Everything Happening Right Now in British Politics
It is July 2022 and Boris Johnson has resigned as the leader of the Conservative party and Prime Minister, as of the 7th of July, the Conservative leadership is now up for availability. Now we see the race between Conservative party members to see who will replace him.
Before I go into detail about the Candidates, let us quickly set the scene and explain the rules of the contest.
So how does the Uk Parliament work?
The Parliament is built on an unmodified constitution:
constitution: a set of basic laws that establish how a government should be run.
unmodified: multiple documents (meaning it's flexible and easy to change with no procedure to change it)
The constitution is made up of 6 major documents (Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, Acts of settlement, Acts of Union, Parliamentary Acts, European Communities Acts)
`(more information on diagram)
The Structure of Parliament:
So at the top, we have the Crown or Monarch (at the moment, Queen Elizabeth II). She is unelected, inheriting her power but has no real power to change laws.
Next is the House of Lords. These people are unelected and are usually experts in their areas. They make and shapes laws with the House of Commons. The Chamber has 800 members and they look at laws in detail that are passed by the House of Commons and can challenge these laws.
The main part of parliament is the House of Commons. This is 650 members representing constituencies (areas of England). Each member of parliament belongs to a political party (some can also be independent) and the political party which has the most MPs choose the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister in turn chooses a cabinet of 20 senior ministers. This is where we've got a Minister of Defence, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Home Secretary etc.
The parties that are not in power are known as the opposition: the party which has the second most amount of seats in the House of Commons forms the opposition party and they can also form a shadow cabinet. The leading party and the opposition party usually debate which is moderated by the speaker in the House of Commons (you can actually watch this on TV). Any bill passed into law becomes an act of Parliament.
Finally, you have the Select Committees. Which are smaller groups formed that look at what the government does in detail, checking and reporting on a range of areas.
The Leadership Campaign
Tory leadership campaigns have two stages:
(see diagram below)
Before we get to the current contenders, let's start with a brief summary of those who are no longer with us in this race.
Sajid Javid (Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), Grant Shapps (Secretary of State for Transport) and Rehman Chishti (Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa and North America and Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa) all withdrew on the 12th of July, before the First Ballot could take place.
Nadhim Zahawi and Jeremy Hunt
Nadhim Zahawi and Jeremy Hunt were the first to be eliminated, falling short of the 30 votes needed by their party.
Hunt was not actually a part of Boris Johnsons Cabinet. But, was the Foreign Secretary under the previous Prime Minister (Theresa May), and the Health Secretary under David Cameron (the Prime Minister before her). He was definitely the most experienced candidate, both in terms of ministerial experience and experience with leadership contests. He even ran against Boris Johnson in 2019 when he stood for the leadership of the Conservative party where he ultimately got beaten in the final round. However, despite his experience, hunt probably struggled because he might not be able to shake off his time as a minister; he also served as health secretary during COVID (a delicate time for the NHS) which ultimately created the junior doctor's pay dispute - a dispute that maybe some haven't forgiven him for. Hunt supported Rishi Sunak on his elimination.
Zahawi was appointed as the Chancellor of the Exchequer/Chancellor after Rishi Sunak resigned on the 5th of July. He became very popular during the pandemic for his role as the vaccines Minister, a role which made him incredibly well respected among Tory MPS. However, Zahawi has also said that his fellow candidates have been launching smear campaigns against him - over the weekend, a number of accusations were thrown against him about his Tax Affairs. The Independent, for example, reported that HM Revenue and Customs and the National Crime Agency's International Corruption Unit were investigating him. In response, Zahawi stated that he was "not aware of any formal investigation" and has committed to publishing his full tax returns, were he to become Prime Minister. There is also a lot of speculation surrounding the events of Johnson's downfall: Zahawi was ultimately made Secretary of State for Education right up to Rishi Sunak's resignation. It's been reported that Zahawi issued an ultimatum to Johnson wanting the position of Chancellor or threatening to walk. After, he was promoted to Chancellor before proceeding to withdraw support from the prime minister Minister a matter of hours later. Both this flip-flopping and tax scandal may have been this man's downfall.
The Front Runners:
As of Wednesday we currently have two candidates left in the race, but let us look at those who made it to Ballot. The leaderboard of votes currently looks as follows:
Suella Braverman was the third to be eliminated in the First round of Ballots (14th of July), coming in 6th place.
Appointed as Attorney General for England and Wales, this woman's campaign came out with some big aims - which (in my humble opinion) probably scared voters away.
She said that she wanted to see the UK leave the European Convention on Human Rights/ECHR. This is something that's led to questions about how the ECHR gels with the Good Friday agreement (basically this acknowledged that, although the majority of the people of Northern Ireland wished to remain a part of the United Kingdom, a substantial section of N. Ireland and the majority of the island of Ireland, wished to bring about a united Ireland).
But the Good Friday Agreement explicitly requires the oversight of the ECHR.
This hiccup is slightly unsurprising when you consider that Bravaman's reputation as attorney general is somewhat murky. Bravaman was heavily critiqued by the Bar Council for backing the Internal Markets Bill (the government's original plan to override the Good Friday Agreement). However, the Bill would have broken International Law and, although she claims it was only in a specific and limited way, you can see why the Bar Council and MPs may not have been keen on a law-breaking government.
Moving on the list, we find Tom Tugendhat - someone who may not be that well known among the wider public.
However, he is a highly respected conservative party member. Regarded as a Centrist, he backed to remain during the Brexit referendum, although he did go on to be a backer of Theresa May's Brexit deal and prior to being an MP. Tugendhat even established a civilian government in Hellman Province. He does also lead the Foreign Affairs select committee. The main issue, however, for Tugendhart was probably his lack of experience when it comes to the ministerial office which probably lead to his defeat in the Second Ballot (18th July).
