Opinion – A political turning point in Britain

In the late 1970s, the then British Prime Minister James Callaghan observed occasional turning points in the Labor Party’s politics. There is nothing you can do about it. Not long after, Margaret Thatcher moved into Downing Street and the Tories remained in power – until the next political change in 1997 when Tony Blair’s Labor Party won.

Melanie Sully is a British political scientist and director of the Vienna-based Institute for Co-Governance. He has served as a consultant to the OSCE and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, among others, and is a Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London. – © Weingartner

We are now seeing a turning point in favor of Labour. The Tories, who have been in power for 12 years, can’t do anything. You have won four consecutive elections. A fifth time would be a new record anyway and is diminishing day by day.

Boris Johnson swept the Tories to victory in 2019 with a pro-populist ‘little man’ policy. Labor strongholds in northern England fell like dominoes into Tory hands. But Johnson had to go. Prosecco, birthday cakes and chaos at home brought him to a political end.

Conservatives in parliament allowed the Tory platform to be chosen between former finance minister Rishi Sunak and foreign secretary Liz Truss. Both were in the embattled Johnson team, and many members would have preferred a new face to the party leadership, namely Benny Mordant, who came third. Even Defense Secretary Ben Wallace didn’t stop. The former ski instructor, who also worked in Austria, is still popular in the party ranks.

Former Prime Minister Johnson did not follow any ideology. He is neither a Brexit hardliner nor an EU fan. So he was able to hold the various Tory groups together for a long time. Within the party the Brexiteers have pro-rich policies, the Northern England MPs, who are pro-Brexit but pro-Labour, and the One Nation Tories, who are more pro-social and anti-Brexit. Johnson dialectically reconciled individualism and collectivism.

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Under his successor Truss, the party was threatened with political Armageddon. It shattered the core of Thatcherism: the belief in home ownership and social progress. The political center is left to Labour, and this will be the last time for Labor who voted Tories for the first time in 2019. Truss tore Johnson’s politics apart. His new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, has been forced to abandon his economic plan in the Downing Street dustbin. And the mutiny on the Tory ship is still far away.

The debt cannot be financed by tax cuts or government subsidies. Without international aid the country cannot pay its debt, which is no longer available, and now pensions are also at risk. The Tories must come up with a tough austerity plan that will be hugely unpopular. A transfer of power to a Labor government could bail out the Tories – but the problems will be long-term.

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