The recent history of the British Conservatives is that of a party which collapsed in just four years. In December 2019, they crushed the elections. A majority like we haven’t seen for 40 years. Today, this majority is falling apart and looks like a perfect losing machine.
They are 20 points behind Labor in all polls ahead of next year’s election. They have had three Prime Ministers in four years. Repeated crises within the party. Just before the weekend, the minister in charge of Immigration resigned. A few days earlier, his colleague from the Interior had been fired.
Errors and false promises about the health system
The situation got out of hand from the start, in 2019. On the morning of the victory, the leader of the party gave a speech. Boris Johnson sets the course: “Whoever we are, rich, poor, young, old. The health services are there for us. And every day, they perform miracles. That’s why it’s about this government’s top priority.” Four months later, Covid-19 is overwhelming British hospitals. Johnson then made errors which he also admitted on Wednesday December 6 before a commission of inquiry.
But above all, the NHS, the public health system, is still overwhelmed today. There are almost eight million late appointments. Historic strikes hit the sector. Employees at the end of their tether who feel poorly paid. In his victory speech, Johnson recalled a figure hammered out throughout the Brexit campaign: more than 400 million euros paid to the European Union each week, which was to go to hospitals. This amount was false and the health services never saw the color of it.
Lying as a guilty pleasure
Lying is one of the points that costs conservatives dearly today. This is Boris Johnson’s guilty pleasure. All his career he lied, made promises he didn’t keep. He shakes the establishment from which he comes, constantly shows his muscles.
“It’s different from being a guerrilla who comes down from the mountain to destroy everything and then returns to the hills, and being responsible for a state,” said Andrew Gimson, who has written several books about him. “He was a very bad boss for civil servants. He would make a decision at 8:30 in the morning. Then at 10 o’clock, he would say the opposite, simply because someone had put forward a new argument. Institutions cannot operate like That.”
Building on his overwhelming victory, Johnson believed himself untouchable. He lied, changed his mind, betrayed, to the point of horrifying his own camp which kicked him out a year and a half ago. Behind, the ephemeral Liz Truss spent a month and a half in power, before being let go in turn.
The party fractured over irregular immigration
So here is Rishi Sunak in charge, who also already displeases his camp. Conservative elected officials are calling for his departure. James Blitz, a fine connoisseur of British politics, can’t believe it. “The idea that, in our country, we can change, once again, Prime Minister… A fourth Prime Minister in four years? It’s incredible.”
“The Conservatives’ position is so terrible in the polls that MPs are willing to do anything to try to start a new page.”
One subject is particularly upsetting the majority these days: the fight against illegal immigration. And a project: that of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda. London has even already paid 280 million euros to the Rwandan authorities, even though no refugees have been sent there. The British courts ruled and declared this agreement null and void. Previously, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had also opposed it.
Labor remains discreet
Perfect for those who find their Prime Minister not firm enough. Like Suella Braverman, Minister of the Interior whom he sacked for criticizing his own police, considered too timid. “Where is the supreme authority for the United Kingdom?” she asked MPs on Thursday, December 7. “Is it the British people? And the representatives they elected? Or in the vague, changing and inexplicable concept of international law?”
At the same time, Labor remains discreet. They are content to collect voting intentions. In 2019, their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was a scarecrow for a large part of the voters, considered too far left. Today, it is Keir Starmer who leads the party, he dismissed his predecessor. Much more centrist, more consensual. The UK is already wondering which Prime Minister he will be.
This article is originally published on francetvinfo.fr