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Ladies and gentlemen, BoJo has left the building.

Boris Johnson stepped down as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on Tuesday. Three years in charge of the nation had come to an abrupt conclusion. His presence on the domestic and international stage was all but forgotten. His political successes had started to fade into thin air.

It was a stunning reversal of fortune, and he had no-one to blame but himself.

Johnson earned a degree in Literae humaniores (classical studies) at the University of Oxford specializing in ancient literature and classical philosophy. He’s authored several books, written for The Times and Daily Telegraph, and is a former editor of The Spectator. He became a Tory MP for Henley (2001-2008), served two terms as Mayor of London (2008-2016), and returned to Parliament as an MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in 2015.

He earned 66.4 percent of Tory caucus votes to defeat former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on July 23, 2019, and officially became Prime Minister the following day. Johnson has described himself as a one-nation conservative, or a paternalistic model of British conservatism that supports a democratic society’s established institutions and traditional principles. He’s also been a high-profile Eurosceptic and staunch supporter of Brexit, and a powerful advocate for economic conservatism and the free market economy. He’s also taken a decidedly libertarian streak on social issues like gay marriage – and felt the U.S. Supreme Court took a “backward step” in bringing down Roe v. Wade.

Johnson’s first term had its challenges. Public sector spending on police services and hospitals and increasing access to broadband had its supporters and detractors. Brexit was achieved, but issues with the formal departure from the European Union and the backstop controversy with Ireland and North Ireland gave him fits. He lost his working majority due to Brexit, and the support of his brother Jo Johnson, a Tory minister.

While Labour and the Liberal Democrats licked their chops in anticipation of defeating Johnson and the Tories, they were far too confident. The former was led by Jeremy Corbyn, an enormous lightning rod for controversy, and the latter was viewed as an also-ran from the very start. The PM ran a superb campaign, and found ways to connect with large and small business owners, middle class families, single mothers and union members. He won the Dec. 12, 2019 general election with a majority of 80 seats and 43.6 percent of the popular vote. It was the largest margin of victory for the Tories since Margaret Thatcher in 1987. Johnson won seats in constituencies that hadn’t voted for his party in years, decades – or, in some cases, ever.

Alas, everything fell apart in dramatic fashion.

The biggest body blow was “Partygate.” This referred to a birthday party held for Johnson during the first COVID-19 lockdown in spite of rules forbidding indoor social gatherings. It caused a mass eruption, a Metropolitan Police investigation, the resignation of several political staffers, and loads of fines. Johnson received a fixed penalty of £50 for breaching COVID-19 regulations his own government had set in place, becoming the first PM in British history with this dubious honour.

Johnson faced a vote of no-confidence in early June over “Partygate.” He exceeded the threshold with 59 percent support (or 211 MPs), which was enough to carry on and potentially rebuild his lost support.

Until the Chris Pincher controversy arrived on the scene, that is.

The then-Deputy Chief Whip was accused of sexual misconduct after allegations he had groped two men at London’s Carlton Club. He resigned on June 30, and an additional six allegations of sexual misconduct over a course of a decade were revealed three days later. Although Tory ministers initially claimed Johnson didn’t know anything about Pincher’s conduct, a BBC report proved otherwise. The PM’s carelessness and arrogance had created yet another embarrassing situation.

Johnson lost the confidence of 63 of 179 ministers, parliamentary private secretaries and trade envoys between July 5-7. He announced his resignation as party leader, and remained as a caretaker PM until his successor was chosen. Liz Truss, former Foreign Affairs Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities in his government, has now assumed this role. She’s an intelligent, competent politician who will work hard to become a successful PM.

Yet, an intriguing political drama is happening simultaneously: Johnson will continue to sit as a backbencher.

While Johnson will obviously be a loyal supporter of Truss’s government, he also knows his successor’s inexperience could work heavily against her. She’s been thrust into a difficult role where she has to deal with major issues like COVID-19, Brexit, the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the impending energy crisis this winter. It remains to be seen how Truss will do, and whether she’ll be able to successfully lead the UK for the foreseeable future.

If things go awry, Johnson will still be around to help pick up the pieces – and maybe, just maybe, return to power once more. Stranger things have happened in politics, after all.

