December 3, 2023

Boris Johnson sees no crisis

Boris Johnson sees no crisis

“Misfortune? What’s a crisis?” When Prime Minister James Callahan’s famous phrase was put forth by the tabloid in 1979, it was just days before his Labor Party ousted him from office (and paved the way for then opposition leader Margaret Thatcher.) The long “winter of discontent,” a winter of frozen wages, soaring inflation and mass strikes, has found its ultimate victim in a crisis-denying prime minister. Is history repeating itself under Conservative auspices – and does long-term optimist Boris Johnson stand up?

For Martin, who does not want to read his first name in the newspaper, it sounds like this: “Much than it was then, only without strikes.” In the legendary “Winter of Discontent”, Martin turned 17 and went to the Royal Navy. Now nearly 60 years old, he observes the current crisis from a new and even private perspective: Martin is a truck driver, and thus belongs to that shrinking tribe responsible for misery. Because Johnson’s problems are mostly rooted in a lack of drivers.

For weeks the nation has been groaning under supply bottlenecks. Meanwhile, hundreds of gas stations have closed; In the south of the kingdom, drivers are still struggling to find a petrol pump. Severe labor shortages cause crops to rot and livestock yards to emergency slaughter. Newspapers discover new disturbing things every day, but when asked on the sidelines of the Conservative Party conference if the country was in crisis, Johnson answered with a terse “no” in his cheerful closing address, Johnson touched on the current state of the country. Just one sentence: Change, which the British would have voted for in referendum and elections, takes time, “and sometimes it’s hard.”

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Trouble getting bacon, tomato and bread

Johnson will never compare himself to Callaghan, who hardly left a mark in history. If he has to take action, it will be for Tony Blair, the Labor prime minister with the longest serving term. When Blair encountered angry drivers who could not refuel their cars (and supermarkets were rationing groceries) in 2000, he called the military. He crashed in the polls only to be confirmed in office a few months later by a large majority. Today the episode was almost forgotten.

At the party convention, Johnson presented himself as a brave reformer dealing with what previous governments had lacked the courage to do. He wants to “unleash the British spirit” and use the new “Brexit freedoms” for it. The applause was huge, but Johnson’s fate would not be decided in the conference room, but on the streets of the country. But how does it look there? Everyone who travels across the country experiences crises, normalities, anxiety and optimism. One faces anger over Brexit and anger against those who make a welcome Brexit as amateurs. You find hate for Johnson but the same amount of sympathy.