THE rush to replace Boris Johnson has begun.
Without pausing to breathe or learn anything from the chaos of the last six months, the media asks us breathlessly: “Who would you prefer to become prime minister before the next general election?” Tom Tugendhat, Ben Wallace, Liz Truss, Jeremy Hunt, Rishi Sunak, Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab, Michael Gove, Priti Patel or Nadhim Zahawi?
“None please, they’re all horrible” doesn’t seem to be an available answer at this time.
With the exception of Tugendhat and Wallace, most of these people are directly complicit in covering up and supporting Boris Johnson’s abysmal regime. Many of them are unfortunate, incompetent sociopaths who should never have been close to public office. But the darling of the moment, the current favorite is Wallace, the “clean break” candidate, presented as a centrist and a “pair of safe hands”.
But Wallace is anything but a “centrist,” whatever that means in the modern Conservative party.
The former captain of the Scottish Guard and current defense secretary has been accused of appearing to condone the use of mock executions, after he once said that soldiers ‘could pretend to pour petrol’ on prisoners captured on the battlefield. Trying to get information at the point of capture was key, he told The Scotsman in 2003 in the aftermath of the Iraq war.
“It’s taught to the soldiers that it’s like that. You could pretend to pour gasoline on it, when it’s actually water.
Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, said: “It’s hard to see why Wallace would claim he was pouring gasoline on an inmate other than to make him think he was about to be burned alive, which which obviously amounts to a mock execution.”
She added: ‘The behavior which Mr Wallace endorses is not merely ineffective, it is unlawful, immoral and undermines the principles which generations of British servicemen have risked their lives to protect.’
Mock executions were part of the torture techniques used by the CIA during the “war on terror” after 9/11. They were exposed and criticized by a landmark US Senate report in 2014 for their brutality and ineffectiveness.
The possible shift from clown Johnson to the brutality of a figure like Wallace will be seamless, as if the range of Tory portrayals and leadership tones stretches only from Eton to Sandhurst.
It will be presented to the country as a return to “traditional values” and proof both that the misfortune of the Johnson era was an aberration and that we can now return to the great British traditions.
You can already hear the lines from the press: “What this great country needs right now, in this time of war, is a return to the discipline that only the military can truly provide!”
But it’s not just his endorsement of mock executions that should rule Wallace out as a leader. His voting record showed he voted 16 times to cut housing allowances, 45 times to cut social benefits, but 22 times to cut corporation tax and 12 times against a tax on bankers’ bonuses .
Last year he claimed £194,387.77 in expenses.
He is – unsurprisingly – in the mold of the reactionary conservative far right. Yet Overton’s window on decency and acceptable speech in public life has changed so much that he is now portrayed as a “liberal.”
Wallace’s leadership will be presented as skill rather than decency. But skill isn’t the only issue at stake in the wake of Johnson’s debacle. Decency is also a value that has been ridiculed and degraded – and you don’t improve it by replacing a man who doesn’t know how many children he has with a man who would approve of battlefield atrocities.
But here we are – unless you’re tempted by Liz Truss and her pork markets, Dishy Rishi and her damned Eat Out To Help Out, or the Home Secretary’s proto-fascism?
As the country is distracted by the slow, drawn-out end to Boris Johnson’s political career and his bizarre near-resignation, we must examine the shameful legacy left by the Tories. It’s all too easy to get sucked into Johnson’s personal tragi-comedy band and ignore the social reality of 12 years of Tory rule. The social landscape has changed and the deterioration of basic living standards is moving faster.
As Joanne Barker-Marsh – a participant in Changing Realities, a project funded by Abrdn Financial Fairness Trust documenting life on low income during the cost of living crisis – said of the outgoing Prime Minister: the prices of energy are an inevitable result of war – that doesn’t help me when our gas and energy prices have already doubled. He bragged about having “done Brexit”. Brexit could have been imposed, but for whose benefit? What he concocted has only made life more difficult for those living on a fixed income at the scariest time in our lives. The extra £20 increase in Universal Credit payments we received during the pandemic, pretty much the only good thing he oversaw, was ripped off when we needed it most.
Johnson’s regime and the Conservative governments that preceded it are characterized by the wake of social chaos they left, but also by excessive and obscene opulence. Brexit Britain is a place characterized by extreme levels of inequality.
Covid Realities – a project funded by the Child Poverty Action group – documents the reality of life for low-income people during the pandemic with personal testimony. It makes for heartbreaking, if not surprising, or distant reading. But as participants document the stark truth of getting away with benefits or a low-income job, remember it was reported that after he offered to spend £3,000 of public money on a A diplomatic lunch filled with premium wine and gin, Truss used a private jet for an official trip to Australia at an estimated cost of £500,000.
The excess of the political elite needed no personal testimony, it was aired daily in the media, as week after week over the past six months the culture of entitlement and exceptionalism was evident.
As the nation or nations breathe a sigh of relief that the Conservatives’ reign is over (it is not) or pretend that the pandemic is over (it is not), things, in a terrible remake of the D:Ream’s 1993 hit, Can Only Get Worse. Confidence, hope and prosperity have shrunk from Britain in the nearly 30 years since the Blairite era. Cool Britannia pre-millennium has been replaced by Cruel Britannia post-Brexit.
As John Harris wrote a few months ago: “Meanwhile, though poverty and disadvantage continue to grow because of our cruel and miserly welfare system, the government seems intent on making matters worse.
“Never mind barriers to employment such as expensive child care and pitiful local public transport: last week, Johnson and his ministers announced a new program called Way to Work, under which unemployed workers on Universal Credit will not have plus three months to find their favorite job. , but will apparently be forced to take any job they can find after just four weeks. At this point, if they are deemed not to have made “reasonable efforts” to find work, a portion of their Universal Credit payments will be cut off. »
The reality of the end of Johnson’s “leadership” is that part of the soap opera will fade and he will be replaced by another individual who will continue with different shades but inflict the same social chaos that we have witnessed to last him 12 long years.