Hmm. Maybe my opening line needs to be crafted a bit differently. Let’s try this on for size: Ladies and gentlemen, BoJo has left the building…for now.

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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Canadian political pundits seem to spend a lot of time sifting the detritus of the US political scene to explain Canadian trends. But there may be better insights offered from surveying a system closer to home – the UK Westminster’s scene.

While Donald Trump still maintains a stranglehold on broad sectors of his own party and success in reinforcing institutional power for its ideology, recent developments in the UK shows how quickly a government’s fortunes can shift in a parliamentary system.

In 2019, Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson, running on a narrow populist platform of “getting Brexit done” won a massive landslide victory in the UK Parliament. He was one of the first post-ideology leaders, weaving his Conservative party indiscriminately to the right and left, in pursuit of votes.

Johnson’s victory was the final straw in the leadership demise of Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson of the Liberal Democrats. His campaign appealed to the traditional Labour trade union voters that had been the foundation of the ‘Red Wall’, the Northern UK geography that had protected the Labour party’s parliamentary fortunes for decades.

Johnson’s personal style was bombastic yet appealed to everyman, despite his elite background; his so-called ‘authenticity’ offered a unique shield in politics. A failure to grasp facts or the willingness to misinterpret data cavalierly, if not to outright mislead or lie, was dismissed as a nothing more than awkward by his mostly ardent supporters.

Because of the size of his parliamentary victory, and the initial weakness of his political opponents, it was hard to imagine that a time would come within Johnson’s first term of elected office that he would be on the verge of being turfed out by his own party.

Challenged over “partygate’ during the pandemic and scandalous behaviour of key staff and Ministers thriving in a culture of a  lack of accountability, Johnson deflects but rarely apologizes. He evinces little sense of responsibility for what those surrounding him are doing.

In May, the Conservatives suffered a series of catastrophic local council elections where Tory strongholds were smashed as well as two by-election losses in ultra safe Tory seats. Public opinion has soured on Boris’ antics.

Labour and Liberal Democrats party organizers worked closely behind the scenes to maximize votes for those non-Tory candidates most likely to win.

At Westminster, 41% of Conservative backbenchers challenged Boris ongoing leadership and  voted no-confidence, despite no clear leadership alternative in sight.

The cumulative cause has been that Johnson’s greatest claim to retaining office and the support of his own caucus, has not been his ideology but rather his re-electability.

Last week, two of his most prominent Ministers, Health and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, resigned, citing the need  to ‘conduct the business of government properly, competently and seriously.’

They had lost confidence that Johnson can mend his ways and see a real threat to their own electoral future. As Health Minister Javid wrote in his letter of resignation, ‘the non confidence vote … was a moment for humility, grip and new direction. I regret to say, however, that it is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership and you have therefore lost my confidence too.’ Boris Johnson subsequently tendered his resignation as Prime Minister later in the week.

In Canada, the ideological divides are much cleaner at the federal level and certainly in most provinces. Efforts by Erin O’Toole or some of the current crop of leadership candidates [ Charest and Brown] to maintain the political centre right in the Conservative Party remain under attack by former leader Scheer and front runner Poilievre.

Trudeau’s Liberals agreement with the NDP suggests a continued centre -left approach for the federal government.

In Alberta, the UCP is facing a divisive ideological battle between Conservatives and Wildrose elements. The extreme language and tone of the exchanges suggest an even further rightward shift.

In Quebec, Premier Legault’s CAC has dusted off the older elements of Quebec’s ‘nation’ rhetoric and linguistic goals as it gets set for its forthcoming campaign.

Could Ontario pose a parallel to both how Boris Johnson’s government gained power and an object lesson of what can happen in the future, depending upon how issues are managed over the next two years?

In 2022, Premier Ford won a a massive provincial victory, running on a narrow populist campaign of ‘getting it done’. Ford’s team boasts of being a post-ideology government, weaving the Conservative policies indiscriminately to the right and left, in pursuit of votes.

Despite an elite background, Mr. Ford has cloaked himself in a cloak of the everyday man; his authenticity provides a unique shield for his bombastic style and willingness to take risks- such as shoving a nephew into his cabinet. His successful outreach to trade unionists secured important seat gains in Windsor, Hamilton and Toronto.

