A Very British Coup

If drinking alone is the first sign of trouble, then drinking alone at 11 a.m. in a cavernous pub frozen sometime in 1973 suggests something has gone utterly wrong. As I sip, I’d give it a month before Great Britain becomes London Stock Exchange One, as our favorite son, George Orwell, might have monikered this little island.

Rishi Sunak is our latest prime minister. Sunak “won” an election against himself. 

Over the course of the last year, the broadcast media and Remainer establishment have churned out a ceaseless campaign to remove from office Boris Johnson, the most popular Tory prime minister since Margaret Thatcher, and install someone more palatable to their cosmopolitan tastes.

For those able to look beyond their own noses, the Remainer plan was obvious from the moment Boris Johnson won a massive 80-seat landslide in December 2019. Traditional Labour voters in Britain’s “Red Wall” heartlands (red being the color of the left-wing Labour Party in Britain) abandoned their insufferably woke, abusive, Brexit-blocking party for Boris and his promise to “Get Brexit Done.” With blue-collar votes and with a promise to “level-up” the forgotten swaths of the country not attached to London, Boris liquidated Labour’s teenaged 70-something leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Back then, the accepted wisdom was that Boris and his Red Tories (i.e., centrists) would govern for decades, for they had perfected that electoral magic sauce: cultural conservatism and economic sanity. The Tories were no longer neoliberals. For all his many disappointments, Boris did get Brexit mostly done. Thus to the Remainer establishment, Boris had to go.

After a relentless campaign of shameless partisan hounding, a period in which one phony scandal mutated into another—from Partygate (Boris ate some cake during COVID!) to Pinchergate (a lawmaker got touchy-feely)—the Remainer fanatics finally got their man. Then with bulimic compulsion, they sniggered: “If Boris goes, Brexit goes.”

In July, then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak resigned, forcing Boris out of 10 Downing Street.

In a leadership election, Sunak and Liz Truss slithered their way into the final two. As his campaign slogan assured, Rishi was ready. Within hours of Boris’s resignation, Sunak released a super slick, Hollywood-standard montage revealing his thirst for the top job. After having demanded a proper conservative in Kemi Badenoch, the 150,000-strong Tory membership now had a false choice to make between slick Rishi and the Thatcher cosplayer, Liz Truss. The members chanted, “Anyone but Rishi.” Liz Truss got the nod.

Prime Minister Truss lasted 45 days. Her tenure in office was an embarrassment defined in the most ignoble of reflections. Her legacy? The shortest-ever serving prime minister, and the answer to thousands of future pub-quiz brain teasers.

A fanatical free marketeer in the teenaged “cut taxes” mode, Truss blew up her premiership in the most ironic of fashions. Her budget, a libertarian think-tank nocturnal emission, collapsed the economy. Disaster reigned. Scenting blood, the “adults in the room” installed Jeremy Hunt as chancellor. Hunt deboned the Truss premiership, rib by rib, as she stood by, watching helplessly.

Meanwhile, a plucky tabloid named the Daily Star dressed a lettuce in a blonde wig and launched a livestream asking, “Who will last longer, Liz Truss or this lettuce?” The lucky little lettuce didn’t lay a leaf.

Liz Truss resigned last week. (From this debacle, I derive a small pleasure in the demented denials of fantasy-laden libertarians. The fanatics have adopted the denials of socialists: that wasn’t real libertarianism. Real libertarianism has never been tried.) The Conservative Party establishment announced another leadership election, setting in motion the final play of their master plan. But the problem for the establishment remained. To normal people and to Tory members, Rishi Sunak is about as inviting as Jeffrey Dahmer asking, “Does this rag smell like ether to you?”

The fix was in. Hopefuls would require at least 100 signatures from their fellow Tories—a sky-high bar—before even getting through the front door. If Boris Johnson and House of Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt (the other candidate) couldn’t pole-vault over that figure and force a vote amongst Tory members, the candidate with over 100 backers would take the crown.

Boris Johnson bolted back to London from his Caribbean holiday, demented with the naïve assumption that this was an election, not a coronation. Over the weekend, endorsements for Rishi Sunak flooded the airwaves. Despite a decent showing of 102 backers, Boris eventually dropped out. He saw the writing on the wall. Penny Mordaunt followed. To the glee of the establishment, Rishi Sunak had “won.” The very British coup was complete. If Boris goes, Brexit goes.

As George Orwell put it, “England is a family with the wrong members in control. Almost entirely we are governed by the rich, and by people who step into positions of command by right of birth.” What was true in 1941 remains true in 2022. Everything has progressed. But nothing has changed.

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