatherings of some sort at 10 Downing Street during Britain’s covid lockdown. I would say, good for them, but British voters apparently saw it differently.

The immediate cause of Johnson’s downfall was the fact that a gay Deputy Whip (the aptly named Chris Pincher) got drunk at the Carlton Club–one of my favorite London haunts, by the way–and groped a couple of guys. Less than ideal behavior, to be sure, but hardly out of the norm when it comes to English scandals, and not something that should bring down a Prime Minister.

I don’t pretend to understand the inner dynamics of the Conservative Party, but it is important to keep in mind that Britain’s Tories are not necessarily what we Americans would call conservative. Thus, Boris Johnson was an enthusiastic greenie and also successfully brought about major tax increases. If he had governed as an actual conservative, would he have had more support within the Conservative Party? I don’t know.

Britain’s Labour Party has cleaned itself up, at least cosmetically, with the departure of Jeremy Corbyn. But for the most part, its policies haven’t gotten any better, and Britain is currently in the midst of a major rail strike. There is no reason to think that Labour can provide competent 21st century governance. But can the Conservatives? Boris Johnson’s failure to advocate for, let alone advance, consistently conservative policies has been a major disappointment. It remains to be seen whether his successors in Conservative Party leadership will do better.

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