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Johnson’s Downfall Presents Rare Opportunity for Massive Political Reset in UK

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As I began writing this column from London late Wednesday night, Boris Johnson was still the U.K. prime minister. By 9:15 Thursday morning local time, after an extraordinary 36 hours in which dozens of his ministers and Conservative Party officials had resigned, he’d bowed to the inevitable and announced that he would resign, though he tried to fudge the issue by announcing he would remain in power until the autumn. More likely, however, is that he’ll be forced out of office by his own party within days. It is a hard landing for a man who has flown so high for so long.

Johnson’s demise presents a rare opportunity for a political reset in Britain; for a rejection of the demagoguery, the scapegoating, the corruption and ultimately the sheer ineptitude of his years in office; and for new, less deliberately conflictual thinking on post-Brexit Britain’s relationship to the European Union. It will also remove from the Westminster scene a man who has used his manifest skills to such malign effect over the past decade, building up coalitions, both in Parliament and amongst the electorate at large, based largely around a slew of resentments and misrepresentations of reality.

Johnson, like Donald Trump, has been a wrecking ball of institutions and of political norms for years now. Having made his name as a sensationalist contrarian journalist and commentator, he went on to become mayor of London. As a mayor, he defied easy political stereotypes. He was conservative, yet he claimed to be an environmentalist and loved being seen riding around on his bike. He was an unabashed nostalgist for empire and traditionalism, yet at the same time supported LGBTQ rights and abortion rights. Throughout his tenure he built his national profile, and, when he entered Parliament, he swiftly rose up the ranks of the Conservative Party and into the cabinet.

Always nakedly ambitious, Johnson saw a road to power during the Brexit years by opportunistically siding with the Brexiteers, and then sabotaging Theresa May’s government and her leadership by positioning himself as a hard-liner willing to go to (at least rhetorical) war with Europe in order to “get Brexit done.” It worked; in the summer of 2019, he orchestrated a palace coup against May, then, as the party’s new leader, called a snap general election, which the Conservatives, running on populist, nativist themes, won in a landslide.

Throughout, however, even as his career thrived, he bounced from one scandal to another to another.

Again, like Trump, Johnson long defied political gravity, essentially bulldozing his way through the........

© Truthout

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