How Does Britain’s Conservative Government End? Maybe With a Labour Rout.

Oct 27, 2022 · 192 comments
paul (chicago)
"Labor party with plans: to invest in the N.H.S., to create a sovereign wealth fund for green investment, to nationalize railways and create a publicly owned energy company that would run on clean power." These Labor party leaders are just as dumb! UK needs more young people especially skilled workers, not a bunch of green investments, to overcome the loss of productive workers from Europe after Brexit, otherwise its business will never recover. You can't count on those growing number of British seniors to do that, can you? It's a human society, only humans can make it work! Apparently those politicians are NOT humans, maybe there are Martians?
TakeThis Waltz (Eurasia)
The Labour party missed a trick when they failed to come down hard onn the side of 'remain' for fear of alienating some of their working class electorate. That's not leading, that's following, ot to mention Corbyn's old-style-leftie rejection of the EU as an undemocratic club. Well, I hope they like the undemocratic club now ruling the country and running roughshod over environmental protection and workers' rights.
Barry of Nambucca (Australia)
Brexit was the worst economic UK own goal. It delivers the UK a significantly lower GDP forever, compared to the UK remaining in the EU. Brexit was pushed by extreme elements in the Conservative Party. It was an attempt to blame all the shortcomings of the UK and Conservative policy, onto the EU. The Conservatives negotiated and signed the Brexit deal. Then the Conservatives complained about the Brexit deal they negotiated. The multiple issues around the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland have not been settled, despite claims by the Conservatives. The Conservatives do not deserve to be in government. They are a rabble, more concerned to clinging on to power than governing. Three PM’s in two months, and still Conservatives have no idea how to govern. They deserve several terms in opposition.
Vincent (Honolulu)
I've been looking for hope and evidence that Britain is not trapped in a downward hopeless death spiral. Same thing for America. I'm still looking.
A Man Without A Country (Palm Springs)
I still keep wondering how the tories win elections when they’ve destroyed Great Britain. But I’d presume one may wonder the same as when the USA elects republicans or the Italians installed Mussolini.
Carl Zeitz (Lawrence NJ)
Gerry Ford was president, but with an asterisk. Sunak is PM, but with an asterisk.
Sanford Kaplan (Lincoln, NE)
Part of the problem with the Labour Party, and not even mentioned in the article, is its recent flirtation with Anti-Semitism, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. If the author of the article is a Lbour supporter, I am not surprised by the omission of any such reference in the text.
ESCannon (Keynsham, UK)
@Sanford Kaplan When raising the anti-Semitism issue with Labour one should always remember that there were many claims of anti-Islamic behaviour in the Conservative Party (also anti-Semitism and other issues). During the leadership campaign that resulted in Johnson a promise was made to deal with this, but then nothing happened. Arguably the only way that Truss beat Sunak in this year's leadership campaign was due to racism (Sunak was clearly the better candidate). My feeling is that the Conservatives have made great strides in being more inclusive (for which Cameron should take credit), but they are probably still behind Labour. Since you take an ad hominem approach to our criticism, note that I am a member of the Green Party, so I have no reason to defend either Labour or Conservatives.
Watching (US)
Jeremy Corbyn tanked the Labour Party with his antisemitism and socialism. Many long time Labour moderates gave Boris Johnson his 2019 landslide. Now Keir Starmer heads Labour and a general election would be different to 2019. Does Labour have a vision that can help UK through this financial/devolved governments storm?
NFH (Barbados)
Maybe a small point, but Sir Keir Starmer is correctly referred to as “Sir Keir”, as he is no longer “Mr Starmer”.
TakeThis Waltz (Eurasia)
It's not a small point, it's a completely silly point.
Scott (NYC)
Britain == Children Of Men
Leigh (Qc)
Conservatives are at a such a loss for ideas all they have left is trying out new colours of lipstick to dress up their pig otherwise known as Brexit.
Andrew (Isle of Skye)
After the War, Attlee replaced Churchill and began programs that offered the average citizens decent places to live, education beyond age 14 and Health Care. Public Transportation was affordable and ran on time. In the last three decades that vision was betrayed and so it began to fade and fade, to be replaced by a growing nightmare that takes me back to my youth, where only the upper 8th had the income to live their lives as they chose. International Markets do not care whether you can get a medical appointment, whether you can afford to travel by train and whether the train will be on time or not. They are driven by people who only care about increasing their wealth. Increase the Money Supply but do not tell the Market Manipulators, and introduce those monies via helping the least among us, bettering NHS, public ownership of public transportation, setting stable costs for energy and holding those who work for the public - accountable. The British did not surrender even in the darkest days of World War II, and in its aftermath, strived to make the lives of its citizens better than even before. Do not let the insatiable greediness of the Globalists do what Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo in all their wickedness were unable to do - defeat us.
Here Be Dragons (Southeast US)
The key for Labour, should it have the opportunity, will be to keep its eyes on the prize(s) and return the British economy to some semblance of stability, while mitigating the enervating North-South divide. It is too easy to be distracted by the usual intra-party bickering over pet issues.
Greg Hodges (Truro, N.S./ Canada)
How could Labour possibly be worse than the clown act than the pathetic Conservatives; who have proven how deaf, dumb, and blind they are to fixing anything since their great BREXIT drive to sever ties with all of Europe. What do the British people have to lose at this point following the disastrous death spiral the Conservatives have wrought by insane policies of reward the rich and to hell with everyone else at the heart of their voodoo "Reagan-omics" that like in America have proven to be completely NUTS.
L Smith (London)
Hilarious downplaying of Corbyn’s liability factor. At least the Tories ditched Truss before she led them into an election trouncing.
Tom (Ferney-Voltaire, France)
But Labour has largely exorcised Corbyn. Sunak can’t expel the extremists even though they have been exposed - if you want evidence, see his appointment of Suella Braverman. He seems too weak to purge the extreme.
TastetheDifference (Cwmbran, UK)
Jeremy Corbyn did have a detailed manifesto, who got shot down with - We can't afford it! But he was right. The Tories have run up huge debt since then. The Tories won with no manifesto and simple 3 word slogans - Get Brexit Done. Keir Starmer is being cautious in not saying too much.
John (PA)
It’ll be amusing to watch the Labour Party try and increase spending without first repairing the UK’s parlous finances.
Sidney Sridhar (Vancouver,Canada)
This is the best opportunity for Labour to form a Government.But, Sunak knows this and he has two years to steady the Torry ship.This is almost like the final over of a T-20 cricket match when the batting side, facing defeat,hopes a miracle when two batsmen score sixes . Sunak has to bat like Kohli! No question,Labour under Starmer seems the obvious choice in a post-Brexit Britain.What he must do is to negotiate with the EU for restoration of benefits from free entry into Europe,despite Brexit.These are challenging times for all countries in Europe,especially Britain
Jen, artist (Los Angeles)
Lynsey Hanley elides the Labour P.M. Tony Blair policies in the Iraq War, a ferocious and brutal war that exterminated hundreds of thousands of innocent Arabs. Blair's successor, Labour P.M. Gordon Brown called Blair's joining Bush and Cheney's Iraq War "the right decision for the right reasons" in 2010, after their disinformation, deception, propaganda, and lies of a nuclear program used as the pretext for their war had been debunked. Since then, the Labour Party has not made full restitution to the families of the victims, nor have its top officials received justice. Yet, Hanley talks about it as if it were an ethically legitimate political organization.
FedGod (NJ)
Lots of conservative voters are mad that after voting for Brexit to keep the immigrants out, A brown Hindu from a former colony is now their prime minister... A Hindu who can appoint Bishops to the Anglican Church when there is an explicit law that forbids Jews and Catholics from doing so ... I guess the lawmakers never guessed that a Hindu or a Muslim might become a Prime Minister... Serves them right.
John (PA)
In fact they are not. The Tory party is quite comfortable with diverse candidates. A lack of racism is completely consistent with an awareness that current levels of immigration are straining social services and society. Also worth remembering all of the immigration from the EU was comprised of ethnically white people.
Bill Brasky (USA)
How repugnant must Labour policies and leaders be that they are continually trounced by Conservatives?
Mike Livingston (Philadelphia PA)
They’re certainly asking for it, aren’t they?
northlander (Michigan)
The UK is a money tunnel with a big toll charge. Labor is a joke, unless you count pub work. Between holiday, tea, and just plain indolence the British labor force is an oxymoron. Rushi has Brexit blocking the money tunnel, the City is emptying its traders, EU is grabbing every speck of talent. Remember this enlightened isle exported its Polish truck drivers and couldn’t find anyone capable or sober enough to drive one and called that a supply chain shortage. Labour is no labor.
Koret (United Kingdom)
I cannot see how the UK population will take any more doses of brutal Tory austerity. The Tories have been in power since 2010 and have attacked public services at every level including local council spending, whilst raising taxes on the majority leaving tax breaks for the super wealthy, including Rishi Sunak and his wife. The result of all this is that not one single hospital bed has been opened in the NHS since 2010 with only 100,000 hospital beds available for 67 million people. There are shortages of 12,000 hospital doctors and 47,000 nurses. There are currently 7 million people languishing on NHS hospital waiting lists. Record numbers of doctors are retiring early. Children are growing up in rapidly rising numbers of poor families who now cannot afford to eat or heat their homes. The media is full of stories of families contemplating giving up their disabled children because they cannot afford to keep them warm or feed them. The Tory record is thoroughly shameful. The reality is that austerity has never ended and even middle class professionals are struggling to survive. The UK needs an immediate General Election, but democracy can only be restored with a Labour Government who will quell the anguish and suffering of the majority of workers and the middle classes by restoring public services and not following a regime of slashing public services.
