Boris Johnson is leaving, but his nepotism and corruption will remain

Yves gentlemen. As just about anyone with a functioning brain cell has noticed, Sunak and Truss manage to make Johnson look less bad. Why can’t we bring Theresa May back instead? Hard work and sincerity would be a great improvement.

Paul Rogers, Honorary Professor of Peace Studies, Department of Peace Studies and International Relationsat the University of Bradford and an honorary member of the Joint Command and Staff College. He is the international security correspondent for openDemocracy. He is on Twitter at: @ProfPROgers. Originally posted on openDemocracy

With the quest to find the next prime minister in full swing, the Conservative Party is desperate to move on from the Boris Johnson era.

This is not surprising, since even the foreign press has published a damning analysis of Johnson’s tenure in recent weeks. The New York Times, for example, reminded readers that the prime minister was “usually described as deceitful, irresponsible, reckless, and lacking any coherent philosophy other than a desire to seize and hold on to power.”

Yet while Johnson may be leaving office, his legacy appears to live on, especially since all the politicians who sought to replace him were part of his government, allowing systematic nepotism to reach new heights.

What adds to the notability of this is that the two remaining rival tenants at 10 Downing Street – Johnson’s chancellor Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, his foreign secretary – sing from the same hymn sheet.

Sunak declared his unwavering faith in Margaret Thatcher, while Truss, the bookies’ favorite, took a similar stance, even believing that Johnson should never have been overthrown.

This leaves us with the prospect of several more years of undiluted Thatcherism, with more nepotism and corruption.

All the traditional elements of neoliberal market fundamentalism will continue. Britain will have even less financial regulation after Brexit than under Thatcher, unions will be subject to further scrutiny and the tax system will continue to favor the rich. Combating tax evasion and tax evasion will be a low priority and will continue to be under-resourced.

Attempts will be made to reduce the state, but not its power, which will become even more centralized, while public social housing will remain on the periphery, the privatization of the social security system will be almost completed, and creeping NHS privatization will accelerate as the giant US health insurance corporations take full advantage of the new opportunities.

Perhaps most importantly, radical decarbonization will fade into the background, and the UK will lose its ability to play a leading global role in preventing climate change.

Johnson was useful as an interim winner of the powerful nexus of financial and corporate interests that wield enormous political clout in contemporary Britain, but he has served his purpose. We will soon have a new leader, but this bond will continue to pull the strings, maintained their lobbyist and friends from the Tufton Street think tank.

There will almost certainly be opposition from unions, climate change activists and angry voices from the marginalized, but the Tories have devised new ways to maintain control, not least by criminalization of many forms of protest. The government will also be aided by an inconsistent political opposition, with Labor showing little sign of far-sightedness and accepting the foundations of the current economic status quo while favoring the most modest modifications.

Labor once advocated major structural reform in its manifesto for the 2017 general election. The party became so popular in the last few days of the campaign that, against all odds, it robbed the Tories of their parliamentary majority. This was a profound shock to the political system, and over the next two years, vigorous and effective measures were taken at almost all levels to prevent such a thing from happening again.

This does not mean that there are not numerous initiatives aimed at change, but two things are missing that would add fuel to the fire.

One is the lack of public recognition of the sheer excesses of runaway wealth that have emerged in the 40 years since Thatcher’s transformation began. The Sunday Times Rich List this year was appropriately titled “Who’s Cleaning?”, and while the extent of the cleanup needed may be recognized in left-wing circles, it certainly hasn’t taken root in broader political circles.

That the ten richest people on the list control more than £180bn, that British billionaires own more than £700bn, and that thousands of people are indeed “getting out” is hardly a matter of public debate. The national political mantra is that we must live within our means, and we cannot afford to meet public needs, even though the system allows a few to own hundreds of billions of pounds at the expense of the majority. As long as it remains undisputed, prospects for vigorous protest will be limited.

The second missing element is the lack of coherent political analysis of the alternative path forward. Again, individuals, groups, and a few think tanks come up with good ideas, but change must also come from the existing political system.

Somewhere in the depths of the Labor Party – most likely on its periphery, and not somewhere near the current center of power – there may be people engaged in working out what really needs to be done to revise British policy. If they are determined and persistent enough, their time may come much sooner than expected. A good start would be to update the 2017 manifesto by trying to understand more fully why it has been so vigorously and successfully opposed both inside and outside Labor.