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THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD TO 10 DOWNING ST

International 14 Jun, 2019 Follow News

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD TO 10 DOWNING ST

Barring any surprises, come the week of July 22nd, former London mayor and foreign secretary, Boris Johnson will be selected (not elected) as the next British prime minister fulfilling what many observers see as a long-standing personal ambition.

 

That’s of course if there aren’t any further surprises.

 

Judging from the trend to date in this leadership campaign, it’s very unlikely that there won’t be any further surprises.

 

So far, the internal campaign within the ruling Conservative Party to find a replacement for outgoing leader Theresa May - who’s had to cut short her tenure due to internal and external Brexit-related pressure - continues to churn out surprises with alarming regularity. And they have been both regular and alarming.

 

To date, an initial field of 13 hopefuls has been whittled down to seven (at press time) with the next stage the elimination process scheduled for Tuesday, July 18th. It’s likely that there could be further voluntary withdrawals before then.

 

And as the date for the eventual handover draws closer, the surprises continue to unwrap and unfold with startling regularity as the internecine warfare between in-house candidates heats up.

 

It evens threatens to overshadow the rift between the ruling Conservatives on the one hand, and the main opposition Labour Party, the nascent but rapidly rising (though still unelected) Brexit Party, the resurgent Liberal Democrats and the Green Party.

 

It’s a political spectacle of vast proportions and even more far-reaching implications for the country.

 

 

In a campaign rife with accusations of hypocrisy and double standards by many of the candidates, not only have previous utterances come back to haunt practically all of them with their eyes on the prime ministerial prize, so to have some of their escapades.

 

So far, we’ve had the forced, the calculatingly pre-emptive, the voluntary and otherwise strategic confessions of historical drug use by several candidates. Cocaine, cannabis and opium seem to have been the drugs of choice.

 

Ahead of the publication of a book which reveals a past indiscretion, Michael Gove, the current Environment Secretary has admitted to repeated use of cocaine in his twenties.

 

He has been criticised for initiating a policy while as Justice Minister to fire teachers found to have used the drug…although at the time he hadn't disclosed his own earlier cocaine use.

 

As a result of these revelations, the previously encouraging odds on Michael Gove succeeding Theresa May as prime minister have since taken a serious hit…in a manner of speaking.

 

Current Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has admitted to cannabis use, while International Development Secretary Rory Stewart has confessed to taking opium.

 

There have also been admissions of cannabis use by other candidates.

 

In an uncomfortable television interview last week, Mr Gove tried to evade a question over the implications for travel to America where one of the pre-clearance immigration questions is about the usage of Class A drugs, and whether he had truthfully reported that on any previous trips to that country…or if he will should he become the next prime minister, as unlikely as that now seems.

 

How that might affect, Trump-favourite Boris Johnson is also left to be seen.

 

Front-runner Johnson, the previous Foreign Secretary, had previously admitted to a close encounter with cocaine - although he said nothing was inhaled…as he had sneezed.

 

On his recent state visit to the UK, President Donald Trump had controversially waded into the debate about the next British prime minister by endorsing Mr Johnson as his favourite for the job.

 

But despite those distractions, it’s Brexit - and what to do about it - which remains the core issue in this so-far single-agenda campaign.

 

While all have committed to ‘respect the wish of the British people’ by upholding the outcome of the 2016 referendum, just how to achieve that choice to leave the European Union remains an intractably divisive issue.

 

The polarising Mr Johnson says while he does not favour leaving with EU without a deal, he is still prepared to take the country down that road if he fails to secure parliamentary support.

 

That approach is considered by most of his opponents as irresponsible, undemocratic and a huge risk to the UK’s standing as the fifth largest global economy.

 

However, there’s more to running the country than the ubiquitous Brexit dilemma.

 

Any sitting prime minister will have to deftly navigate his way (the two female candidates have been eliminated) through the minefield of issues he will inherit from current caretaker prime minister Theresa May. Not least among those is a decision by the state-funded BBC to cut free TV licences to people over 75 years old - a powerful pensioners lobby.

 

Ever since Prime Minister May formally announced her resignation schedule on May 24th, the race to Number 10 Downing Street has been a sprint through an obstacle course littered with pressing issues, seemingly insurmountable challenges - and a revelation of embarrassing past indiscretions - for those with a tunnel-vision focus on the prized finish line.

 

Amidst all that is the opportunity to forge a path for ‘global Britain’ outside the European Union.

 

Mrs May officially stepped down as leader of the Conservative Party on June 7th kicking off the rush to replace her by an internal process within the ruling Conservative Party.

 

As is the current case with the defacto ouster of Prime Minister May (the same fate befell the other - and first - woman prime minister, Margaret Thatcher in 1990), and more recently when Tony Blair handed over the reins of power to Gordon Brown in 2007, a prime minister is being chosen without the input of the electorate.

 

Questions are now being raised about the need for a ‘constitutional’ change (the UK does not have a ‘coded’ constitution) to discontinue the system in which a prime minister is foisted on the populace without their vote.

 

It’s noteworthy that one of those about to benefit from this very system of bypassing the voters on the way into the Office of the Prime Minister is Boris Johnson, the current front-runner in the race to replace Mrs May.

 

In another one of the many surprising twists and turns of the leadership campaign, Mr Johnson is being accused of hypocrisy after a column he had written several years ago surfaced this week showing him severely questioning the very system that could give him a shortcut into 10 Downing St.

 

As things stand, Mrs May might be on her way out, but the same divisive issues which heralded her exit will be waiting at the doorstep to greet the new tenant.

 

It might take another election to resolve this.

 

The world watches as this drama unfolds with all its labyrinthine twists and turns.


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