Algol60 (Massachusetts)
@Koret Labour? The only reason it might be elected is that by now too few of the electorate are old enough to recall life under a Labour government.
Sisko24 (metro New York)
@Koret Even if you don't adore Jeremy Corbyn, his one (only one?) saving grace was that he saw that austerity budgets and spending weren't helping the British people. He had previously assailed the EU and its austerity policies as being a 'stitch-up against (UK) workers which led him to be very wishy-washy in his efforts towards the anti-Brexit campaign. No one else that I'm aware of ever denounced austerity budgets and cutting.
Marcus Brant (Canada)
Nothing any Conservative party does is for the people. Take a gander at the world and try to find an exception. This Sunak government is no different, the reinstatement of Suella Braverman, who “dreams” of sending migrants to genocidal Rwanda despite her own immigrant background, is a prime example of party before country. Before her, Priti Patel metaphorically drank the blood of hapless people washed up in Britain’s shores, propelled by the blast of our bombs on their homelands. There is a maxim, there’s no such thing as coincidence, and I believe it. Inflation, gas prices, war in Ukraine is all related, the latest incongruous crises in the span of time since the collapse of the USSR where the West thought it had won a victory only to snatch defeats from victory’s maw in Iraq and Afghanistan. Britain and the US led the charge and Putin used these two wrongs to make a wrong. We’re enduring a fatal lack of leadership the world over. Britain is now so corrupt with Russian money and influence, Sunak may soon become a Kulak or, perhaps appropriately, end up in a gulag.. I’m an expatriate Brit and I’m going to exercise my absentee vote with one for Labour.
Eileen (NJ)
Why is the head of the Labour party a "Sir?" That seems wrong.
NFH (Barbados)
@Eileen Maybe just a little incongruous? Well, his knighthood is reportedly for services to the legal profession; I don’t think that he benefits financially.
JJ.Gross (Jerusalem)
This sort of article makes one wonder whether the Times' obsessive speculative reporting regarding Republicans is now being replicated regarding British Conservatives. I have long suspected that such articles are meant to influence rather than inform. But this, of course, in not of much practical value when published in an echo chamber; and certainly of no value when published 5,000 miles from any target audience. And, besides, England's Conservatives are very different from American Republicans, and England's Labor (certainly under Keith Starmer) would be horrified to find itself being compared to today's Democrats.
Blackmamba (IL)
Nonsense. With the exception of Masterpiece Theater on PBS in America the sun went into total eclipse then permanently set on the British Empire. From Boris Johnson to Liz Truss to King Charles III to Harry and Megan there is clearly nothing Great nor United among thr English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh speaking peoples. A brown Indian British East African Hindu wealthy Prime Minister like Rishi Sunak is made for ridicule and satire from' Monty Python's Flying Circus'.
Jim K (Upstate NY)
Both the UK and the USA are "democracy lite" countries. In the UK, the Prime Minister is selected by the party leaders of the party that won the general election. British voters do not get to vote directly for Prime Minister. In the USA, the electoral votes of the fifty states decide who will become president. The national popular vote for US President is absolutely meaningless. Both systems are fundamentally flawed. Both systems were designed as alternatives to direct democracy. The Founders in both countries were terrified of "mob rule" democracy... the unwashed masses were not to be trusted. Despite the rationalizations for creating these two systems, demagogues have been able to seize power at the highest levels. The rise in fake news, hate-mongering radical on-line sites, Christian nationalism, white supremacist views and a general dumbing down of the electorate must also be factored in. Winning-at-all cost political parties have found ways to defeat secular, pluralistic, representative democracy. From Federalist Paper 51: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." Since humankind are not supernatural beings, our flawed attempts at democracy and self-governance are better than any other alternative.
Adam Stoler (Bronx Urban Warrior)
Break up the UK If what is there now isn’t working it’s time for seriously radical change
Deb Chatterjee (USA)
This is a seesaw. The conservatives everywhere shall enforce strict law and order, less immigration, austerity in spending. The liberals are spendthrift, lax on immigration, govern by prioritizing on human rights, and hence are relaxed on law and order. They are opposites like seats in a seesaw. So why write boring articles emphasizing support for one over the other, when each have fatal flaws.
Kenan Porobic (Charlotte)
It seems the Labor is as incompetent as the Conservatives. If the prolong decline of the living standard is in front of the British people, you want the latter party to stay in power and to receive all the blame till the economy hits the very bottom and gets ready to rebound…
c harris (Candler, NC)
Unmentioned is that Corbyn had nearly won the PM election. The Labor Party establishment started a smear campaign that Corbyn was under the influence of anti-Semitic advisors. It was very noisy & utterly baseless. The BBC was one of the main promoters of the story.
Clive (Mexico)
I emigrated in 1992 after my family lost our house and business in a terrible recession caused by, guess who? The Tories. The UK has been going downhill ever since. Tory voters are like turkeys voting for Christmas.
Anthony Van Coillie (Belgium)
The call for a general election is media induced by being repeated continuously is trying to become a mantra but is not necessary. If a general election would be called, then you would get a lame duck government that is ineffectual in the present challenging situation: and that is not really what the UK needs now with the jittery markets !
Mark (Germany)
In the dreams of the liberal media the demonized working class vote for the party that looks down on them and tells then they have undeserved white privilege etc. – this is unlikely to happen. The issue for the Labour Party is the same as for the Democrats in the US the activist minority have embraced performative anti-whiteness and given up on working class people and somehow end up being the public face of the party. This makes it extremely hard to vote for them, the conservatives on the other hand are not so stupid as to alienate a large proportion of the electorate. Even my grandfather who loyally voted labour all his life – if he were alive today would have a very hard time voting for the modern labour party.
JCA (Los Angeles)
If the Labour Party decides to include a second referendum "Breturn" in their political party manifesto with the blessing of the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats and some of the Northern Ireland parties they will complete the rout in 2024.
Nel (Norfolk, England)
This is an coherent and humane take on what is a bloody mess here in Britain. I sometimes wonder if, in their different political manifestos, the political parties should concentrate on stripping back to their values rather than try to appeal to different parts of the electorate. If everyone kept it simple maybe the differences between the parties would be clear and the battle for votes less toxic And maybe some new political parties, filling the gaps in what's on offer, might emerge. We've reached stagnation point where, currently, British politics stinks.
Girish Kotwal (Louisville, KY)
First things first. Britain needs to get its house in order financially. Rishi needs to be given a chance at not making mistakes . Britain also needs to stay free of any foreign wars and pay a bigger role in peace keeping instead of war in Europe or elsewhere. Britain also needs to learn lessons from the burial of NATO led by US commander in chief in the graveyard (Kabiristan) of empires in Afghanistan. In short, Britain at the current time should Britain First.
Christopher Slevin (Michigan)
Would I not have to go to a museum to find one of those?
Invictum (China)
It will not happen. Labour is the party of taking the knee (Kier did this in his office) of open borders and being soft on crime (Keir proved this when chief prosecutor) They used to be the work party now they are the woke party. For these reasons they will never be elected in their current form.
Rudy Flameng (Brussels, Belgium)
While it is absolutely true that it would be right and proper to call an election, Sunak would be completely out of his mind to do that one nanosecond before he absolutely has to. He doesn't even have to have a plan, he doesn't have to offer solutions, he just has to persevere. Not necessarily for things to get better, but for people to get used to them being awful. If he keeps Labour huffing and puffing for two more years, it will turn on itself and put off voters. Sunak knows that unless and until Labour actually gets into power, there is nothing it can do. He can even steal Labour's ideas and implement them as his own. What are they going to do about is? Sunak's biggest problem is in his own party. IS his own party. Ever since Cameron's idiotic Brexit referendum competence has been draining from the Tories. Never has Britain been governed by a more egregious set of incompetents than in the past 18 or so months. The variegated factions hate each other more than they hate Labour. Will the Conservatives get their act together enough to survive as a party? I doubt it, frankly. And I doubt, too, that Labour has any answers that would not just be different, but BETTER. Britain is in for quite an adventure...
Thomas (New Jersey)
I’m commenting on the front-page headline, not the article. “Is This the British Labour Party’s Moment”? The answer is Not Likely. Just like in the US, it is not likely that it will ever be the Democratic Party’s moment either. The elites in both countries want it that way. A British official on CSPAN years ago boasted that Britain was, as he put it, an Elected Dictatorship. He said that in the nineteen eighties. Since then, the US has followed suit after the so called “special relationship” kicked in.
Christopher Hawtree (Hove, Sussex, England)
Even if an Election is not held soon, it will hang over the next year before the likely date of May or October 2024. These are uncertain times.
