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Arrancaré con un oportuno símil futbolero: el Partido Laborista tuvo la oportunidad de marcar a puerta vacía contra un rival en horas bajas y tiró el balón fuera. La mayor catástrofe de la política británica la semana pasada fue que la oposición oficial acepta ahora el marco presupuestario con el que el ministro de Hacienda, Jeremy Hunt, presentó su programa de austeridad de 55.000 millones de libras. Ese marco lo estableció la Oficina de Responsabilidad Presupuestaria (OBR por sus siglas en inglés), el consejo fiscal del Reino Unido, que es un organismo independiente. Desde un punto de vista político, ahora ya no hay alternativa a la austeridad.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘It is impossible for any country to escape geography.’ Photograph: DNY59/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The soap opera of British politics in recent months may have eclipsed something more consequential for the UK in the long run than the revolving doors in Downing Street. The relationship between the UK and the rest of Europe is slowly and quietly changing.

It is too early to speak of a turning point, but there is at least a chance that we will look back on 2022 as the year when Britons and other Europeans finally escaped a downward spiral that has, since the Brexit referendum, poisoned not just the relationship between the UK and the EU, but bilateral relationships between the UK and many EU countries.…  Seguir leyendo »

Many have scratched their heads in amazement as the United Kingdom, previously so pragmatic, reliable, and, well, boring, seemed to descend into ungovernable chaos. The six years since the Brexit referendum in 2016 witnessed more than their fair share of turbulence. And in the last four months alone, the country has seen the departure of two prime ministers. Boris Johnson was replaced by Liz Truss in September. She lasted a mere 44 days, being driven from office when her so-called minibudget spooked markets, raised the price of British government bonds, and sent the pound tumbling.

The Economist entitled an October issue, “Welcome to Britaly”, (prompting Italian friends to take offense); the German weekly Der Spiegel led with a picture of a banana topped with the Elizabeth Tower (popularly known as Big Ben) and the headline “Banana Island”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Lo que no sabemos de Rishi Sunak

En los últimos años me he dado cuenta de que, cuando viajo por Europa, la gente me hace las mismas preguntas. “Los británicos solíais ser pragmáticos, estables y sensatos”, suelen decirme en España, Francia y Alemania. “¿Qué ha pasado?”. El interrogatorio se ha vuelto más intenso en los últimos meses. Primero, estuvo la dimisión de Boris Johnson y luego la larga disputa para elegir un nuevo líder del Partido Conservador, la sorprendente elección de Liz Truss, sus desastrosos 45 días como primera ministra, su repentina dimisión, otra disputa precipitada por dirigir a los conservadores y, en la última semana, la designación de Rishi Sunak.…  Seguir leyendo »

In July I visited my old college in Cambridge for a special lunch. The college looked better than ever. But when I asked afterwards how to travel to Great Yarmouth, where my son was interning as a junior doctor, few could help me. Great Yarmouth is only 118km away but getting there requires a slow, rickety train ride. There was hardly a foreigner in the seaside town, though the inhabitants were friendly to me. A man on the waterfront fishing for crabs with his children gave me a line and offered to leave it with me when he left. My day there made me nostalgic for the Britain I left in the 1970s (Edward Heath’s three-day week notwithstanding).…  Seguir leyendo »

Rishi Sunak no salvará el Reino Unido

En marzo, Rishi Sunak fue fotografiado cargando gasolina un coche en la gasolinera de un supermercado. La finalidad era, por supuesto, autopromocionarse: Sunak estaba deseando publicitar su papel, como ministro de Finanzas, en la reducción del precio del combustible. Pero le salió mal la jugada.

El coche, un modesto Kia Rio rojo, no era suyo (pertenecía a un empleado del supermercado). En la gasolinera, Sunak siguió poniéndose en evidencia al no tener ni idea de cómo hacer un pago con tarjeta sin contacto. Como dramatización de lo lejano que Sunak está de la vida común y corriente, es inmejorable.

Ese desapego se pondrá ahora a prueba.…  Seguir leyendo »

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak outside 10 Downing Street in London, October 2022. Henry Nicholls / Reuters

Yesterday, when Rishi Sunak stood in front of the portable lectern outside No. 10 Downing Street to make his first statement as prime minister, it marked a watershed in many ways. At 42, he is the youngest prime minister in modern British history; he is also the first person of color to hold the post, and the first Hindu. But the significance goes beyond these symbolic attributes: he represents a possible return to stable government after 44 days of unrelenting crisis under his predecessor, Liz Truss, and after six years of political drama.

