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Boris Johnson and the Destruction of the Union? Why?


Whatever the possible pitfalls, the latest being the row over the resignation of Kim Darroch, the British Ambassador to the United States (July 11), Boris Johnson will certainly become leader of the Conservative and Unionist) party on July 23. He will get the support of the majority of the electorate of local Conservative members, as can be presumed from their socio-demographic make-up, and is confirmed by sporadic if uneven polling. Indeed, he probably has a majority on the votes delivered so far (July 11).

There is only minor doubt that he will become prime minister. It is certainly possible that Theresa May does not want Johnson to become prime minister, but the only major-party alternative is Jeremy Corbyn, and it is difficult to see her recommending Corbyn over Johnson to the Queen.Although some might consider it the lesser of two evils.It would be highly amusing but almost impossible for May not to propose Johnson as her successor on the grounds that he does not have parliamentary support. Still, the Independent today (July 14) is saying that Johnson has an actual majority of just 1.

In any case, the prime minister will be the one who commands a majority in the House of Commons, and Johnson  needs virtually the entire Conservative party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) under the prevailing confidence and supply agreement. It is quite possible that Johnson becomes prime minister only to lose a vote of no confidence, probably not through losing the support of the DUP’s 10 MPs (Sinn Fein hold the other 7 NI seats but do not take their seats) but abstentions within the Conservative party (e.g., Dominic Grieve, Ken Clarke, etc.). Then, there would have to be a general election. Labour cannot form a government, even with the SNP, without a general election. They need more MPs.

Unionism is important at this point, and it has implications for Scotland and Wales as well as Northern Ireland. Unionist is part of the official name of the Conservative party, although it is hardlyused in England.

In Northern Ireland, at parliamentary level, Unionism was represented by the Conservatives until the 1970s, but now by the DUP, which was founded by Ian Paisley in 1971, on its own. The Official Unionist Party (OUP) still has representation at local and European level. Northern Ireland has 17 seats in the UK parliament as well as its own assembly in Stormont (which is now suspended following the end of the DUP/Sinn Fein agreement). Note that Conservative Unionism has a long history. To cite Wikipedia. “The Liberal Unionist Party was a British political party that was formed in 1886 by a faction that broke away from the Liberal Party. Led by Lord Hartington (later the Duke of Devonshire) and Joseph Chamberlain, the party formed a political alliance with the Conservative Party in opposition to Irish Home Rule.”

Wales has had its own assembly since 1998 after a referendum in 1997, and will soon be called the Welsh Parliament (Senedd). It has a semi-proportional voting system and now has restricted law-making powers. Labour has held close to half of the Assembly’s 60 seats since its inception, and with 29 seats now leads a government coalition with the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru in opposition.

Scotland has had its own devolved parliament of 129 members since 1999 as well as 59 members at Westminster. The partly proportional Scottish Parliament is currently dominated by the Scottish National Party (SNP), as too is Scottish membership of the UK parliament (with 35 SNP MPs). In the referendum of 2014, Scots voted on independence, with 55% remaining to stay in the UK and 45% for independence. The issue of independence has not gone away, particularly as Scotland is strongly anti-Brexit.

eu brexit issues

 

Turning to Boris Johnson, there’s been a lot in the press about Johnson’s “English Brexit”; that is, in the referendum, there was a majority for Brexit only in England and Wales. Plaid Cymru support Remain, so much so that they are not putting up a candidate in the Brecon and Radnorshire byelection on August 1, instead supporting the Liberals (and thereby Remain).

The Conservative’s dependence on the DUP is well documented. The arrival of Johnson will not change this, but his government’s existence will depend on the extent to which Johnson and the DUP alienate Conservatives to the left and centre

The combination of a no-deal Brexit and Johnson’s unpopularity in Scotland may enable a new Scottish Independence referendum to succeed. IanBlackford, the leader of the SNP in the Westminster Parliament has been especially vehement against him.

Wales, perhaps surprisingly, had a majority of Leave voters in the EU referendum, but I haven’t seen any Johnson-specific Welsh polling.

In these highly uncertain times, the future is difficult to predict. However, one outcome is Johnson wins the Tory election process, becomes PM for a limited period, until Tory MPs begin to understand what they may have unleashed on the electorate, and contributed to the final death throes of the Tory Party.

And Corbyn steps in and takes over.Wham! 

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