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By Morak Babajide-Alabi
The British politics took a turn last week when the political parties, for once, spoke in unison and dramatically agreed to a snap general election in December. What is surprising about the sudden turn around is that 24 hours earlier the opposition parties had unanimously rejected Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister’s call for an election. They had condemned Johnson’s call as selfish and not in the best interest of the nation.
It has been excruciatingly challenging to watch as the politicians switch positions as easily as they could. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the main opposition Labour party was the staunchest supporter of a general election. He, at every opportunity, was calling on former PM Theresa May for a general election. Earlier this year, he had said: “The priority at the moment, I think, is for this Government to call for a general election and actually have a general election so we can decide the future. There’s no majority in Parliament. There’s no legislative programme and Parliament has basically been given nothing to do by the Government.”
Few months down the line after May’s exit, Corbyn was whistling a new song – no election. His party voted down in the house of parliament earlier calls for a snap election. The excuse was that they didn’t want Johnson to use this as a ploy to lead the country on the part of a “no-deal BREXIT.” Several analysts condemned the Labour leader of running scared of presenting himself to the people because he knew he had no chance of winning.
Mr Johnson was persistent in his calls for a Christmas election. Despite trying unsuccessfully three times in the past, the members of the opposition parties unanimously voted for his wish on Tuesday. The leadership of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) has been consistent in their support of an early election. The confidence of the party leaders that they would reverse their political losses from the 2017 snap election was too obvious. You could see Ian Blackford, SNP’s Westminster leader dreaming of an extraordinary political speech when the SNP corners all the Scottish seats in the house of parliament.
For Jo Swinson, the leader of the Liberal Democrats and the fresh face of British politics, the controversial decision of plans to cancel Article 50 is a great way to capture the hearts of the electorates. You would have expected the party leaders to tread carefully on the subject of an early election right now, but, the opposite id the case, as it is its collaboration with the SNP that eventually turned Johnson’s early election dream to a reality. They had proposed a motion that required only a simple majority to pass to amend the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. On this, Corbyn could not afford to stay aloof and was no surprise he danced along, and the motion received the support of the Members of the Parliament.
Nigel Farage, the leader of the newly formed BREXIT Party has put his best foot forward by suggesting a Leavers Alliance with the Tories. You cannot but admire Farage for his lofty nationalist ideas. Unlike the “partnership” between Johnson, Farage and a few others in 2016 prior to the referendum, the BREXIT leader has been told to keep his ideas to himself.
For Adam, my friend, this was no surprise. He reckoned he possessed an encyclopaedic knowledge of British Politics that it would come down to this. As was common, Adam was on the other side of the phone, to discuss the development. He was in a more upbeat mood this time around, as he sarcastically said: “Hello, my friend.” He giggled and without expecting a reply from me continued. “I bet you are having a good laugh at these clowns that call themselves ‘representatives of the people?’”
I have learnt from previous experiences that to get the best out of Adam, you need to allow him to have the false sense of being in control. I feigned ignorance of what he could be referring to. “Are you still disturbed about the happenings in the world, Adam?” We both engage in this game with each other. He knew I was trying to get more out of him without being too forward, so he kept silent. I knew it wouldn’t be for you long, so I held his silence, daring who will break it first.
The fact is you cannot keep Adam silent for too long whenever he has something important on his mind. It was one of the days. “I won’t play that stupid game of yours with you today. I know you know I am having a belly laugh at the UK political leaders who are beginning to act, as usual, like kindergarten kids.” I smiled to myself happy that I do not have to dip my fingers into Adam’s throat to get his opinion on the latest development in UK politics.
“I can’t believe this is playing out like this, Adam,” I started, paused, waiting for a response from him. There was no response from Adam, so I continued: “These guys were literally shouting no elections a few weeks ago and suddenly they all identify opportunities in an early election.” I paused as I reflected on how these politicians have been shifting positions and blaming it on one thing or the other.
The political situation in the UK in the past year has been as unpredictable as what you get in a country like Libya. For Britain, the mistake of the 2016 referendum on the exit of the country from the European Union can be likened to the situation in Libya or Iraq after the exit of Moammar Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein. The removal of these strongmen was supposed to be the beginning of a journey to peaceful countries, but unfortunately, the opposite has been the case. The two countries have never witnessed such political turmoils in their existence as they have after the killing of their dictator-leaders.
The same is the situation in the United Kingdom. The BREXIT referendum was touted to be the all-important solution to whatever problem the UK. These sets of politicians sold the EU as the main “destiny” destroyer. The rest has become history. I was brought back to reality when Adam’s voice boomed on the other side of the phone. “Do you think it is all of these politicians that have the interests of the masses of the country at heart?”
“I guess…” I started, but Adam was not finished yet. “Many of them are protecting their economic interests. Some are fronting for business owners and a few of them are just flowing with the dictates of their political parties. I bet some of them are also as confused as the process of steering the country out of the continental union.” I couldn’t agree more with Adam on this. A lot has happened in recent times that showed the frontline political leaders had no foresight of what they want from the process.
And the words of Corbyn ring in my head: “I have consistently said that we are ready for an election, and our support is subject to a no-deal Brexit being off the table. We have now heard from the EU that the extension of Article 50 to 31 January has been confirmed… We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen.”
Will the real change be in the Labour camp? Or will it galvanise Johnson to confronting the EU leaders with a majority to govern the country? Will the real change be a reality check for the SNP and Liberal Democrats leaders? It is just a matter of weeks, and we will be properly educated.
Published in the Diaspora Matters column, Sunday Vanguard of November 2nd, 2019.