Truss is an unusual political character: she lacks charisma or force of persuasion and yet still identifies as a disruptor.…  Seguir leyendo »

Britannia

Los tratadistas clásicos pudieron definir la Constitución británica como «un camino que anda». Con ello quería expresarse que el sistema constitucional de las islas, que carece de una norma fundamental escrita con voluntad de racionalizar y fijar de una vez las reglas del sistema político, era la simbiosis perfecta del pasado y del presente, sin perder de vista el futuro. Se ha escrito mucho en los días pasados acerca de la pérdida de los rasgos clásicos de la identidad política británica, al hilo de la sucesión en pocas semanas de tres ocupantes en Downing Street. No cabe ignorar que el Brexit ha supuesto adentrarse por un camino desconocido, pleno de interrogantes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rishi Sunak, nuevo primer ministro del Reino Unido.

Es interesante seguir desde España, o simplemente como europeos, lo que está sucediendo en Gran Bretaña y lo que están padeciendo ciudadanos ingleses y escoceses. El descalabro de la política y de la economía de Gran Bretaña, chanzas aparte, no es ninguna buena noticia a medio y largo plazo para los europeos ni para las democracias. Por supuesto que el monumental error que pagarán durante lustros ha sido el Brexit, un error histórico basado además sobre campañas arteramente mentirosas, y por ello antidemocráticas, por las que nadie parece haber pedido cuentas políticas. Pero, con la verdad por delante, no se esperaba que el antiguo imperio se desgraciara políticamente con tanto ridículo ni tanta celeridad.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rishi Sunak Won’t Save Britain

In March, Rishi Sunak was photographed filling up a car at a supermarket gas station. The purpose, of course, was self-promotion: Mr. Sunak was keen to advertise his role, as finance minister, in cutting the price of fuel. But the puff misfired.

The car, a modest red Kia Rio, wasn’t his (it belonged to a supermarket employee). Inside the garage, Mr. Sunak further embarrassed himself by showing he had no idea how to make a contactless payment. As a dramatization of Mr. Sunak’s detachment from ordinary life, it couldn’t be bettered.

That detachment will now be put to the test. After securing the backing of his party, Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rishi Sunak leaving Conservative party headquarters in London after being announced as the winner of the party leadership contest on October 24, 2022. Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images.

After all the theatricality and derision over the UK’s political process in the last few months, Rishi Sunak may well be eventually judged on terms set by one of his predecessors. The new prime minister will, declared Theresa May, provide the ‘calm, competent, pragmatic leadership our country needs at this deeply challenging time’.

In his first statement on winning the Conservative MPs ballot following the withdrawal of first Boris Johnson and then Penny Mordaunt, Sunak set out his priorities – to ‘fix’ the economy, unite his party, and ‘deliver’ for the country.

The first two are to a large degree measurable, the latter is a matter of opinion.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rishi Sunak, frontrunner to be next British prime minister, leaves his campaign office, in London, on Sunday. Alberto Pezzali/AP

Britain’s Conservative Party, which has weathered the resignation of two prime ministers since December 2019, cannot remain in government for another two years without calling a general election.

Well, technically, they could. But that doesn’t mean they should.

Under British law, as long as a party can command a parliamentary majority, it can continue in power for up to five years before calling an election.

And the Conservative Party, despite having suffered a series of recent by-election defeats, still maintains a working parliamentary majority of 71, meaning that Britain’s next general election could conceivably come as late as January 2025.

On Monday, Rishi Sunak, Boris Johnson’s former finance minister, won the contest to become the next leader of the Conservative Party and will become prime minister of Britain.…  Seguir leyendo »

Liz Truss announces her resignation as UK prime minister after just six weeks in office. Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images.

Liz Truss could not command support for her calamitous – and misnamed – mini-budget. And once her new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt had overturned its provisions, she had no mission or credibility left.

The budget pushed interest rates higher and they did not fall much on the scrapping of it, leaving her open to the charge she pushed up mortgage and interest costs for every person and business in the country. Her apology for ‘mistakes made’ was not going to reverse that, so her MPs were right to tell her to go.

Her departure does mark a victory for at least some of the UK’s institutions, even if it might not seem that way to observers around the world.…  Seguir leyendo »

Holding office for only 45 days, Liz Truss has become the shortest-lived prime minister in British history after announcing her departure from Number 10.

