The Tories’ Demise Will Reconfigure U.K. Politics

The Tories’ Demise Will Reconfigure U.K. Politics
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers a speech during a visit to the Enfield Centre, in north London, Nov. 20, 2023 (Press Association photo by Daniel Leal via AP Images)

After a decade of turmoil, the U.K. seems on the cusp of experiencing yet another moment of shocking change, as a once formidable Conservative Party that has dominated the state for centuries becomes engulfed in a terminal crisis. The party’s looming electoral decimation, long anticipated and seemingly confirmed by opinion polls since Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a general election scheduled for July 4, threatens a social order that once seemed eternal with sudden disappearance.

This collapse is even more extraordinary given the Tories’ landslide victory under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership as recently as December 2019. Johnson’s predecessor, former Prime Minister Theresa May, had been weakened by infighting between rival party factions following the 2016 Brexit referendum, culminating in her resignation in May 2019 and the subsequent expulsion from the party of MPs who advocated for a softer break with the European Union. Under Johnson, the Tories regained a sense of purpose that propelled them to their largest parliamentary majority since the 1980s.

Scandals generated by Johnson’s lack of discipline during the COVID-19 pandemic put the Tories under severe pressure by the time he resigned in the summer of 2022. But even after the brief tenure of former Prime Minister Liz Truss, whose disastrous budget generated panic on financial markets, the party’s position did not seem entirely hopeless.

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