A Johnson premiership would be Britain's shame

By Bernadette Meaden
June 17, 2019

When Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, many people around the world were astonished and dismayed. How could a man who shamelessly lied, made blatantly racist remarks, and appeared to have no moral scruples whatsoever, be elected leader of a modern democracy?

Many Americans were mortified, ashamed that such a man now represented their country on the world stage. But they asked us to understand. In a country of gross inequality they said, where poor people die for lack of healthcare, a lot of people were hurting, and a vote for Trump was, for many of them, a howl of pain. A kick against politics as usual. A desperate plea for change. The fact that they had voted for a man with little interest in their plight was a cruel irony.

Now, in the UK, it seems likely we will get a Prime Minister who in many ways is very like Donald Trump – but he will be chosen by an electorate which really has no excuses, no mitigating factors for making such a choice.

The people who can make Boris Johnson Prime Minister, far from being poor and disadvantaged, will be some of the most prosperous and privileged people in the UK.

Firstly, Johnson will have to be chosen as one of the final two candidates by MPs. Their salaries put them in the top 10 per cent of earnings, without all their other sources of income, and they are clearly in a very privileged position. Then, the final decision rests with Conservative Party membership, which is completely unrepresentative of modern Britain. We know this thanks to recent research (paywall) from Professor Tim Bale and Paul Webb at the University of Sussex. 

The 160,000 people who will choose our next PM are an extraordinary group. They’re not just unrepresentative of the population – they are more unrepresentative than the members of other political parties.

Firstly, they are much more likely to be male, white, and elderly than the members of any other party except UKIP. On Brexit, they are even more likely to back No Deal than Conservative voters, and almost two thirds think a No Deal would actually be good for the economy.

On economics, only 15 per cent of Conservative party members believe that the government should redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor – the lowest proportion of any party. When we look at their economic status, this would seem to be clearly motivated by naked self-interest. Few are on low incomes, and more than twice as many Conservative members are on very high incomes as members of any other party.

The depressing conclusion is that if a man with a history of lying, racism, and a complete lack of integrity becomes our Prime Minister, he will have been put in that position by some of the most privileged people in the UK. The most privileged people in our country will have signalled that truth, morality, respect and integrity are of little importance to them. They want their own way over Brexit, and Johnson's promised tax cut for high earners will be a nice little bonus.

We really do need to take our country back. Back from people who see politics as simply a means to pursue their own self-interest, and for whom poverty, hunger and homelessness barely seem to register on their radar. They are the people for whom the country is currently working. But they are the people by whom our society will be ruined, if they continue to dominate.

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© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeaden 

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