AJK (Somerset, England)
The UK is a parliamentary democracy which allows for a change of leader in the elected majority. This is what makes a change of prime minister during its term in office possible. Labour also used the system to change their leader in the middle of a term the last time they held office. An election during a crisis such as the one we are currently enduring is an unnecessary distraction and opposition parties do themselves no favours to simply repeat chants of ‘election now’. Time they move on to addressing the massive problems we face. Jeremy Corbyn was wholly unelectable. His side kick and would be Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonell, said repeatedly in interviews that it was his mission to overthrow Capitalism. A fantasy the British people would never vote for. I voted for Tony Blair, the ‘anomalous exception’ who won a massive majority. To do so again the Labour Party needs to accept that this is where the votes lie.
Dactta (Bangkok)
Labour could look to Australia for some inspiration. Moderate careful and make one self a small target before the election, so the voters can be appalled by the current do nothing regime. During the journey Starmer needs to face down the nervous ones demanding action aka announcements…policy statements etc. they don’t help
Jen (Scotland)
Nope. I can’t help thinking back to 1992 when Labour were the favourites but somehow managed to get defeated by the Tories again and we had another 5 years of Tory policies. Then came New Labour - which was another way of saying Tory lite. Fact is in the last 100 years we have only had 33 years with a Labour Gov (13 of which were new Labour) against 54 years of Tories. The rest were National govs due to crises and war. History therefore tells us that England votes Tory. Which is why as a Scot I am voting for Independence.
RC (Connecticut)
Holding on to or regaining power is more important than doing good. It's the same here in the US. Since before the time of Reagan the concept of a "free market" has dominated conservative thought, but it is one that is rigged by crony capitalism to create one that is not fee at all, but is structured to favor the agglomeration of monopolistic private capital: privatizing profits and socializing losses. We are bearing the final fruits of economic libertarianism and the global effort by sovereign individuals to destroy welfare states. We have every right to be angry, but to think that the Tory or Republican parties, aided by Murdoch and his ilk and their propaganda outlets, or the shutting down of dissent around the world, will fix it brings to mind the old maxim that "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Voting Republican is a mistake.
Krispin Vicars (London UK)
There will not be an early election. Given the conservative party majority in parliament, the conservatives will hold off the election till as late as possible. Clearly, Rishi and his cabinet are hoping that by the time the election comes they will be in much better shape.
HJC (Canada)
I am hoping that Labour will win the next general election. In a nutshell they have good ideas. With their green energy commitments, thousands of new, well paid jobs will be created as well as other components of their commitments that relate to the NHS and transport, for example. It is quite a visionary, refreshing and common good agenda. If they manage to win and deliver as promised, they will be at the forefront of tackling global climate change, in beneficial, economic and socially improved ways. What could be better? The world is crying out for good change. In today’s NYT there is an article by David Wallace-Wells about Climate Reality. Old style politics in getting in the way of a bright worldly future.
Martin M (Chicago)
"Labour finally looked like a party with plans.." I have not seen a credible plan from either Labour or the Tories for mitigating the disaster of Brexit -- that is the only kind of plan that has a chance of turning the British economy around.
Sisko24 (metro New York)
@Martin M What about the Liberal Democrats in the UK? Do you think they have any realistic chance to form the next government?
Lefthalfbach (Philadelphia)
Corbyn's views were not "...thought to be too strident....". His Left wing views were overwhelmingly rejected by the electorate. I hope that Starmer wins the next Election but let us not whitewash the past, shall we?
Kate (Wales)
@Lefthalfbach. I am not a Corbyn supporter and he didn’t present himself to the public very well but many of his policies are still popular. Renationalising the railways, lower fees for students and a fairer tax system are all things the British public want.
Greg (Lyon, France)
@Lefthalfbach Corbyn was ousted by a well-organized well-funded campaign by a lobby group representing a foreign country, when he dared to criticize the far right government policies and actions of that government. It is no secret that he objected strongly to the human rights abuse of the Palestinian people and the ongoing violations of international law on Palestinian lands. His promise to officially recognize the State of Palestine was the last straw. Now Labour has a new puppet master.
Christopher Bulmer (Europe)
His Anti-Semitism was also the thing that pretty much ended his leadership.
terry brady (new jersey)
Rout, ye say? Brexit and dysfunction. Rich people at the control switch and everyone else freezing. Rout is an understatement.
Fox (Seattle)
The Labour Party and the US Democratic Party quite often seem as if they've been comparing notes. Because an equal penchant for admirable ideas and complete electoral incompetence in the face of a conservative opposition far better skilled at playing politics echoes across the pond like the mirror scene from the Marx Brothers' masterpiece "Duck Soup."
Robert Avant (Spokane, WA)
a general election is still some ways off barring a complete collapse of the majority. A sovereign wealth fund for clean energy? Sounds more like a slush fund for connected friends and sycophants. Investing(?) in the N.H.S is the very definition of good money after bad. Yep, Labour has brilliant ideas.
Kate (Wales)
@Robert Avant. Norway set up a sovereign wealth fund with its North Sea oil assets. They invest in the Country. The UK, under Thatcher, squandered its North Sea oil assets. What’s not to like about using your assets to invest in your Country?
Placeholder (UK)
The problem with Labour, especially under Corbyn but even under Ed Miliband, was that it had become a party of snobs. The leadership seemed to like abstract left-wing ideas more than the British people. Miliband is a brilliant, decent man but sadly he left the impression that, quietly, he preferred France. Corbyn lived in his own crazy world and would have been happier leading Venezuela. Whatever Starmer's personal views, he at least seems to start with the notion that to lead a people you need to start by taking them seriously the way they are and not sneering at them or treating them as victims of false consciousness.
Helen Wright (Dorset UK)
@Placeholder Well said. The Left have damaged Labour in the same way that the Right will eventually (please god soon) take down the Conservatives. These elements are far more concerned with the minutiae of doctrine than with actually running the country. Keir Starmer may lack charisma but he does seem to focus on what the population need.
Ian G (GA)
Sunak can rearrange the deck chairs, but without revising the Brexit agreement to bring the UK closer to the EU, the country is likely to continue to sink. His tin ear regarding privilge will not help. There will probably be no good time for Conservatives to call an election in the next two years.
Dactta (Bangkok)
Labour electorates and voters overwhelmingly rejected the EU and Brussels setting UK laws. Get over it . The USA and many other independent nations wouldn’t but into the EU experiment. It’s not a left right thing - even Corbyn in truth anti EU. Starmer needs to stay well clear of anti Brexit talk .
Ladybug (Heartland)
Brexit - Breaks It - is baked in and there is no going back, at least for now. Mr. Sunak needs to grow the economy and the best way to do that would be to rejoin the Common Market. Given his party's ideology that will be a hard U-turn to make. 'Fiscal responsibility' will also be difficult while maintaining the generous social services the Brits are accustomed to. Raise taxes or cut social services (or both). Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
alan (MA)
"To this, Mr. Sunak has warned of “difficult decisions to come,”" Here in America, we've seen that when Conservative Leaders talk about making "difficult decisions" it is usually code for screwing the Middle Class.
sandgk (Columbus, OH)
Paraphrasing an old Blues standard, Sunak’s ploy is that in Britain, having been down so very damn low any change, however small and fleeting will look like up to the press - who, with few exceptions, shall pronounce this is the case. If Fleet Street and the cowed or craven TV outlets go along and declare it a new day - that things have become better - Sunak just may see his and his Party’s numbers go positive. Only then would an election be called. Failing that eventuality, Britain will continue to suffer en masse until January of 2025. Perhaps beyond, should Starmer himself stumble politically and Labour miss the chance the dispose of the architects of this last dirty dozen years.
SB (Sacramento)
Brexit broke the UK to an extent that Trump did in the US with a coup d'état. Rearranging the cabinet or political parties will not solve the wooes. It has to get worse still before there will be another referendum to reshape the whole country and its international economic ties.
Christopher Bulmer (Europe)
Dear god, Brexit and Trump are not the same thing any more than the Republican Party and the Conservative Party are the same thing (the Republican Party in UK terms would be considered an extreme far right group or banned in the UK). I’m tired of people in the US projecting their own internal politics onto our own. Although that being said people in the UK can be guilty of doing the same based on the fact they don’t like Brexit or Trump ‘so they must be the same’.
JS (Minnesota)
It matters not which party prevails in the next general election, nor the one after. The current UK parties will continue digging political holes against each other, crisis after crisis until they equitably and peacefully redistribute property and wealth; actually wealth, since there is no meaningful 21st century difference between the two.
Dr. Planarian (Arlington, VA)
Conservatives have only held the British government because the left is divided among the Labour, the resurgent Liberal, and the Scottish National parties. Should the three left-wing parties unite, as it seems they may now do, it should result in Labour taking control, and the people of the U.S. will be hugely better off for it.
ps (overtherainbow)
According to the BBC, the stats on Brexit are as follows: Voted to Remain in EU: 16,141,241 (48.1%) Voted for Brexit: 17,410,742 (51.9%) Turnout 72.2% Many did not vote (total electorate = 46,501,241) In light of this, it would be useful if NYT commenters would remember that a lot of British voters did NOT want Brexit. Both Labour Party and the Tories were split on this whole issue and neither party took a clear stand on it. Ultimately, it will have to be re-thought / re-negotiated / reversed. I think the politicians in both parties know this, whether they admit it or not. How they might do that - I have no idea ...