In 4th place, we have Kemi Bardenock.
Similar to Tom Tugenhart you might not have heard much about Bardenock. While she has had some minor government roles she's never been in the cabinet before.
Most recently she's been the Minister for Local Government Faith and Communities as well as the Minister of State for Equality. Prior to those roles, she identified herself as a brexiteer, backing the cause prior to the referendum in 2016. She's also won a speech competition for Conservative Home with a speech criticizing Critical Race Theory: she spoke about how we do not want teachers teaching their pupils about white privilege and inherited racial guilt.
In terms of a policy platform, she was in favour of lowering taxes and is critical of Net Zero. Her biggest issue, however, might have been just that she doesn't have much name recognition or that much experience in high office.
Moving on to 3rd place is Penny Mordaunt.
The former Event and Trade Secretary is a candidate who might actually be better known for her appearance on ITV's celebrity diving show "Splash". She's also a keen advocate for LGBT rights.
Politically, she's on the left of the party with a socially liberal agenda and is therefore popular both in and outside of the conservatives. She advertises herself as a “fresh start” after Boris Johnson and her policy commits to cutting VAT on fuel by 50% as well as committing to raise the basic and middle earner tax thresholds by inflation.
Unfortunately, she didn't quite start her campaign in the best way; her launch video has been the subject of criticism for its use of stock footage of Oscar Pistorius (the South African runner found guilty of the probable homicide of his girlfriend) and Joe Cox. (For context, Joe Cox was the murdered MP for Batley and Sven.)
Although keeping in the top two for most of the ballots, on Wednesday, Mordaunt fell behind Liz Truss by 8 votes, receiving only 105 votes in total. The results of the penultimate ballot were particularly surprising, for me at least - especially when you look at the general trends of voting. But there are two particular reasons I could find as to why this happened: Policy and her stance on Trans Rights.
The Daily Telegraph reported that members of the Conservative party stated that when it "came down to policy" some felt there was not enough "meat on the bone" when it came to Ms Mordaunt's ideas." Also, ideologically the supporters of Kemi Bardenock (who was knocked out in the last round) would probably align more with Truss than Mordaunt which also probably affected the outcome.
Mordaunt's previously positive position towards transgender rights and self-identification policies as equalities minister might have been held against her. Sky News reported: "Ms Mordaunt is under scrutiny for her stance on gender self-identification after leaked government documents suggested she had supported watering down the legal process for transitioning. Papers apparently drawn up by civil servants and seen by the Sunday Times appear to suggest she favoured removing at least one of the medical requirements."
The Finalists of the Tory Leadership Campaign:
At the moment, Liz Truss is 2nd in the polls.
Truss is the current foreign secretary and has a lot of experience in her career as a high-functioning politician: she's also been the Minister for Women and Equality, Secretary of State for International Trade, Justice secretary and Environment, and Food and Rural Affairs Secretary. Additionally, she's the longest continuously serving member of this cabinet.
Ideologically, Truss sees herself as an anti-woke libertarian - as PM, she wants to start cutting taxes on day one and introduce a long-term plan to reduce the size of the government. However, this does sound great but it's not exactly feasible.
This might be an issue. The Tory MP's could see through this as a false promise and take it as a sign that she's not as honest or trustworthy with carrying out her Prime Ministerial agenda. This also doesn't help the fact that she's also quite closely linked with Boris Johnson: many Tory MPS want a clean break from Johnson and his dishonesty and, as such, might feel that she's not the ideal candidate to rejuvenate the party.
Rishi Sunak has been the person to beat since the start of the polls, placing him in a firm 1st place and for a while, he's been seen as Johnson's Heir.
Sunak is the former Chancellor under Johnson, having previously been the Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 2019 to 2020. However, he has only been a member of parliament since 2015. He was also a strong Brexiteer, voting three times in favour of Theresa May's Brexit Withdrawal agreement.
As Chancellor, he was one of the first major figures in the Tory Cabinet to resign from his position on the 5th of July 2022, citing the economic policy differences between himself and Johnson in his resignation letter. His resignation arguably started the chain of other letters of resignation, which puts him in the good books of those Tory Members who no longer want to be associated with the previous Prime Minister as well as the opposition and general public.
In his previous position, Sunak was a key figure in the government's financial response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact, including the Coronavirus Job Retention and Eat Out to Help Out schemes. His experience in political economics and financial economics (previously working at Goldman Sachs), proves him as a pretty reliable numbers guy - and arguably exactly what the government needs in a leader right now, especially with living costs on the rise.
When it comes to policy, Sunak is one of the only candidates not to openly back tax cuts, rather stressing that tax cuts must wait and has said to continue with his corporation tax hike from 19 to 25% next April. He also has the advantage of being one of the most recognisable MPS among the general public.
However, the past couple of months have not been an easy ride: he's faced fines over partygate (where members of Johnson's cabinet were caught partying illegally during the COVID-19 Lockdown) and his wife's Tax Affairs were publicly scrutinised and challenged. He's also the richest MP in Parliament, with some questioning whether you can be too rich to be prime minister. But in spite of this, Sunak is currently the favourite to become leader, both in terms of endorsements and polling. A YouGov poll of the general public even put Sunak well ahead, with the majority believing he was the best replacement for Johnson.
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the blog post belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the organisation, blog owner and/or management. The blog owner and management take no responsibility for the material's authenticity and/or accuracy.