The events which have unfurled this week are a blatant indication that this country is in a crisis. It appears that parliament has undergone a shortage of strong leadership in which no one person appears apt to provide a sense of direction in the midst of evident turmoil. On both sides of the chamber, the lack of a solid, unabashed yet measured individual at the helm of either party, is gradually becoming a harsh reality from which there appears to be no relief.
Culminating in the resignation of the dedicated diplomat, Sir Kim Darroch, the recent leaks of Foreign Office memos has held a mirror up to the dismal prospects embodied by the two candidates vying to be our potential Prime Minister. Boris Johnson, the Right Honourable Member for Uxbridge, was candid in his foreshadowing of the tone of his premiership. Bumbling, ambiguous yet transparent in his bowing to the US administration, Johnson’s lack of support for our man in Washington was telling. A man of many masters, Johnson’s allegiances have been spread too thinly, with his attempts at keeping face rapidly faltering.
Johnson likes to think he is the modern Churchill. A strong, driven and iconic leader with the capacity to bring Britain into a new golden era. Evidently, Johnson’s self-perception is skewed. Unlike Churchill, Johnson does not have a plan. His direction is lacking and his knowledge of procedure renders his promises defunct on account of his incompetence. The idea that the majority of Tory party members see Johnson as a worthy potential leader only serves to reinforce that this country has, for many years, been starved of good leadership. Yet, some members have waited years for the chance to see their beloved Boris safely ensconced in number 10. Despite his ineligibility, he is not lacking in support. If elected, Johnson’s leadership will be one of simultaneous stability and precarity.
The leadership of our incumbent Prime Minister, Theresa May, can be summed up by her weakness in the face of her backbenchers, alongside her inability to take responsibility for the Windrush scandal. Hers was an unfortunately timed premiership, a primary depiction of the endemic will of the ruling elite to put the needs of the party before the needs of the country. She made a number of snap decisions; the 2017 election, the triggering of Article 50 and, in a final hurrah, the pledge to achieve net 0 emissions by 2050. Without a resounding voice at the head of both the country and the party, divisions have eaten their way into British political discourse. Rather than bridging the gaps catalysed by the 2016 referendum, May has been particularly successful in ensuring they are widened.
The shortage of adequate leadership is not exclusive to the Conservative party. Since 2016, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn has demonstrated his own deficiency in this area. In his position on Brexit and on the alleged Anti-Semitism at the heart of his party, Corbyn has failed to navigate the party through a period of cumulative crises. Often conspicuous in his absence, it has been difficult to ascertain Corbyn’s vision for the party. Far better suited in his role as an activist, he is not cut out for life at the party’s helm.
Perhaps we would not be in our current predicament if we had been dealt the hand of strong leadership. Perhaps this shake-up of British politics was always meant to be. But one thing is certain; if we are to emerge from this period of severe uncertainty with our political prospects even marginally appealing, a convincing, established and selfless leader is required in order to see the UK through.