Greg (Lyon, France)
@ps Re-negotiating Brexit is pie in the sky. Europe is not about to accept the kind of privilege Britain once had in the EU.
Cynical (Knoxville, TN)
Routs rarely happen. One would have thought that the GOP would have disappeared, but they find a way in.
Dan Mabbutt (Utah)
As a resident of the American colony too far removed from Britain to really know much about it, my perceptions are primarily formed by a few vacation trips to visit -- one before Thatcherism and one after in particular. In the one before Thatcher, I was enchanted by the British Rail style and service. We literally traveled the entire length of the island ... twice ... and it is now a cherished memory. In the one after, we only took a couple of short hops (London to Dover and Canterbury to London) but the service was awful and the rail cars creaky and old. I know nothing about the economics (the bottom line justification used by the Thatcherists) but the user experience is, "Bring back Labor!"
Kate (Wales)
@Dan Mabbutt. The difference is that the Tories think that public transport should be a money making operation for the private sector while Labour (and most European governments whatever their colour) recognise that it is an essential public provision especially in a time when we want to use as few fossil fuels as possible.
AKJersey (New Jersey)
COVID broke the world. COVID disrupted the economies and the social fabric everywhere, making everything less stable. COVID caused worldwide inflation, increased crime, and enhanced paranoia and mistrust. It may even have pushed marginal personalities like Putin and Trump over the edge. At a time when we all need to be working together (on global warming and energy sustainability), we are all being torn apart. It will take a generation to recover.
Greg (Lyon, France)
It would help if foreign influence was shut out of the British elections. A well-planned, well-organized, and very effective effort by a foreign country resulted in the ouster of Jeremy Corbyn who voiced criticism of the government policies of that same foreign country, regardless of the validity and morality of those criticisms. The British people need to retake control of their country.
Ian G (GA)
@Greg Corbyn was a graceless leader who presented like a union agitator. He was dumped because he lost a very winnable election
Ethan Allen (Vermont)
The conservatives have actually given the country 4 prime ministers without elections in the last 5 years. Theresa May was appointed by MPs without a general election after Cameron resigned. She subsequently held a GE and lost his majority. Boris Johnson succeeded May, when she resigned, and was also appointed (by party members) without a general election. At least he then called a GE and achieved a majority in 2019. Truss was also appointed by the party membership after Johnson was forced out, and then 50 days later Sunak became PM without the involvement of anyone but Tory MPs. It’s a sorry tale of democracy gone wrong, no matter how people try to defend the concept of ‘parliamentary representation’.
Jonathan (Connecticut)
The UK has deep structural problems that no government is likely to solve. The wealth of a country consists of the goods and services the workers there can actually produce. In the UK, productivity is low, and many workers have low wages. Many of the businesses are poorly run, and if you follow the UK business news you will often hear about sudden, inexplicable bankruptcies. Demographics are also an important factor. The retired baby boom generation is a huge cohort, and they are a powerful voting bloc determined to defend their triple-lock pensions. They also require enormous amounts of medical care, which makes funding the NHS from the wages of the workers very difficult. And, of course, they own all the housing, and aren't planning to move any time soon. I don't think things are going to get any better, no matter what party is elected.
RHR (Europe)
Politics in the UK have been riddled with the effects of a class system so long that it has enabled a so called ruling elite to monopolise power for more than a century reinforced, in the modern era, by an overwhelmingly right wing press. This hegemony has been built on and sustained by a myriad of false narratives carefully constructed and maintained in order to cast this elite as the only rightful holders of power. This perception is so deeply embebbed in the British psyche that it has all but disappeared from everyday consciousness.
Adam Stoler (Bronx Urban Warrior)
Sounds like someone here is describing the United States of America Hmmmmm…
Practical Thoughts (East Coast)
Conservatives have until 2025 to address the economic, Brexit and inflation issues. If they do, they can talk about perseverance, tough choices and leadership. Most people will forget about the past or blame it on extenuating circumstances. Throw in a few flights to Kigali, Rwanda and the Conservatives will cruise to victory.
Kate (Wales)
@Practical Thoughts. Not really. If the election is in 2024 that will be 14 years of Tory rule. They are out of ideas and have worsened almost every aspect of British life. No Party has ruled that long and been re-elected.
Tom Q (Minneapolis, MN)
After reading this and many other articles about recent British politics and economy, I recall the old adage of "Be careful what you wish for. It just might come true." There were a massive number of articles written before the final Brexit vote warning Brits what would happen if the referendum to leave passed. By a 52% to 48% margin, the "leave" vote won. That certainly wasn't a landslide but a victory nonetheless. I wonder how well life is today those who voted to leave. It appears that no one "won."
Tim Kane (Mesa, Arizona)
Conservatives, here, there & everywhere insist that they are right. Where we stand politically is defined in the emotive sphere of the mind, then we use the logical sphere to justify the emotively contrived. They insists their logic works, but its really just their emotively contrived position. Objective logic actually works against them - and ultimately if allowed to implement their policies will reign ruin on them & their charges. The 20th century taught us that a slightly left of center economics works best and slightly right of center rains ruin upon societies. The 1st quarter of the 20th century was right of center. It set up the economic implosion in the 2nd quarter of the 20th century. Out of the devastation of world war came an era of left of center economic policy - everywhere in the first world - leading to histories greatest golden age, where every sphere of human endeavor hit new heights culminating in a man landing on the moon and the Beatles singing "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" (and ku-ku-kachu). Despite that era, the right plotted a successful come back which has lead us to where we are - an era that looks a lot like the 1930s.
WSGNY (New York, NY)
By 2025, the economic detractors of the pandemic and the border conflict in Ukraine will be seen only through a rear view mirror. The Conservatives will receive credit for lifting the country out of its current malaise and remain in power.
Adam Stoler (Bronx Urban Warrior)
Delusions are simple and easy to toss out there They are still delusions
Matthew (Avalon)
The Tories likely need to focus on holding together. A charlatan like Boris Johnson could easily try to lead a rump of Conservatives against Sunak, especially if the latter tries to engineer austerity again. Considering how much the grandees despise Johnson, it’s possible you could see the kind of fatal personality split that sunk the Liberal Party in the early 1920s — a fear that should be amplified by the fact that the Liberal Party’s descendants, the Liberal Democrats, appear to be staging a revival in southern England.
lehomme (marin1950)
The UK is over two years away from the next general election. No one has the faintest clue of what the political atmosphere will be like in 2 years. True - if the election were held today - Labor would win in a round. BUT - the election will not be held today.
otroad (NE)
In the US, Democrat policies have added 7% to the inflation, from 1.5% to 8.5%. Labor policies could do the same in Britain, raising inflation to 17%.
François (France)
@otroad In the UK, Tory policies have added 6.3% to the inflation, from 2.5% to 8.8%. I assume you will do nothing with THAT information.
RC (Connecticut)
@otroad ..... The Dems have limited power compared to the Tories, who have virtually absolute power, and have also had it for a period of time which makes the economic situation entirely and unquestionably one of their own making. Inflation in Britain has risen from about 0% to 10%. In other parts of the world it's even more. In ultra conservative Hungary it's 20%. In highly religious, conservative, and previously successful Turkey it's over 50% There are many factors inducing inflation, most of which appear to be global circumstance like war and Covid etc, rater than the hue of the leadership, but if you are going to cast blame then the holding of power by conservatives and neoliberal economics ideas in all the major economies over the last two decades, are quite clearly more the cause of upheaval.
RHR (Europe)
@otroad Inflation is world wide. Hadn't you noticed?
Ski bum (Colorado)
Three strikes and you’re out conservatives! Conservatives on both sides of the pond have proven that they are out of touch, can’t lead effectively and are a burden for their people. The liability that conservatives present to our nations cannot be discounted and they should not be allowed to lead. Vote Labour, Vote Democrat and change the world!
Georges (Ottawa)
No politician in the UK has injected a dose of realism in the electorate: the UK is no longer the center of an empire, the economy is sinking fast and Brexit was the factor that accelerated the fall, immigration has killed the class system on which the country thrived. Nice to show the world what a royal funeral is, to sign Rule Britannia at the Proms, but this alone will not save it.
Louie (Haddon Hall)
People outside of the UK are obsessed with the former British Empire. It’s just not something that British people talk about. Really.
RHR (Europe)
@Georges ' immigration has killed the class system on which the country thrived.' On the contrary, immigration over the past fifty years has been the savior of the British economy while the class system has been a millstone round the necks of the the working people.
Placeholder (UK)
@Georges Nobody here dreams we're at the centre of an empire. The silly fantasy is much more likely to be that we could emulate Singapore.
des johnson (Forest Hills)
The current long period of Tory rule hides simple facts -- UK MPs are elected on a "first past the post" system. When there are three or more candidates for a seat, MPs are often elected by pluralities of voters, not majorities. Thatcher and Blair, for all their Commons majorities, won some elections with pluralities. Running spoiler candidates to split the Labour vote is an old trick of Tories. So is lying, and the farce of Brexit was pushed over the line by dirty tricks that included lies. Some like to say Johnson was fired because of "party gate," but that would not have sufficed were he not suffused with the stench of Brexit lies. On form, Labour would win an election if it were held now, but we cannot predict the influence of looming crises -- a cold winter of high prices, escalation of war by Russia, the collapse of the EU ideal. The Tories can hang in for a while -- but it is surely time to expel the Oxford old boys club from Downing St.
