Letters & Opinion

UK’s next PM: A Third Woman or an Englishman of Immigrant Extract

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

The race to replace Boris Johnson as the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales has boiled-down to the last two contenders, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss — a former Chancellor of the Exchequer and the current Foreign Seretary, an Englishman of Indian descent versus an Englishwoman from Oxford.

Both have the credentials for the job that only one can get; and the two former members of Johnson’s Cabinet will go toe-to-toe and head-to-head between now and September 5, when postal votes by 150,000 members of the ruling Conservative Party will choose either Britain’s first PM of Indian heritage, or its third woman prime minister (after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May).

Sunak and former Health Minister Sajid Javid, the latter of Pakistani origin and grown-up in Bristol, led the palace coup that eventually dethroned Johnson, but Javid fell-out in the first round of the race, leaving Sunak leading all-the-way since.

Unlike Sri Lanka where the parliament votes to replace the departed Head of Government between elections, it’s MPs of the UK’s ruling (Conservative) party who choose the candidates for prime minister between polls.

The two finalists have expectedly ditched all diplomatic niceties and protocols to face-off directly in what’s left of the race to Number 10, hammering it out mainly over taxation and inflation.

Sunak is married to a billionaire wife domiciled in India and therefore not liable to taxation as a registered ‘Non-Dom’ (Non-Domiciled) UK citizen; and he also had a US visa for 15 months.

The ex-Chancellor is already coming under pressure from Truss and others for his taxation policies that have included what his opponents describe as “Britain’s highest tax burden in seven decades” and the country facing its highest inflation rate in 40 years.

Truss took the lead in the popularity polls last weekend, but the debate continues over whether British voters are ready for a well-suited Englishman of Asian origin or a third woman PM.

Britain’s opposition Labour Party is a mere witness to the changing of the Tory guard and deciding who’ll be the next Prime Minister until the next UK General Elections, due in just over two years.

The two former Johnson Cabinet ministers — one who literally stabbed him in the back and another who stood by his side even while trying to replace him – can be expected to pull all the stops and publicly wash their political laundry, hanging each other out to dry in the court of public preference.

Javid and Sunak, being the first two top Cabinet ministers to resign and cause the largest number of resignations ever to face a British PM, are not likely to be forgotten by the large anti-immigrant Tory electorate; and even though the ex-chancellor has led the popularity contest to date, diehard Tories and Brits who voted for Brexit in 2016 on account of anti-immigrant sentiments can be expected to feel and vote the same in a choice between a candidate of immigrant origin and one of Oxfordian upbringing.

Truss has been a diehard conservative all her political life and as Foreign Secretary, she announced London would impose direct rule on the British Virgin Islands (BVI) following the recent US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) sting operation that led to the arrest of the British colony’s ex-premier – a decision only reversed after much protest, including by CARICOM and OECS member-states, as majority ex-British colonies.

Claiming he was the victim of the Tory parliamentary “herd” that had decided to bulldoze him from office, Johnson addressed parliament for the last time Wednesday, ending his Thank You speech quoting Arnold Schwarzenegger’s popular Terminator movie quip: Hasta la Vista, Baby!

Sunak and Truss have also both taken common anti-immigration positions but continue to debate and battle over tax cuts and increases, each playing to the gallery of conservative voters who’ll settle for whichever package of promises they feel will better or quicker ease the burdens on their pockets, pocketbooks and debit cards as Britain races towards an 11% inflation rate before the end of 2022.

Johnson was booted out of Number 10 Downing Street just as Britain experienced its hottest day on record and while Europe was being engulfed by what meteorologists have designated “a weather apocalypse” that continues to burn out of control in France, Portugal, Spain and Greece, while in the USA, California faces its biggest first in record summer heat.

Scared that Russia will tighten or shut the gas and fuel pumps to hostile European states for a winter that’s already predicted to be overly cold, the European Union (EU) last week called on the UK and other member-states to cut Russian energy imports by 15%; and yesterday, citing unreliability and mistrust, Berlin also called for member-states to start stockpiling oil and gas despite Moscow resuming flows to Germany’s Nordstream 1 pipeline.

Meanwhile, the EU’s political directorate continues to miscalculate the will or ability of some member-states to suffer the same, by all member-states (together) reducing their national energy supplies from Russia simply to punish Moscow, even while differently affected.

At the same time, unpredictable weather continues playing havoc with Britain and temperatures registered at over 40 degrees Centigrade last week, as the two candidates and their backers continue to fuel local fires across Toryland, in pursuit of political climate change.

Whichever wins the poll to become Britain’s next PM, he or she will have to find and fund the ways and means of putting the campaign behind and effectively addressing the worsening economic situation facing the British public.

Like the US Democratic Party ahead of the upcoming November mid-term elections, if the UK winner loses the upcoming race (over the next two years) to qualify the Tory party for voters’ trust for a third straight term, the next General Elections can spell doom — and gloom — for both ruling parties on both sides of the Atlantic!

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