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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Boris Johnson tried to make a comeback. And people just let him in.

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We now have our third Tory Prime Minister in seven weeks – Rishi Sunak, a former finance minister. Sometimes I honestly wonder if the British electorate has a humiliating kink. Maybe it’s because I’m not invested in any conservative ideology or feel against many of their core values, but when I come across people who remain staunch Tories, nothing else makes sense to me.

Sometimes I honestly wonder if the British electorate has a humiliating kink.

But perhaps one of the most shocking moments of this whole ordeal was how Boris Johnson’s supporters insisted that he make a comeback after Liz Truss’ disastrous 44 days as prime minister.

After a short-lived campaign, Johnson ruled out the possibility on Sunday. But that there was even a chance he could run for office after he resigned in disgrace after his mishandling of a sexual misconduct within his party speaks volumes.

But before I get into that, I want to give you a quick update on the level of shyness we’ve experienced in the UK

During Truss’s brief premiership, she lost two key members of her cabinet (she fired her finance minister and her home secretary resigned). She also put pressure on the economy, reversed some of her plans, such as tax cuts, and then looked like her new Secretary of the Treasury has the majority of her policies just days after she was reversed fiercely defended them. Things got so bad that the tabloid newspaper The Daily Star made a YouTube livestream that placed a head of unrefrigerated lettuce next to a photo of Truss to see which one would survive the longest.

Many of us thought that Truss’s catastrophic time as a leader was inevitable, as, before she became prime minister, she was best known for her rant about cheese.

Something else that felt just as inevitable was that, when the government fell to pieces again, it was cobbled together again without a general election. Instead, Sunak was brought to power solely by Conservative MPs. Because his most likely opponent, Penny Mordaunt, dropped out at 11 a.m., he was the only remaining candidate. He won by default without voting decided online by all members of the Conservative Party, as planned.

Of course it is undemocratic to limit a new prime minister’s decision to the members of one party alone, but the fact that Sunak was elected by a select few MPs (who arguably had their own agendas) and no member of the general made the public is borderline dictatorial. Four of our last five Prime Ministers have been elected without universal suffrage. While it’s still possible to name one, UK law means it’s pretty much at the Prime Minister’s discretion whether there will be a general election before January 2025 – when the next one is due.

It is, of course, undemocratic to limit a new prime minister’s decision to members of one party.

But as predictable as this series of events was, one thing I really didn’t expect was that the media, MPs and the public were encouraging Johnson to become prime minister again.

From tweets by MPs to longer approvals – with one removed since pro-Johnson article was published by MP Nadhim Zahawi minutes after news broke that Johnson would not continue with his leadership campaign after all – the support he received was striking. Now all these public figures have had to make an embarrassing turnaround.

Even worse than receiving Johnson MP Approvals – he claimed he had reached the single most important benchmark of the 100 backers needed to make his leadership bid official – was the fact that people outside the Westminster bubble seemed willing to give him another chance.

A recent petition, for example, called “Bring Back Boris”, surpassed 25,000 signatures before it was shut down. At the same time, recent data by YouGov also showed that the majority of Conservatives (who again were the ones to vote for our future prime minister) wanted Johnson to return as leader. Local media also showed people screaming for Johnson to return.

The most disturbing thing was that some news outlets Acting as if Johnson became prime minister again was a credible way forward after all he’d done. A number of right-wing tabloids, for example, treated Johnson’s potential as a sort of “soft launch” or heroic last-chance saloon. The Daily Express spoke of Boris “rebounding”, while The Sun teased that Johnson was “watching the mother of all comebacks”.

Most disturbingly, some news outlets pretended that Johnson’s new prime minister was a credible step forward after all he’d done.

It goes back to what I said earlier about the humiliating kink. Why else do so many people keep going back to someone with such blatant disregard for them? It really makes no sense. He unlawful deferral of payment or shortening of Parliament’s time to discuss its Brexit bill in 2019; ignored the advice of scientists about Covid-19 lockdown procedures; constantly ignored exactly the lockdown rules he taught, with drunken parties while people attended Zoom funerals for their grandmothers. That’s just the surface of the damage he’s done as prime minister. The economic prosperity he promised on the side of a bus was replaced by what is now a “cost of living crisis,” of energy bills and inflation reach record highs and the chance of power outage this winter.

There is no doubt that in the short time she was in charge, Truss has made things much worse, but the problems we face as a country have been around for longer than her 44 days in office. Her successive blunders did not come out of the blue. They were a direct result of the gaping hole Johnson dug in his three-year premiership.

The possibility that he might have been given another chance – especially so soon after his shameful departure – is alarming. With the country shifting its focus to Sunak, it could soon be easy to forget that Conservative MPs and the public really thought it would be good for the country to have Johnson back. But we must not forget. To move forward as a country, we must stop repeating the same mistakes. That means the public must continue to push for general elections, so that the power of whoever may lead us is always in the hands of the people.

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