TakeThis Waltz (Eurasia)
@des johnson Boris Johnson was tossed out only because he started losing local elections. The Tories don't care about morality.
John (Hartford)
Corbyn got foisted on the Labour party by the members who had been heavily infiltrated by the far left. Not unlike Truss being foisted on the Conservative party by party members who are often a bit nutty. After the election disaster of 2019 most of the Labour infiltrators left. Corbyn was not a Social Democrat, he was a quasi Marxist who like the far right of the Conservative party opposed the EU (although for different reasons) and his failure to put the Labour party solidly behind remain in the Brexit referendum was partially responsible for the outcome. It's part of a pattern. Every so often the Labour party elects some far leftist (in the 80's it was Michael Foot) who isn't remotely plausible as PM and they get destroyed at the polls. Starmer although considered boring (so is Sunak) has a fair chance of beating the Conservatives during the next election but that is two years away. And as a leading British politician once remarked "Events, dear boy, events."
Gaius (Tampa)
@John Corbyn's policies polled quite well. They struck a chord with the voters. That's why Labour did so well in 2017. And he brought in the youth vote, who had tired of Corporate Labor. Corbyn got the boot in large part due to an effective smear campaign of fake charges of anti-Semitism run in part from the Israeli embassy. Distract and deflect. How utterly American, old boy.
Aubrey (Alabama)
Two years is several lifetimes in politics. I hope that the New PM is successful. But Brexit and racism/dislike of immigrants will continue to burden the economy. If the Rishi Sunak is not successful enough to hang on, then who would take his place. People assume that there is someone able and competent waiting to take over; but who would that be?
Billseng (Atlanta, GA)
Maybe people are finally waking up to the reality that governments, like businesses, need revenues in order to function. A business that takes out loans simply to meet payroll and other obligations is likely going to need up in bankruptcy. Similarly, a country that issues debt in order to “reduce taxes” is equally doomed. Yet people keep voting for the same failed policies, as if somehow this time Lucy won’t pull the metaphorical football from Charlie Brown.
George S. (NYC)
The Tories have considerable time remaining in this current Parliament to either improve their electoral chances or completely crash both the Party and Britain. It is certainly not a "given" that disillusioned voters will automatically reject the sitting Party for Labour. That said, even if the Tories were to hold onto power through the next election it will likely be with a considerably reduced majority. The Tories made great inroads into Labour's traditional constituencies in the north of England riding the emotional wave of Brexit. An issue that used unwarranted heightened fears of immigrants and other "hot button" concerns to convince many in the lower middle class to actually vote against their economic interests. An electoral strategy akin to what Trump and the GOP regularly masterly accomplish here in the US. It is unknowable how many of Labour's traditional voters will return to the fold in the next election. Couple that with a once again rising tide of pro-independence Scots SNP'ers and one certainly cannot bank on a Labour Landslide. With at least a couple of years to remain in office -- Sunak and his fellow Tories have time to reset both their Party and at least begin to reboot the British economy. Labour would be as foolish to think it will now ride a wave to power because of current social maladies as are US Democrats thinking that the abortion issue would be enough to help them retain it.
ASPruyn (California - Somewhere left of Center)
@George S - The big question is how can the Conservative Party do that while cutting taxes and doing things like privatizing the NHS? Not doing those things goes against what the party seems to want, and that would hurt his chances to succeed. Doing those things will, most likely, tank the economy (except for top end luxury items, which mostly aren’t made in Britain anymore), leading to a massive loss for the Conservatives in 2025. To avoid that, the party could throw crumbs to the regular people and try to hold on, but even that is probably not enough to keep them in power.
Kathleeniiiolu (Kansas)
Brexit seemed to me, at the time , one of the more stupid actions the Brits ever took. Still does. But if they like the “thumb your nose at Europe” stance, so be it. But Brexit supporters should just quit complaining! They got what they voted for, despite the warnings! Made their bed, as the saying goes, and now they need to lie in it.
Steven (DC)
Labour is still a socialist party. And socialism has some big drawbacks in the view of most British voters. They see how big green energy programs in Germany have turned into very expensive and very impractical boondoggles that tripled the cost of electricity for the average household. The Conservatives can win elections simply by being the non-socialist choice. Tony Blair created a New Labour that jettisoned most socialist positions, and then Labour won elections. Despite the comic disarray of the Conservatives, Labour has a long way to go before the voters trust them to govern.
Bronwyn_63 (NYC)
Unfortunately the British people at large don't have the long-range vision or the political will to effect lasting change like they did after WWII and Attlee's administration created the NHS and sweeping home building programs, etc... and they did it while the country was broke too. Socialist or not, call it what you want, no one has the appetite or the ability to see beyond the pound in their pocket, as the saying goes.
des johnson (Forest Hills)
@Steven: Do you use socialist media or social media? Big difference. Words matter. The Brit Labour Party is a democratic party -- which precludes socialism.
Georges (Ottawa)
@Steven Surprised that you didn't write 'communist party'. Socialism is a system that Americans can't understand especially when it's really social-democracy.
CalvinF (Virginia)
Get ready for the same insanity here in America. This country doesn’t learn from the mistakes of others. It doesn’t even learn from its own. The fact that in 2016 we could have avoided the current state we are in is lost of half the population.
John Wallis (at me desk as always these days sheesh!)
As a British citizen I can tell you with 100% certainty that Labour can be relied upon to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, just watch.
Louie (Haddon Hall)
As a British citizen I think you’re wrong
SN (Somerset,NJ)
The unraveling of the economy started with Brexit and the conservatives were the dog that caught the car. Serious long term damage to the economy and many unresolved issues related to this decision will haunt Britain for years to come.
TW (Oakland)
@SN Yes, Brexit is the clear loser and shows that complex decisions shouldn’t be decided by the masses. Economic populism, by either the left wing or the right, always leaves the people poorer in the long run. There just isn’t a shortcut to hard work and innovation to steadily growing our economic well being.
John (Wayne, PA)
No one has done Putin's bidding more than 'conservative' parties in the UK and US. How did Putin reach and manipulate them? The story of Rupert Murdoch is not the one the exciting one seen on TV, it's the one documented in real life. Murdoch brought Skye News to the UK and Fox News to the US --- for that he was rewarded by Putin. Nothing has done more to harm these two nations than disinformation. No one has been a bigger victims to that disinformation than the narrow-minded, closed-minded, and soft-minded, all today called 'conservatives'. Putin successfully weaponized them against their nations. Brexit and Trump's MAGAt movements followed.
Fabian (Switzerland)
Very interesting and good thought. I was just thinking about the two distinct systems that we have. Authoritarian and democratic. Obviously authoritarian states need a lot of suppression to work as opposed to democratic states. The weakness of the democratic states are the freedom of speech that can be misused very easily. That's where disinformation comes into play. Will we need to sacrifice our democratic privileges?
SJW51 (Cape Cod)
This is really a joke. What is Labour going to do tax and spend more? That train has already left the station.
Tim L (UK)
@SJW51 Closing all the tax loopholes for people earning over £1 million a year would generate £260 billion over five years, and only increase their tax burden by a measly one percent. Tax for the wealthy definitely needs to increase. It’s then how that tax is invested in the economy, in the country and its people that will be critical. Britain has become a service economy, and that needs to change. The majority of the population work in services, but work like that only generates a fraction of the wealth that a manufacturing sector would produce. Britain used to make the best stuff in the world, and invented most of the technology underpinning our modern way of life. It should get back to that, with an emphasis on clean energy and clean manufacturing. In time it should rejoin the EU, where it could push stricter legislation requring goods be manufactured in such an environmentally clean way. This would shift manufacturing away from China, back to the EU and the UK - and the UK could do that sort of manufacturing very well.
Anne Keane (Edinburgh)
@SJW51 the Tories have been in power for 12 long years. The economy and virtually everything else is in an appalling state. They have nothing to offer except more of the same. Which has utterly failed.
Sisko24 (metro New York)
@Tim L One of the biggest lost/wasted opportunities during the years when the US and UK were farting around with building walls and Brexit was that our two nations should have been at work taking back our industry from China, Pakistan, India, etc., and bringing home all those companies which were off-shored. Maybe now we'll get that done.
Cameron (Cambridge)
The important thing is that we end up with a government that tries to do good, rather than yet another that seeks only to further enrich itself and its donors. I understand why Starmer has to oppose PR now, but I hope it's just politics and that he'll see sense if/when he comes to power. We need to remove the toxic FPtP system that has resulted in too many - and too powerful - Tories governments.
ed strong (france)
Recent UK political events have been compared to a reality TV show. Policies no longer matter. Political content is increasingly about personality, bluster and an uncomfortable relationship with the truth. Guess what? A new reality TV series "Make Me Prime Minister" has been running on Channel 4 since September. It's The Apprentice for aspiring politicians. No, this is not satire. Since the rise of Trump we are experiencing the "gamification of politics". Those who take democracy seriously will find this shocking. But why? We live in a banana republic. Politics is the performance capitalists put on to keep us distracted, to ensure we don't revolt. Here comes the circus. Enjoy the show! Fictional already has a nickname for the latest PM: squeaky clean.