Ford’s triumph pushed out the Liberal and New Democratic leaders. Their organizers are left to toy whether an informal progressive alliance in some seats might be the best way to defeat the Conservative juggernaut at the next election.

So far, political analysts can imagine few circumstance where Ford’s authority and control of the provincial government could be successfully challenged, given that so many of his caucus are personally dependent upon Ford’s electoral appeal.

In the absence of any ideology, the key to the situation will be Mr Ford’s ability to retain his re-electability. The bragging rights Mr Ford rightfully earned in 2022 will be put to the test by the twin spectres of stagflation and a looming recession.

In the interim, a return to his initial governance style remains his first challenge. Appointing his young nephew to Cabinet has reignited the debate about Mr. Ford’s political judgment.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


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Poor Boris.

It’s been a difficult few months for Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He’s been ensnared in the ongoing (and seemingly never-ending) Westminster lockdown parties controversy, or “partygate.” This refers to the revelation that large social gatherings involving government and Conservative Party staff occurred during COVID-19 that directly contravened with the country’s public health restrictions.

The Daily Mirror was the first British newspaper to reveal that several gatherings had reportedly occurred the past couple of years. This includes in May 2020 (garden of 10 Downing Street, which is the PM’s residence), Christmas season 2020 (various affairs in November and December) and April 2021 (two leaving events for staff, which occurred the evening before Prince Phillip’s funeral). The affairs have been described as “booze parties,” which included large quantities of alcohol and food, and some allegedly had loud music, dancing and carousing.

Johnson and the Conservatives initially claimed some of the parties were held with proper social distancing. When it became apparent this wasn’t the case, a steady stream of apologies occurred. It’s been happening on a near-daily basis ever since.

The most recent “partygate” scandal focuses squarely on the PM.

According to ITV News’s UK editor, Paul Brand, on Jan. 25, Johnson reportedly had a “birthday party during the first lockdown in 2020 despite the rules forbidding social gatherings indoors at the time. It’s alleged that the prime minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, helped organise a surprise get-together for him on the afternoon of 19 June just after 2pm.”

How big was this affair? “Up to 30 people are said to have attended the event in the Cabinet Room,” Brand wrote, “after Boris Johnson returned from an official visit to a school in Hertfordshire.” There are now reports the Metropolitan Police will be investigating Johnson due to this public health breach.

Poor, poor Boris.

Opposition parties are calling for his resignation. Some members of his own party caucus are doing the same thing, too. Several media organizations have reported that as many as 30 Conservative MPs have requested a no-confidence vote on his leadership.

The government’s poll numbers have also collapsed at the seams. Labour leads by around 10 points, and the PM’s disapproval rating is reportedly at 72 percent, the lowest since the days of Theresa May. Two YouGov polls conducted on Jan. 25 were equally disheartening: 62 percent believe Johnson should resign (only 25 percent feel he should remain), and 74 percent support the police investigation at 10 Downing Street (including 58 percent of Conservative voters).

Poor, poor, poor Boris.

In all seriousness, Johnson and the Conservatives are the makers of their own fate. They set the public health rules during COVID-19, and broke them. They arranged these large parties, which was incredibly foolish and showed a lack of intelligence and basic common sense. They created a double standard in British society when it came to social gatherings, and tried to mask and/or swat away these allegations until the evidence proved otherwise.

Here’s something else to consider. Johnson nearly died from COVID-19 complications in March 2020. Long before the vaccines had been created and administered, in fact. If anyone should have realized that holding lockdown parties was a terrible decision and a political disaster waiting to happen, it was him.

Can Johnson survive “partygate?” That’s a tough one.

His intelligence, wit and political savvy had been undeniable until recently. His prominent role in the Brexit movement helped spearhead it to victory in the 2016 EU referendum. His success in the 2019 general election, winning a majority government (80 seats) and the popular vote (43.6 percent), was a watershed moment for Conservatives. His one-nation Tory ideology, or paternalistic model of conservatism that promotes democratic institutions and traditional principles, helped his party capture seats they hadn’t won in decades – or ever before. His brand of intellectual conservatism and populist candour won over many Britons in a way that hadn’t been seen since Margaret Thatcher led the nation.