And what a six weeks it was, marked by the death of a monarch and installation of a new king, a fiscal plan that crashed the markets and caused a run on the pound, the abandonment of her entire policy program, sacking of a chancellor and home secretary, loss of confidence of virtually all her MPs, reports of violent bullying in Parliament and opinion polls suggesting an existential wipe-out for her party at the next election.

Truss never had an easy task to unite her troubled party after winning the contest to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Ruination of Britain

Until very recently the British Conservative Party was able to claim, with a great deal of credibility, that it was the most successful political party in the Western world.

The party of Benjamin Disraeli, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher has governed Britain for most of the last 200 years. Through much of that time the Conservatives have been synonymous with good sense, financial sobriety and cautious pragmatism. Despised by progressive elites, allergic to ideology, provincial rather than metropolitan, the Conservative Party rejoiced in being the stolid party of the boring middle ground.

Not anymore. Today, the Conservatives are synonymous with chaos.…  Seguir leyendo »

British Prime Minister Liz Truss outside 10 Downing Street in London on Thursday. (Stefan Rousseau/AP)

“I am a fighter and not a quitter!” British Prime Minister Liz Truss thundered Wednesday in the House of Commons. “I am resigning”, she said Thursday, in a less bombastic tone of voice. Let’s hope conservatives here and around the world learn a lesson about both policy and populism.

Truss’s announced departure after just 45 days apparently marks the shortest residence ever at 10 Downing Street. She made so many mistakes in so little time that it’s hard to list them all. But the most needlessly self-destructive was trying to impose simplistic right-wing economic policies that work only in theory, never in practice.…  Seguir leyendo »

British Prime Minister Liz Truss delivers her resignation statement outside 10 Downing St. in London on Thursday. (Bloomberg)

On one level, the resignation of Prime Minister Liz Truss is a peculiar British story, featuring a leader who climbed to power on the votes of just 81,326 party members and then governed with the subtlety of a stoned teenager: a sort of anti-Solomon. Yet on another level, Truss’s implosion after six tumultuous weeks raises an almost universal question. When economics goes badly, how does politics react?

The laboratory of Europe has already suggested some troubling answers. Just as the Greek debt crisis ushered in the left-populist Syriza government in 2015, so the food- and energy-price shocks from Ukraine have generated fresh political upsets.…  Seguir leyendo »

La reina Isabel II falleció en Balmoral, en el corazón de Escocia, el 8 de septiembre pasado. Allí pasó buena parte de su vida. Y en Edimburgo fue velada primero, en medio del respeto de miles de ciudadanos escoceses, solo superado por el de los londinenses. Las reacciones de los líderes políticos británicos tras su deceso fueron unánimes. Todos destacaron la exquisita neutralidad de la soberana en su longevo reinado, su ponderación y su capacidad para estar presente sin que se notase. Entre esas reacciones, hubo una que desde España puede sorprender: las elegantes notas de condolencia publicadas por la primera ministra de Escocia, Nicola Sturgeon, y su antecesor, Alex Salmond, ambos independentistas.…  Seguir leyendo »

British Prime Minister Liz Truss announces her resignation outside 10 Downing Street in London on Oct. 20. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

The resignation of British Prime Minister Liz Truss on Thursday morning puts an end to a month of economic and political turmoil. Republicans should take note of her mistakes if they want to avoid a similar debacle after the midterms and in 2024.

Truss’s first mistake was to push a radical economic agenda she did not campaign on. Her personal views supporting a low-tax, smaller government were telegraphed years ago in her book, “Britannia Unchained”. But she did not campaign for the premiership on that agenda. She had promised some modest tax reductions and offered rhetorical backing for deregulation. But those were far short of the sweeping tax cuts she and her chancellor of the exchequer unveiled in their now-infamous mini-budget proposed in late September.…  Seguir leyendo »

New finance minister Jeremy Hunt speaks at the House of Commons on Monday, with prime minister Liz Truss seated nearby.

“The Prime Minister is not under a desk”.

It says much about the current state of Liz Truss’s troubled premiership that this statement by fellow Conservative minister Penny Mordaunt on Monday afternoon was made, ostensibly at least, as a show of support.

A little over a month after being crowned leader, just about the best that can be said for the embattled Truss is that she is not cowering beneath the furniture inside 10 Downing Street.

She is, however, very much stranded in a wilderness of her own making; “in office but not in power” as was once said of her 1990s’ predecessor John Major; stripped of her authority, policy agenda, grip on her government and party, and, short of a miracle, prospects of leading her party into the next general election.…  Seguir leyendo »