Andrew (Williamsburg)
I wouldn’t count on a rational examination of the costs and benefits of one party over the other as a predictor of victory. We’re about to have an election in the US, and, as in many recent elections, working people will look at the two parties and go with the one that promises to keep them on top even as it strips them of vital resources, because the other side wants to share those resources with people who don’t look like them.
Sane citizen (Ny)
@Andrew American politics has become totally detached from facts & reality. It’s now dominated by a cult who’s membership includes a stunningly large minority of gullible, hopeless citizens who are terminally deluding themselves. Oh well, America was a great place for white Christian men. But it’s over now.
Kay Kay (England)
Everything that Labour promises can be done by Tories. Then the easy question is - why Tories do not act? The fundamental issues that British economy grapples have come out in black and white, and into the deep focus during the Truss's fleeting leadership. It is important to note that, all the issues that Britain ensnarled predates Truss. Brexit surely is crushing British fortunes. Many simmering issues continue to exist without acknowledgement by the Government, like pummelling Russian invasion. Labour haven't got any sterling solutions that would alleviate citizens angst . Labour supports Brexit. They support Ukraine. They would continue with cut in public services, and taxes. Only difference though at the outset is - immigration and asylum policy. Keith Starmer, like Blair is a Tory in red apparel sans Tony's charisma. Two years is long time in British Politics. Tory's have understood their short comings and agreed truce, and temporarily putting an united front. Let Sunak have his reasonable time to measure the performance and efficacies.
Judy (Canada)
Interesting article. Considering all that is happened one would think the conservatives would want to refresh their mandate from voters before Sunak attempts to lead the country through a period of difficult decisions and new directions. In a parliamentary system, where the party in power has a maximum term of 5 years but the ability to call an election at any time, the right thing to do under the current circumstances, would be to call an election now. The system assumes the “honourable members” are just that, honourable, and that they would not want to govern without a mandate to do so, that is why the power to call an election early when needed exists. Kier Stahrmer, the leader of the Labour Party, is a very effective politician. He is fun to watch as he rakes the hapless conservatives over the coals during the daily question period in parliament. It appears already that Sunak is no match for him. If the conservatives decide not to call an election now, to cling to power instead, and to try to establish a whole new program in very difficult times under the withering (and totally justified) constant criticism of Mr Stahrmer, that will just be another nail in their coffin. When the election finally does come the rout may be even more devastating.
Albert Seligman (Vina del Mar Chile)
I have lived outside of the US for close to 25 years, and I try to not comment on the governments of my host countries, or any other countries, for that matter. However, as an observer of the recent events in both the UK and China, I think a comparison is worthwhile. Both countries installed a leader based on a politburo system where only selected plutocrats were allow a say. In the UK it happened twice in two months. They elevated a fellow plutocrat, a multi-millionaire at that, to the supreme leadership position. A man who couldn't be democratically elected to the UK equivalent of dog catcher. They claim to somehow be a 'democracy'. Well, if this is a democracy, deal me out. In both the US and the UK, the populace has to suffer under unelected leaders like W Bush, Trump, Truss and now Sunak. This has eroded any confidence I had in 'democracy', and I suspect, is why millions of others, both young and old like me, are looking for something better. If this is the best you can do, count me out.
Judy (Canada)
Well in Britain that is how it works, and how it has always worked. The voters vote only to elect the person who will hold the seat in parliament from their own riding. The party with the most seats in parliament forms the government. Each party selects its own leader. The person selected as leader of the party with the most seats is the prime minister. A party can change its leader at any time. If a party in power kicks out its leader, snd appoints a new one, the new one becomes the prime minister, as has just happened. In Britain the prime minister is not selected in a general election, never has been, never will be.
Reuben (Australia)
@Judy Yay! A kindred spirit, at least on this topic: that is, Parliamentary Democracy; as a contrast to the U.S. Presidential system. Although you don't express a preference it can be inferred from your opening and closing remarks: "that is how it works, and how it has always worked"; and "the prime minister is not selected in a general election" as is the case in the Presidential system, and "never has been, never will be." I certainly would not want Australia to become a U.S. style Presidential system. From my point of view that is the main uncertainty about breaking ties with the Commonwealth, that to do so, we are supposed to become a Republic, which seems to mean a Presidential system like the U.S. I don't want that to happen, and for that reason I am afraid of what will happen if we do cut our ties with the Commonwealth. That is why I am willing to put up with the Queen, and now the King, being the symbolic head of state, even though it is absurd.
Sisko24 (metro New York)
@Reuben I thought Dame Edna is the Queen of Australia.....
Tim Moerman (Ottawa)
Yes, yes, Labour government. But look: It's long past time that we acknowledge the role of non-right-wing parties. They exist (choose your metaphor) as the Washington Generals against the Harlem Globetrotters, set up to fail; or, they are the gamblers in the casino who win 49.9% of the time. But the media thumb is on the scale for whoever the right-wing party is, everywhere. Non-konservativ parties exist to present the illusion of choice, and to be the safety valve for when konservativs (whether Bush in 2008 or Mulroney in 1998 or Johnson/May/Truss in 2022) have completely, unhideably run the car into the ditch. So we get two years of non-konservativ government--long enough for everyone to forget just enough what they did, and to let the non-konservativ government be blamed for the outcome. Plus it's a nice opportunity for the konservativ apparatchiks to refuel their personal bank accounts with stint in the private sector.
Anne Keane (Edinburgh)
@Tim Moerman there is a non-conservative government in Scotland and has been for many years. The Tories haven’t won the majority of the vote in Scotland for decades, possibly the 1950s. Scotland always voted Labour but Labour was complacent and another party with progressive policies, the SNP, is available as an alternative. It hasn’t all been plain sailing by any means, but Scotland has a much better leader and a government that at least tries to do things to make the lives of ordinary people better and in several cases has succeeded. But at less than a tenth of the population of England, we are tethered. I hope that might change soon but my optimism is cautious.
Valerie Elverton Dixon (East St Louis, Illinois)
Watching Prime Minister's question time yesterday, for a moment, I thought I had been transported into a Republican commercial when Sunak accused the leader of the Labor party of being soft on crime. Starmer pulled out his prosecutorial credentials, but the move by Sunak was disappointing. Sunak talked about compassion conservatism. We shall see. The real problem is Brexit, and neither party has a plan for solving that problem.
Tim L (UK)
@Valerie Elverton Dixon Keir Starmer wanted to remain in the EU. However, the UK is simply not going to be able to rejoin the EU for another generation. It’s just too close in time to revisit this question. What a Labour government will do is repair the EU relationship, and put a sensible trade agreement in place. Rejoining the EU will have to wait for another age. And it may be the EU won’t exist at all by then. Events are certainly moving in that direction.
Joan (formerly NYC)
@Valerie Elverton Dixon The Tories have actually taken a lot from the US Republicans, deliberately.
Reuben (Australia)
If you click on the link provided for the "publicly owned energy company that would run on clean power", you are taken to an article in the Guardian about Labor leader Keir Starmer's plan to "launch Great British Energy, a publicly owned energy company run on clean UK power, in its first year of government". This is how "the party will 'fight the Tories on economic growth'." This is precisely the left-wing way of thinking about economics that makes me distrust them as a political party. This is so, even though being a person living on a Disability Allowance on the National Disability Insurance Scheme in Australia, I have every self-interested reason to vote for the political left. It terrifies me to imagine the left-wing being in charge of the economy, when this is their vision: "The Labor leader said it was his aim to 'turn the UK into a growth superpower' through Labor’s green prosperity plan, which he said would create 1m new jobs in towns and cities, bringing down energy bills, raising living standards and tackling the climate crisis." There is not the slightest understanding in the above of how an economy functions. You do not become an economic "growth superpower" by subsidizing "1m new" green energy "jobs", and nor will that help in "bringing down energy bills". This is not merely a minor concern that I have, because what this vision is attempting to realize in reality is the goal of "Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050", a goal which violates the laws of the universe.
Mark (Philly)
@Reuben it would be more persuasive if you substantiated just one of your assertions. If a govt-run green energy venture flops, it would hardly be “terrifying.” Yes the employment targets seem wishful, but GB has abundant capacity for green power and is very likely to be carbon neutral by 2050. Furthermore, thoughtful Brits look across the North Sea and see the people of Norway materially benefiting from the nationalized energy sector. Seems at worst worth a shot.
Reuben (Australia)
@Mark By "carbon neutral", I presume you mean a more flexible way of understanding what the official goal of "Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050" means: i.e. that carbon emissions can be offset and so forth. To substantiate my assertion that this goal is a violation of the laws of the universe I provide information below sourced from the following Wikipedia articles: Carbon is the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen. Carbon's abundance, its unique diversity of organic compounds, and its unusual ability to form polymers at the temperatures commonly encountered on Earth, enables this element to serve as a common element of all known life. It is the second most abundant element in the human body by mass (about 18.5%) after oxygen. For the above reason, I do believe that the goal of Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050 is a violation of the laws of the universe. To quote and paraphrase from the Carbon Cycle article: Photosynthetic plants draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (or seawater) and build it into biomass and some of this biomass is eaten by animals; some is exhaled by animals as carbon dioxide; some is dissolved in the oceans; and if bacteria do not consume it, dead plant or animal matter may become petroleum or coal, which releases carbon when burned. Carbon is likewise fundamental to the manufacturing process, energy generation, etc.
