There is no denying at all that Brexit has become such a polarising issue that it has torn the fabric of our parliamentary politics. While the Labour Party is beginning to feel the true pressure of the issue, with many voters turning away from the party and voting for anti-Brexit parties (such as the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party). There have been fiery meetings where many are urging Jeremy Corbyn to back a second referendum, and the political fabric of The Conservative Party has been completely torn into shreds with Theresa May resigning, firing the gunshot which has begun a leadership race. With the leadership bid being narrowed down to a standoff between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, our country’s future seems bleaker and more dystopian.
The most worrying candidate is unfortunately leaping ahead in terms of popularity with MPs. Boris Johnson, the former Foreign Secretary and the former Mayor of London has gained a reputation for being impulsive and uncompromising in many aspects. Johnson has promised that the country will leave the European Union on “31st of October, come what may” and is willing to “show that we are serious about leaving with no deal”.
In other words, if the U.K and the E.U cannot come to a new agreement, Boris Johnson wouldn’t mind taking up the option of crashing out of the European Union without a deal. While he has stressed that he doesn’t want a “No Deal” Brexit, the fact that it is on the cards should be worrying. Brussels have emphasised that the deal which Theresa May has negotiated is “not up for re-negotiation“, regardless of who makes it into Downing Street. This makes it likely that Boris Johnson will be unable to re-negotiate a new deal, therefore making the risk of a “No Deal” Brexit much higher. According to The Bank of England, leaving without a deal would cause the biggest economic plummet in modern history, with the possibility of the British economy dwindling by nearly 8%. Unemployment rates will nearly double and inflation will reach 6.5%. According to the Bank, this could increase interest rates up to 5.5%.
Another reason a Boris-led government will be catastrophic is the many diplomatic errors he has committed, as well as his dog-whistle racism. In December 2015, he described Russian President, Vladimir Putin as “a bit like Dobby the House Elf” in a column for The Telegraph. In March 2016, he wrote a crude poem about Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which he wrote, “There was a young fellow from Ankara, Who was a terrific wankerer/Till he sowed his wild oats, With the help of a goat, But he didn’t even stop to thankera“. It is worth noting that the remark about having sex with a goat is a discriminatory slur used towards Muslims (particularly Middle-Eastern Muslims). Given that President Erdogan is a Turkish Muslim, this can be seen as Islamophobic. This was all said while Boris Johnson was the Mayor of London. If he cannot even run a city without embarrassing it, how can we expect him to run a country?
The former Mayor of London also referred to the people of the African continent as “picaninnies” and particularly the people of Congo as having “watermelon smiles” in 2002, both of which are very derogatory towards Black people. With this racist remark, Johnson has normalised the racism, which people all over the world have been suffering for centuries. Most recently, Johnson received a lot of backlash for describing women who wear burqas as looking like “letterboxes” and “bank robbers“, which caused a spike in hate crimes towards women who wear the niqab, according to the Charity Tell Mama. If he can do this as an MP, imagine the effect his words would have when he holds the highest position in government.
The candidate standing off against Boris Johnson is former Health Secretary and current Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. Just like Johnson, Hunt wants a “No Deal” to be on the table. Jeremy Hunt’s plan is to form a new negotiating team with Brussels which will be “credible” so “they have confidence it can get through Parliament”. However, this presents the same dilemma that Boris will most likely have. The E.U does not want to negotiate a new deal regardless of who takes Theresa May’s place as Prime Minister. This increases the chance of a “No Deal” Brexit which means that the catastrophic aftermaths (mentioned before) are more likely to happen.
Jeremy Hunt’s legacy as Health Secretary has been plagued with insufficient funds to the National Health Service (NHS); a lack of budget which has led to a lack of staff and equipment for the health care system to function properly. He pledged 5,000 more GPs and 25% more places for trainee nurses and doctors which he believed would make the NHS “self-sufficient”, however NHS workforce figures showed that there were more than 100,000 unfilled posts in the system. The NHS under Jeremy Hunt secured a £350 million budget for the winter of 2017 which clearly was insufficient since the winter of 2017 came to be known as the worst winter for the NHS in its history. A March 2018 analysis from The Labour Party found that the number of people waiting for more than 4 hours in A&E increased by 842% due to Hunt’s underfunding of the NHS. Between 2017 and 2018, the number of patients who had to wait for more than 2 weeks for urgent cancer treatment increased to 113,373. To add insult to injury, the U.K’s cancer survival rate plummeted to being one of the worst in Europe at 28th place out of 40 countries, which is lower than two-thirds of Europe in 2018. This is unacceptable since the NHS is renowned for its high quality, easy access and free healthcare. Jeremy Hunt’s feud with junior doctors after a reform to contracts which meant a potential pay cut and more hours once again is a sign of the incompetence he demonstrated in running the NHS, as is him running away from a junior doctor questioning him about the imposition of contracts. Jeremy Hunt has even realised that his budget cuts went “too far” after seeing a woman who had been cutting herself. If Jeremy Hunt is able to play a huge part in the Conservative’s plans of drying out the NHS before allowing it to be sold to private shareholders, imagine the wider privatisation plans he will play a huge role in when it comes to our other social services?
While the decision is ultimately up to the 160,000 members of The Conservative Party, the options left by the MPs of the party are not relieving for the public. We have an option between two candidate who will renegotiate a new deal with Brussels with a “No Deal” option on the table, the only difference being is that one candidate has said that he’ll leave the EU without a deal on 31st October if a deal isn’t negotiated, and the other candidate is not so keen. Our next Prime Minister could either be an impulsive, Trump-like character who seems to forget that he is emblematic in U.K politics, and a character who has caused embarrassment for London when he was a mayor and further embarrassment for the country with his racist and undiplomatic remarks about minorities and other world leaders; or a politician who was responsible for bleeding the NHS dry by throwing pennies at it, reformed junior doctor contracts for the worse and couldn’t face the people who it affected, and didn’t realise the extent of the damage he caused until he met a suffering woman. Grey clouds and cold winds will engulf Britain in the next two or so years, and I’m not talking about the weather.