At the same time, the Conservatives don’t want to be dragged down by this scandal. Whatever their private feelings are about Johnson, he’s the catalyst for “partygate.” There’s no way for him to escape this, and no apology has had a lasting effect. The PM has lost complete control of the narrative, and can’t seem to regain his footing. If a leadership spill, in which the party caucus decides his political fate, is required in the coming days and weeks, many are ready to proceed.

Hence, there are only two identifiable means of political survival for Johnson. He either needs a huge burst of economic success to immediately focus on, or a war to distract the domestic and international media for long enough to change the narrative.

Oddly enough, the latter is starting to materialize.

If Russia invades Ukraine, the world’s focus will shift away from “partygate” at the speed of light. This means Vladimir Putin’s militaristic vision could potentially decide Boris Johnson’s political fate. Strange times, indeed.

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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The “2021 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review” released this past November 4 at least seemed to make one thing clear.

With the next provincial election only seven months away, the document underlined the evolution of the original “For the People” regime advanced by Premier Ford back in 2018 into the reformed “Working for Workers” Ontario PC government today.

Working for Workers is only one of three main 2021 Outlook policy themes. The other two are “Protecting Our Progress” and “Building Ontario.”

But it is the lead implementing action of Working for Workers — “to increase the general minimum wage to $15 per hour effective January 1, 2022” — that has grabbed headlines.

As it happens, this is something the Wynne Liberals had scheduled for three years ago. And the original Ford For the People regime cancelled the increase in September 2018 (along with freezing the earlier $14 per hour  minimum wage for two years).

As urged by various observers in various ways, the Ford government’s earlier minimum wage policy can only cast doubt on the depth and sincerity of its broader Working for Workers theme in the fall of 2021.

At the same time, many were also surprised when two prominent union leaders showed up in support of Premier Ford’s pre-Outlook announcement of the minimum wage hike, on November 2 — Unifor’s national president Jerry Dias, and the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Smokey Thomas.

CBC News has suggested that this “can only be seen as a big political win for the PCs.”

A somewhat different report in the Globe and Mail urged that even the full slate of Working for Workers actions in the 2021 Ontario Economic Outlook “do not go nearly far enough … It’s like handing out lollipops when people need a three-course meal.”

Still, Jerry Dias and Smokey Thomas sharing a stage with Doug Ford can make even a cynical observer wonder about the current regional political mood.

Moreover, it is not just in Ontario that some conservative politicians are nowadays working to build new connections with workers. This past spring The Independent in the United Kingdom was asking : “The working class is voting Tory. Why?”

The headline went on: “The political world is turning upside down, with Conservatives winning more blue-collar votes and Labour seducing the middle classes.”

Just this past September another Globe and Mail headline advised Canada’s most populous province (with a Union Jack still in the canton of its old imperial-colonial provincial flag) that “Boris Johnson faces dissent in Tory ranks over his embrace of big government.”

Yet despite much apt criticism, the latest opinion polls are showing that Johnson’s worker-friendly Tories still have a slight lead over the Labour Party, with Liberal Democrats and Greens well behind.

Meanwhile, back in North America, the November 2 somewhat surprise election of Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin as Governor of Virginia can also be read as adding weight and heft to Working for Workers in the current Ontario PC lexicon.

In Virginia as in Ontario the working class in the 2020s is in some respects an increasingly rural/small town (and/or exurban/suburban) phenomenon.  (See also small-town Pennsylvania in the new US TV series “American Rust.”)

Ontario finance minister Peter Bethlenfalvy alluded to this side of the broader picture when he presented his 2021 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review to the Legislative Assembly.

As reported by the Toronto Star Mr. Bethlenfalvy complained that “Liberals and New Democrats are fixated on ‘downtown activists’ instead of suburban commuters. ‘It is time to get the 413 built.’”

This new superhighway strategy may remind a few much older voters that there was recently a large commemoration of the late widely (and justly) admired Ontario PC premier William Davis, in the provincial capital city.

And the Ford government’s fresh financial emphasis on building more GTA superhighways — 413 and the Bradford Bypass —  points to a 2022 election strategy almost the complete opposite of Brampton Bill Davis’s winning “Stop the Spadina Expressway” campaign of 1971.

All that, however, was 50 years ago. Times have changed, especially with the apparent newfound workers’ profile induced by the global pandemic. And maybe, in a global village where Boris Johnson is Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Doug Ford does not seem quite so not-quite-right as Premier of Ontario.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.