Kate (Wales)
@Mark. Too much Wiki can be a dangerous thing. You are leaving out the element of time. Fossil fuels like coal and oil took literally hundreds of millions of years to form - locking up that carbon in the earth’s crust. Since the Industrial Age started less than 300 years ago we have been releasing that carbon in the form of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at an unsustainable rate. Green energy is about stopping using fossil fuels as much as possible and using renewables like solar and wind to stop CO2 emissions.
JFR (Yardley)
For me this begs the question of whether the US is simply lagging behind the UK. The near collapse of the UK economy (from Brexit and Tory policies) precipitates the demise of the Conservative movement in the UK. Will the US experience a similar near (I hope) collapse of its economy (owing to Trump and Trumpism as well as other global trends) to be followed by the demise of the GOP? It's really hard to know what to wish for.
Placeholder (UK)
@JFR Economic collapse? The UK economy had a terrible 2020, but grew faster than any other G7 economy in 2021. Q2 stats for 2022 show 0.2 growth, which is the G7 average and higher than growth in the US (-0.1) and Germany (0.1).
Cameron (Cambridge)
@Placeholder the UK economy has shrunk from 90% the size of DE's to 70% the size of DE's. Good luck finding anyone who'd take the UK's economy over Germany's.
Placeholder (UK)
@Cameron That's not true (i.e., Mark Carney was wrong). He or his source was using current market exchange rates. If you more realistically and sensibly adjust for purchasing power, UK GDP has been steady at around 70% of German GDP. Just google "UK GDP 2016" and "Germany GDP 2016" and you'll see we weren't anywhere near 90% at the time.
PS (London)
The Tory Membership are average age above 70 and highly reactionary. They have the same talent for choosing bad leaders as the Repuiblican Base does. Tory MPs have taken a courageous step in electing the most capable and competent leader - despite the fact that they will alienate their Membership and probably much of their most right-wing voters in the next GE, who will switch to their votes to UKIP, BNP and possibly some Labour.
Question Everything (Highland NY)
Conservatives or Tories have had a dismal showing in recent years as exemplified by a string of lackluster prime ministers (PM). Liz Truss' 44 day tenure and replacement by Rishi Sunak highlighted that PMs are not directly elected in the United Kingdom (UK). The party with an outright or coalition majority in the House of Commons selects a new PM after the former resigns mid-term. The House of Lords weighs in on that candidate and if the monarch approves, a new PM is anointed/appointed who advises the monarch on matters of state. Democracy in America is more direct. American voters go to the polls to elect members of the House, Senate and our President. Obviously the planned Jan. 6th insurrection evidenced dangers of using an electoral college and why we must reform the 1887 Electoral Count Act. That said, both America and the UK would benefit from leadership selected by who gets the most votes in a general election. Citizens have more trust in a PM or President if their vote most directly seats that person. Both America and the UK can and should amend their constitutions to allow leaders to be seat who win the popular vote. It's the best form of democratically chosen government.
Derek (UK)
@Question Everything No. Parliamentary democracy like in the UK should and will remain as it is. Without our current system, we would still be stuck with Boris. We have a flexible system which gives a party a majority for a while. In America, you are stuck with one guy for 4-years, some hell or high water. No thanks.
Mark (Germany)
@Question Everything You got Donald Trump as president via your system I really doubt he would have been picked from a pool of already elected PMs by any party.
goofnoff (Glen Burnie, MD)
@Question Everything Do you think the Conservatives could be replaced by fascist third parties?
Adrian (The Cotswolds, UK)
"General Election now" just looks like a self-serving plea and one that is never going to be accepted. The more interesting suggestion would be to suggest constitutional changes, avoiding the disastrous idea of fixed-term parliaments that were briefly adopted after Liberal tinkering previously. However, altering the forms of government so that a formal deputy and, in extremis, a subsequent line of succession was established at and by each general election would avoid the "mandate" issue that occurs currently whenever a Prime Minister resigns in office.
goofnoff (Glen Burnie, MD)
@Adrian I don't think moving the deck chairs fixes your fundamental socio-economic situation in Britain, and I don't think endless tax cutting is going to work either. If the majority of your population is experiencing economic insecurity the political situation will continue to be a mess. That's true on our side of the Atlantic, too.
Mark (Germany)
@Adrian Fixed term parlements was designed to stop general elections being called too often, that is not a bad thing.
Cameron (Cambridge)
@Adrian General election now is literally the only sensible option available. The self-serving act is not calling a GE.
goofnoff (Glen Burnie, MD)
The problem in Britain and the US is exactly the same. It's the divergence of wealth bought on by the collapse of the labor intensive industrial economic model. In Britain, 70% of GDP is now driven by the service economy, and the biggest sector of service economy is the tourist economy with its low paying jobs. Meantime, the people of both countries, still believe the Randian hogwash of Reagan and Thatcher, while being diverted by racist issues. All the while the have nots socio-economic situation continues to decline. In both countries we are reaching a political critical mass. It appears this is making fascism the answer for the have nots. I am not sanguine about the future.
Iris (Germany)
@goofnoff I cannot see that a shift in economic output from manufacturing to services necessarily needs to result in poorer wages. Ask some Bangladesh textile production workers as to their wages. More equality in wages is foremost a political decision. To establish a suitable, more egalitarian , economic and social framework is the business of the respective national governments, and not some natural law consequence of working in a certain economic sector. That said, I am not a great fan of unrestricted globalization either, but rather out of ecological concerns.
OneView (Boston)
@goofnoff Services are not low paying. Look at finance. What services reward, however, is EDUCATION. The problem is that low productivity, low skills jobs simply don't work in an economy with a high standard of living without a massive transfer of wealth from the high-productivity, educated workers to the low productivity, uneducated work force. The US manufactures more today in dollar terms than ever in it's history (even adjusted for inflation), but that's being done by a much smaller, higher skilled workforce. The issue is worker skills and unless there is a vast improvement in education and skills acquisition, most workers - whether industrial or service - without those skills won't be paid very well.
Aubrey (Alabama)
@goofnoff I was struck by your comments. You covered the situation in the UK and USA in a nut shell. Best wishes.
Paul (Rio de Janeiro)
There simply is not a popular majority in any major democracy, from the UK to Brazil, from the US to Italy, not to mention France, for the kind of hardcore market-driven policies that the Conservative party insists on. Right-wing leaders who have come to power in recent years, Johnson, Trump, Bolsonaro, were all populists whose economic agenda was hidden behind curtains of xenophobia, homophobia and all sorts of other crude appeals focusing on minority populations. And even so, few manage an actual majority: Johnson and Trump certainly did not (around 45% each), for instance, nor did Meloni in Italy (just a quarter of the popular vote).
Edmund L (London)
@Paul The Conservatives haven't implemented "hardcore-market driven" policies. They have taken both taxes and state spending to their highest share of the economy in 70 years — further than Labour did when they were in power. They have also concentrated the tax base on the better off. The top 5% of households earn 28% of income but pay 53% of all income tax, for example, a much higher share than before (their share of income has increased much less). Meanwhile millions of low earners have had their taxes slashed by the tax-free allowance being more than doubled. The Conservatives have also steadily raised the minimum wage, to one of the world's highest rates. The Conservatives have also been more willing than previous governments (including Labour '97-2010) to make state intervention in the markets. The commitment to cap energy prices for homes alone will cost tens of billions of pounds. All Britain's political parties are Big State parties now.
Question Everything (Highland NY)
@Paul Excellent summary of less-than-perfect democracies of the free world. Leadership can and should be selected by who gets the most votes in a general election, not who is selected who holds a majority in the House of Commons or using an 1887 electoral college system. The later was shown flawed by Trump's planned Jan. 6th sedition and violent MAGA insurrection attack on our Capital. UK and American constitutions can and should be amended so leaders are directly selected by voters. I would prefer to see more use of ranked-choice voting because it can break the bitter two-party stranglehold we're currently experiencing in America. Ranked-choice voting might also improve democratic government selection and function in UK and other free world nations. Certainly there's no harm trying ranked-choice voting nationally because constitutionally defined election procedures can be revised anytime, reverting to the flawed electoral college method or better still, modifying/improving our Constitution in new, better ways yet discovered. Of course the status quo two party political system may not like that idea but sometimes the populace has to drag our corruptible political leaders into a better future while they kick and scream.
Cameron (Cambridge)
@Edmund L all that demonstrates is how much the income gap has grown. Furthermore, income tax is only one of many taxes, and whilst in absolute terms it may appear that the better off contribute more, in real terms they do not. There are plenty of high earners who pay 10-20% in income tax.
