UKania is a Rudderless Ship

Photograph Source: los_bandito_anthony – CC BY 2.0

A flailing Tory government is undergoing a slump in the polls as result of Boris “BoJo” Johnson’s growing unpopularity, the spread of Covid’s Delta variant and BoJo’s wildly inconsistent response to it, and the dawning realization that the Brexit outcome is starting to be a bust, especially for lower-income Brits.

It seems increasingly likely that BoJo won’t seek a second term as prime minister.

The next general election is due in 2024, though many political commentators are suggesting a snap election could be called a year earlier. In that case, the Tories may want BoJo’s successor to be in place a year or so before this projected election, so this person can shape the election campaign from the outset.

BoJo always complains he’s short of cash (hence his pleas for donors to refurbish his pad in Downing Street and to pay for a nanny to look after his recent offspring). The best way for him to rake in huge amounts of money will be for him to go on the US rightwing lecture circuit and to give pep talks to Ukanian corporate boardrooms.

An autographed photo of the New York-born BoJo alongside Donald Trump could almost match his prime ministerial salary, if only in the US.

Talk of BoJo’s potential successor is becoming a buzz.

The favourite mentioned so far in the media is the British Indian Rishi Sunak, educated at one of the UK’s top private schools, an ex-banker at Goldman Sachs who is married to the daughter of an Indian billionaire, the crony capitalist Narayana Murthy. Murthy is a supporter of India’s neoliberal prime minister Narendra Modi.

Sunak is currently BoJo’s chancellor of the exchequer/finance minister, and is even more ardently Thatcherite than BoJo.

Sunak is said to have a tense relationship with his boss.

Tensions between the pair bubbled over last week following the leak of a letter from Sunak to BoJo in which he advocated the easing of Covid travel restrictions.

The Sunday Times reports that BoJo was so annoyed that the letter had been leaked without his knowledge that he told his staff Sunak should be relegated to health secretary, saying he could “do a very good job there”.

Both BoJo and Sunak then sought to downplay their rift, BoJo saying he has “full confidence” in the chancellor. At the same time BoJo’s official spokesperson did not deny that the prime minister made the remarks about sacking Sunak. Sunak for his part said he and BoJo were “in lockstep”. We shall see.

An outside candidate for the Tory leadership is Priti Patel, the daughter of Ugandan Indian immigrants, who is even further to the right than Rishi Sunak. Patel is currently the home secretary/interior minister. She should have been sacked earlier for breaching the ministerial code when bullying her civil servants (one such sued, and the case was settled out of court).

Hopelessly inarticulate and gaffe-prone, Patel’s been kept away from the podium in government briefings on the Covid pandemic.

For about 24 hours last week BoJo considered adding the security minister’s brief to Patel’s current ministerial remit. He then made another of his countless U-turns and appointed someone else.

In looking for a likely explanation for BoJo’s sudden change of mind, some of the commentariat noted that Patel is an obvious security risk.

When Patel was minister at the Department for International Development she went on a “private visit” to Israel, where she met senior Israeli government officials without getting clearance from the UK Foreign Office. On her return, Patel recommended giving international aid money to field hospitals run by the Israeli army in illegally occupied territory (the Golan Heights).

Israel is behind the current Pegasus spyware scandal, and cybersecurity is part of the security minister’s brief, so having an Israeli stooge like Patel in charge of the UK’s cybersecurity is now a big no-no. BoJo’s minders may have grasped this at the last moment, and changed his mind accordingly.

The corrupt and incompetent Tories benefit from being confronted by a despairingly ineffectual Labour opposition. Evident Tory mishaps should be an opportunity for Labour to apply pressure on BoJo and the Tories. But this is not happening.

The Labour leader Keir Starmer’s preferred way of dealing with the Tories is to not oppose them, but to pose questions about the details of Tory policy (calling it “constructive criticism”), before voting for the Tory policy in question.

So far Starmer has denied Jeremy Corbyn, his predecessor as leader, the right to represent Labour in parliament, even though Corbyn remains an MP.

Just imagine the furore that would ensue among US Democrats (by no means a lefty bunch!) should Chuck Schumer deny Bernie Sanders the right to caucus with the Democrats on the grounds that he isn’t sufficiently right-wing?

The Dems, under pressure from the party’s non-right-wing, would give Schumer short shrift as Senate majority leader if he did this— admittedly without Sanders’s vote the Dems would not have a Senate majority, especially since their treacherous West Virginia senator Joe Manchin tends to vote with the Republicans on key issues.

Labour’s not being the party in power, unlike the US Dems, does nothing to allay Corbyn’s parliamentary predicament. After all, no one in Starmer’s leadership circle is under the kind of pressure Schumer would face if he handled Sanders in a way similar to Corbyn’s treatment by his own party.

As a result, Starmer’s Blairite restoration is now in full swing, and for the moment he has control over his party in ways that Schumer could only wish for.

The celebrated, and for Labour talismanic, film director Ken Loach announced last week that he had been expelled from the Labour party, on account of his support for left-wingers who had been expelled previously from the party by Starmer.

Starmer’s relentless vigour in purging his party’s socialists is a boon to the Tories.

Starmer, the pink Tory, will do nothing to contest the UK’s predatory capitalism. It will probably turn out to be safer in his “safe” hands than BoJo’s unsteady paws.


Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.