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Political Observation - UK Cabinet Reshuffle & its Preludes - Britain’s Size in World Politics
Britain, by and large, and the ruling Conservative Party in particular, have faced an avalanche of political scandals, ethical issues, and corruption cases, which have affected the government and a number of ruling party members, to the point where criminal investigations into breaches of lockdown rules during the Covid-19 pandemic, involving Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, and senior civil servants at Downing Street, were initiated by the police who also issued charges for misdemeanours against some of them.
Observers of the domestic situation in Britain were not surprised by the fate of Boris Johnson and his resignation after 35 ministers of his government had resigned; he was merely a man of a period with the task of finalising Brexit, offering his services to execute America’s strategy towards Russia in the Ukrainian war, and steering the European countries to proceed behind the American agenda of stringent sanctions against Russia.
Despite being an arriviste and an opportunist in the way he dealt with issues and events, and despite being adept at fishing and investing in foreign issues, as well as riding the waves of domestic policies and steering them in his favour, Boris Johnson, however, blundered when he played the Northern Ireland Protocol chord to win over his supporters in an attempt to buttress his position, because he upset the applecart of the American priorities by diverting attention away from the Ukrainian war and opening a political front that was contradictory to the requirements of the American alliance, such as his clash with the Europeans over the Northern Ireland Protocol, and he subsequently ended up infuriating America; this was reflected in the taciturn American response to his resignation, and in the way Biden snubbed him at the NATO summit in Madrid, which eventually paved the way for his departure.
It is clear that despite America’s influence inside Britain and her influence on Europe, which was evident in Europe’s submission to America’s dictates regarding the war in Ukraine despite its heavy repercussions on the Europeans, and despite America’s ability to influence European political elections, Johnson’s departure and the arrival of Liz Truss was due to domestic objective reasons rather than direct American intervention, since the United States did not contribute to it except by refraining from supporting Johnson, especially since Liz Truss, who succeeded him, is also a pragmatic figure whose standpoints and calculations could be easily transmuted due to American influence in British and international politics, and because she adopts a stern position towards Russia and China, which is what is required as far as America is concerned at this stage.
America’s influence in Britain is manifested in America’s ability to contain the latter through the special relationship, infiltrate the British political milieu, and uproot the tendency for greatness and international influence in isolation from the US from its mentality. America has generated for herself significant economic influence and has been orchestrating the political and intelligence system and labour organisations since the late sixties of the last century. This is evidenced by Margaret Thatcher’s decision to join the Foreign Leaders Development Programme in 1967, which was sponsored by the US State Department, and which was designed to groom future leaders and encourage them to embrace the American political and economic orientations; this led to the US- British economic policy, namely Reaganomics and Thatcherism, being harmonised and propagated worldwide to free the markets in preparation for seizing them and controlling the fates of their masses and governments.
Although Britain is considered one of the conventional major powers since she is a nuclear power with an advanced military, industrial and operational capabilities, international interests, and remnants of influence in some countries, she has become America’s arm in her wars since Operation “Desert Storm” and the subsequent war on Islam in Iraq and Afghanistan. She has also become a servant of US international policies in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, with her experience, colonial legacy, and relations with the remnants of her agents whom the United States inherited. However, the pace in which the majority of former party leaders, including prime ministers and ministers distanced themselves from Johnson, coupled with his repeated violations and his Anglo-Saxon populist handling of pressing issues such as the Irish file, the failure of his efforts to re-launch his policies within six months, and the popular grumbling about his violations, including Russia’s leak that Johnson awarded the title of Lord to former KGB spy Alexander Lebedev, with whom he had repeated meetings and even confessing once that he was too drunk to remember meeting him after the G7 summit in 2018, all this had a significant impact on the government's credibility, and contributed to the undermining of the British Union, the return of Scotland's demand for independence, and Wales raising the quandary of the political decision being issued by London and not taking into account her demands.
As for the choice of Liz Truss, it was not supported by the party's parliamentarians, as she came in second place after Rishi Sunak. However, selecting the party leader is among the prerogatives of the party's 160,000 members, according to the reported estimates. Truss received nearly 58% of nearly 141,000 votes, which means the Conservative Party is divided. This has become clear since the first confrontation between the two candidates, which could have turned into a fierce conflict and a deep rift between party members had both candidates not moderated their onslaught on each other.
It became also clear in the disagreement in the political and economic views between Truss and Johnson, although they both graduated from Oxford University, whose graduates dominate the position of British Prime Minister. Truss has a liberal economic orientation and believes in the need to increase the lifting of procedural restrictions (Deregulation) on the economy to support growth, and in the strength of market mechanisms and the need to reduce the tax burden on companies and individuals to incentivise production and investment. This is in contrast to Johnson’s orientation towards the policy of “levelling up” for the North by reinvesting in it and imposing special taxes to finance the expenses of the health sector and social security for the disabled, which did not enjoy the acceptance of political forces and public opinion, as social security policies and aid consume more than £207 billion annually; that is, approximately 60% of the total state expenditures.
The first congratulatory call Liz Truss received was from the White House whose official website explained in a report the readout of the call, in which it stated that “President Biden and Prime Minister Truss discussed the importance of continued close cooperation on global challenges”, which could be construed as a list of American priorities, which include “supporting Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian aggression, addressing the challenges posed by China, preventing Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon, and securing sustainable and affordable energy resources.” Perhaps the most important thing the website mentioned is that “they also discussed their shared commitment to protecting the gains of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the importance of reaching a negotiated agreement with the European Union on the Northern Ireland Protocol.” The significance of this issue emanates from Liz Truss’s intransigeance during her days as Foreign Sectary, which prompted the White House to send an unequivocal diplomatic message through a senior State Department adviser who said that the Northern Ireland issue should not lead to any division within NATO so as not to give Putin the pretext to undermine the alliance America spent months in building, and that no negative statements should be issued and no unilateral decisions should be taken.
One of the indicators suggesting the United States’ satisfaction with Liz Truss assuming the premiership is the soundbite she directed at Macron and his reaction to it, which indicates that she is following the American agenda in Europe, and which is important for America in light of the international current state of affairs. Liz Truss said she was not sure whether Macron was a friend or a foe of the UK. He responded by saying that Truss was “playing to the audience”, i.e., playing the Anglo-Saxon chord, which is why she received American approval.
It is certain that Truss will move forward in a foreign policy that supports American projects, especially in the Ukrainian war, but she is likely to fail to address the domestic situation, which may force the Conservative Party to hedge public opinion by moving away from the facade of power in the upcoming elections or to deplete Liz Truss and replace her just as they did with Johnson.
12 Safar 1444h hizbuttahrir.org
8 September 2022