Giovanni (Kent, England)
I wouldn't get too excited about a general election anytime soon. In our parliamentary system we can change Prime Ministers without calling an election. This has happened several times since 1945 under both Tory and Labour governments. The Tories currently have a big majority in the House of Commons and two years left before their mandate expires. They also have a smart new leader; one who should have replaced Boris Johnson instead of the awful Liz Truss. I would estimate the chances of a general election now as about zero. I would also wait and see how long Labour's lead in the polls lasts. I suspect much of that lead was a reaction against the shambles of the last few weeks. It may prove very shallow and very temporary. Sunak has two years to prove himself- that is an awfully long time in modern politics.
Cameron (Cambridge)
@Giovanni there's no way they have a legitimate mandate. Sunak et al. are considering austerity measures that literally no-one has voted for and that are the opposite of the (admittedly nonsense) levelling-up agenda that the party was voted in on in 2019. Three PMs in a calendar year for the same party in unprecedented, and three in three months is just crazy. They may not *have* to call an election, but anyone with a shred of decency or integrity would. Which, sadly, rules out members of the Tory party.
Giovanni (Kent, England)
@Cameron I don't remember anyone consulting the people in a general election when the Labour party replaced the war criminal Tony Blair in 2007 with the hapless Gordon Brown. Next to Blair's crimes in Iraq, the current government's failures pale in to insignificance
AF (Texas)
Britain absolutely needs a General Election. The current Tory government has clearly lost the plot and has no mandate to do anything. Sunak can only be a caretaker PM with a narrow focus on the economy until they call an election. The British electoral system is hard for Americans to get our heads around. The Prime Minister is not elected by the country as a whole, but by their party. Furthermore, elections are not at fixed intervals (e.g., every two years). There can be up to five years between general elections. As a result, there can be a substantial gap between what the government was elected for and what the people want. The Tory government is incredibly unpopular and they fear that they will be wiped out if they call for an election. This is in part because of several years of chaos and poor delivery. They need to accept the people's judgement in a general election.
Ant (CA)
This is a telling comment: "To live in Britain now is to feel like nothing works: not the National Health Service, not the railways, and not even work itself, where wage increases are vastly outstripped by the price of almost everything." I have dual citizenship and spend a lot of time in the UK. Nothing listed here has worked for anyone but Boomers and the wealthy for years now. What's happening now is that even the privileged--those who voted for this--are feeling the pinch. Many Brits don't have cars. Gas is much more expensive than in the US. The bus system was been gutted by austerity years ago. The trains, owned by the same companies that run reliable and affordable services on the continent, have been unaffordable for for many years and now they're also unreliable. An annual ticket from affordable areas into London costs more than most people earn. I couldn't get signed up at a GP for three years after I moved (well before the current crisis). Then it took nearly a year to get an appointment--and I only got that because of a cancer scare. I have never had NHS dental care; I have always had to pay for private. My relatives (Boomers) are in a very different situation. They've never had to move like most people my age have for work so have been signed up with GPs for decades. They get much cheaper (long-term) energy contracts. They have housing. The "crisis" is that they're having to pay more for food and energy now like everyone else has for years.
Joan (formerly NYC)
@Ant "An annual ticket from affordable areas into London costs more than most people earn." Do you have any evidence for this statement? I am a dual citizen also living here for 20 years and while the season ticket prices are outrageous, I haven't seen one that is "more than most people earn". "I couldn't get signed up at a GP for three years after I moved (well before the current crisis). Then it took nearly a year to get an appointment" I haven't seen this personally either. If you had returned to the UK after living elsewhere you were not eligible for the NHS while living abroad, and may have had to prove eligibility. Not sure what happened with your appointment. With the mess the Tories have left the NHS in it is hard to get gp appointments quickly. But if you were signed up, a year sounds ridiculous. Finally, slagging off the "boomers" has become tiresome, on both sides of the pond. Having lived here for 20 years, I have been able to witness the sharp deterioration in living standards during the 12 years of Tory rule. I think this article is right on the nose.
HP (Maryland)
@Ant. Do not begrudge the boomers for having it good. They have earned their place under the sun. Maybe,they can be an inspiration to all of us for having made this far and living well with whatever "privileges" they have accrued.
Caroline (Los Angeles)
It seems to many that the last thing that Britain needs is another upheaval that a general election would bring. Sunak steered the course in the pandemic and Labour has no clear answers to anything at this point. Why not give it a year and some stability. Unfortunately; the British electorate would not be voting for Labour, but out of anger. It must be said that the British electorate, like the US electorate, is not the most enlightened. It voted for Brexit, and that is the cause of much of Britain's decline, but no one will own it.
Kat (UK)
The majority of citizens do want an election. The Tory Party have been in power for 12 years and the damage to our country is enormous. We are having Prime Ministers foisted upon us with no say. Labour have a vision and plan based on environmental issues which appeals to the majority, according to the polls.
Ant (CA)
@Caroline The British electorate has indeed voted against its own interests. The reason is the same as in the US, where people voted for GW Bush and Trump. There has been no functioning opposition. Biden got in and in the UK, Keir Starmer would get in because of deep dysfunction in the Republican and Tory parties. Look at how insane things got under Trump and yet he still wasn't thrown out on his ear. The result was close! Right now in the UK, even Daily Mail readers (the Daily Mail is the most widely read paper in the English-speaking world, a tabloid that's basically the mouthpiece of the Tories; it makes or breaks those running for leadership by lying to the easily manipulated) are hating on the Tories. Many of them are not fans of Rishi Sunak because of his race and his reserved personality. Labour would win an election overwhelmingly. So you're utterly wrong. Pretty much everyone wants an election. The Tories get to choose whether to have one though and they won't choose one because they know they'll all be out of jobs. There has been chaos ever since the Brexit vote and it's clear there will continue to be chaos under the Tories. The Labour Party has been absent for years but under logical, decent Starmer, things are finally getting organized and voters are regaining confidence.
Mostly_Bitter_Old_Man (Somewhere_on_the_Fringe)
@Caroline "...not the most enlightened [electorate]." So true. Hard to say whether the economics or the education, of both countries, is the cart or the horse. In the U.S., education (even before the pandemic) has been abysmal (and spells doom for democracy ... as we are witnessing). We need to look at better educated countries (Finland, Malaysia, S. Korea, etc) for answers.
Ned (Australia)
You will probably find the King can dissolve the parliament in a time of crisis, which would force an early election. This happened in Australia in '75. If the economy continues to really slide, who knows? But honestly, there is nothing particularly wrong with the British economy that cannot be explained by the Ukraine war (higher inflation and interest rates historically go hand-in-hand with energy crisis) or Brexit (shrinking exports).
Cameron (Cambridge)
@Ned depends on what you mean by the economy. Sure, at a macro level, the Tories' Brexit explains a lot, but in terms of the effects on the population, Ukraine and Brexit have been greatly amplified by over a decade of destroying social services and punishing the poor.
GV (San Diego)
to invest in the N.H.S. - spend more money they don’t have? to create a sovereign wealth fund for green investment - where is the money coming from? And why wouldn’t politicians give the money away to their favorite donors and connections? to nationalize railways - how will that help with inflation or energy crisis? create a publicly owned energy company that would run on clean power - where is the clean power coming from? Where’s the money to build one?
John O (UK)
@GV Tax the rich and the corporations properly; Regulate political party finances better; get clean power from the sun, sea and wind. It's not that difficult.
TK (Los Altos CA)
@John O you forgot another source of energy. You construct a large metal ring encircling the earth and spinning in space around the earth. It is not tethered to anything - being held in balance by gravitation - except for a conducting element from the apex to the surface of the earth. Given the Earth's magnetic field it will act as a giant dynamo generating gigawatts of power. Just kidding! Lol. Nothing is "not difficult".
Cameron (Cambridge)
@GV There's a difference between borrowing to invest and borrowing to slash taxes. Investing in the NHS - and, crucially, public health - pays for itself in increased health and productivity and decreased sickness. Furthermore, there are billions in taxes - remove non-dom, windfall tax, increase corp tax, add further higher rate bands on income tax - waiting to be collected. It really isn't hard. If we can find £37bn to pay some muppets to build a test and trace system that doesn't work, we can certainly afford that which you list. A good start would be insourcing the services that terrible companies like Capita provide.
Paul (Adelaide SA)
"Labour finally looked like a party with plans: to invest in the N.H.S., to create a sovereign wealth fund for green investment, to nationalize railways and create a publicly owned energy company that would run on clean power." It's not clear that those policies would deal with any of the current significant problems. And all would take vast sums and time to implement. Just btw you don't "invest in the NHS" you simply apply more taxpayer funds.
Kat (UK)
Respectfully, vast amounts of money need to be put into the NHS as an ‘investment’. It’s an investment into our nations health which enables people to work and live. The cost of not investing is never mentioned but the pandemic, and subsequent waiting lists for medical help, has more people than ever not working because they are unable to
AF (Texas)
@Paul Of course the UK needs to "invest in the NHS" - the last decade of under-investment has left it with literally crumbling infrastructure and Brexit depleted the doctors, nurses, and other staff that make it work. The return on that investment - a healthier happier nation. The under-investment was on purpose. It was part of a systematic effort by the Tory government to shift more healthcare into the private sector. The UK people never wanted this shift and the Tories never had a mandate for it.
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
@Paul -- The money is all right there for Ukraine's war. So no, crying about money is not a real reason.
See also