If you are politically inclined and have been following recent political events in the United Kingdom, then you are probably abreast with the unfolding political events occurring within the British political system in the aftermath of the BREXIT referendum. The decision to leave the EU has caused a massive change within the leadership of the British parliament, which has seen David Cameron resign as Prime Minister. It has also caused the springing up of different political actors (some known and others relatively unknown) all vying to become prime minister. The unfolding political events are nothing short of a good plot which television series are made of. As an avid fan of the HBO series Game of Thrones (GOT), I found myself drawing close parallels between the TV show and political events occurring within the United Kingdom.
As a brief prelude, Game of Thrones is essentially about power and politics and the main storyline follows a dynastic conflict among competing parties for succession to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, with other noble families fighting for independence from it. The death of Aerys II Targaryen (also known as the mad king), creates a power vacuum, which triggers this dynastic conflict among competing parties for succession to the Iron Throne. Although the TV show in itself is fictional, the political manoeuvring, the quest for power, as well as the lengths that people would go to achieve power is not imagined in any sense of the word.
In England, the political demise of David Cameron, as seen through his decision to resign in the wake of the Brexit vote created a power vacuum and set in motion competing claims for power. Political figures like Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May all contended for the top spot of prime minister. But what actually makes their quest for power contentious is the level of political manoeuvring and divisive back-door dealings done in an attempt to gain power.
Let’s start with Boris Johnson. The former London Mayor is known for his charismatic, charming and almost unassuming personality. But don’t be fooled by his demure and bumbling ways. Johnson is a master at political chess and a tactful manipulator. At the end of his tenure as London Mayor, many believed that we had not seen the last of him, due to his vast political ambition, but little did we know that he would re-emerge so soon. In the wake of the referendum, Johnson quickly aligned himself with the “leave campaign” and tirelessly advocated for the UK to leave the EU. His charismatic nature won him dozens of adoring supporters and he managed to convince the masses that the UK leaving the EU was best option for the country and that would bring untold benefits for all. To cut the long story short, he won—given the UKs Brexit vote. However what surprised most people or rather what we didn’t see coming was the possibility that Boris only aligned himself with the “leave campaign” to give himself a chance at becoming Prime Minister. He knew there was no chance or rather it would be a long and arduous process if he was to go through the proper channels of waiting for David Cameron’s tenure to end and then run for leader of a party so as to become prime minister. He instead chose a short cut but a very dangerous one at that. He chose to be one of the leading voices for the “leave campaign” very aware of the fact that if the leave campaign won, David Cameron who wanted the UK to stay within the EU would resign (as any self-respecting politician would do, given the circumstances). In the event of this, Johnson would then nominate himself as the lead runner to be prime minister. All this happened, except for the last part. In a shocking turn of events, Johnson removed himself as a potential candidate (or rather officially stated that he would not be running for PM), which was a political move no one saw coming. Some commentators argue that being PM in such a stormy and unpredictable time in British history is actually a poisoned chalice, given the enormous political, economic, social and administrative task leaving the EU means for the UK. And Johnson knows this all too well. This may have been the reason why he was all too happy to step aside and allow someone else to take up the poisoned chalice. Also, I believe that Johnson wants to run for PM under more “dignified” circumstances, given the fact that the public have begun to blame him for some of the unsightly state of affairs occurring in the country, following the Brexit vote. However, I believe that we have not seen the last of Boris Johnson that is politically speaking. He will be back, and with a vengeance; politically speaking of course
Michael Gove is a former Education Secretary and close friend of Boris Johnson. They both attended university of Oxford and Gove even managed Johnson’s campaign when Johnson ran for president of the student union council. So in the wake of the BREXIT vote, and Cameroon’s decision to step down as PM, many commentators believed that Gove would be Johnson’s campaign manager in the event that Johnson ran for PM. But to everyone’s surprise Gove officially announced that he (Gove) would be running for PM. And a couple of hours later, Johnson announced that he would not enter the race to be PM. This led many to believe that Gove had either stabbed Johnson in the back or the two had experienced a huge fall out, which forced Johnson to pull out of the race.
Gove’s actions have been interpreted by many as “utter treachery “and suspicious. And many believe that this was Gove’s intention all along; to run for PM against the backdrop of a successful BREXIT vote, which would be secured through Johnson’s public appeal. What made Gove’s decision to run for PM more “eye-raising” was the fact that he had on a number of public occasions indicated that running for PM was not in his political sight. He has been quoted on several occasions as saying that he didn’t have what it took to be PM. So why then did Gove turn around and put forward his nomination for PM? Well some believe that Gove did not see Johnson as politically fit to run for PM which is probably why he decided to run himself. There is also evidence of a strained relationship between the two politicians which is supported by a leaked email from Michael Gove’s wife — Sarah Vine (a UK Daily mail columnist) in which she tells Gove to ensure that Johnson gives him a specified role in his cabinet unless his (Gove’s) support for Johnson will not be guaranteed. She also goes on to say that Rupert Murdoch and Dacre who do not necessarily like Johnson but will endorse a Boris Gove partnership. And to end it all she is writes “do not concede any ground, be your stubborn best”. This suggests that two (Johnson and Gove) had a somewhat asymmetrical relationship, in which Gove seemed to get bullied into doing Johnson’s bidding without any form of recognition or appraisal. It also appears that Johnson may be a man that does not necessarily keep his word which is why Gove’s wife stressed the importance of Johnson giving Gove a guarantee in the form of a specified job portfolio in her email.
Be this as it may, Gove was eliminated from the race in the first round of voting because he did not receive enough parliamentary support.
A banker by profession, and a Conservative Party Member of Parliament (MP)—Andrea Leadsom, was a leave campaigner and one of the party favourites to be PM after Cameron’s resignation. Wasting no time Leadsom quickly made her intention publicly known and the mother of three children announced her candidacy for PM. But right from the start, her quest for PM was plagued by one scandal after another. Her first obstacle came when the Times and other media outlets published articles stating that Leadsom had exaggerated her job titles and responsibilities in some of the financial institutions she had worked for. Although Leadsom publicly denied these claims, it affected her public rating and somewhat tainted her political credibility.
Leadsom once again found herself in the political spotlight (and not for a good reason) when a journalist quoted her as saying that she was better suited than her fellow female running mate Theresa May because she (Leadsom) had children and May did not. She went on to say that because she had children, she had a very real stake in the future of the country. These comments sparked massive public debate with many questioning what the one issue had to do with the other. Leadsom initially denied the statement but when an actual recording was released, she apologised for her remark and stated that it was taken out of context.
Whether Leadsom’s comments were taken out of context and exaggerated as some kind of political game of chess to prematurely end her political ambition and eliminate her as a possible candidate remains to be seen. However, the implications of her comments were palpable. She was forced to step down as a running candidate; essentially handing Theresa May the job of PM on a silver platter.
Known for her stern and iron lady personality, she was the top contender for prime minister. May who is a member of the Conservative party has been Home Secretary and is renowned for introducing tough immigration policies. In a speech to her constituency she stated that if appointed as prime minister she will establish an ADHOC department solely committed to seeing through the implementation of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, which suggests she is aware of the enormous administrative machinery needed for the success of article 50.
While she didn’t campaign for the UK to leave the EU, she put forward her candidacy for PM, which meant if she won, she would effectively lead the government that invokes Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. But because she aligned herself with the remain campaign (ever so subtly though), critiques have questioned her appropriateness and preparedness for the job. But supporters say she was always a “closet brexiter” and deep down was in favour of the UK leaving the EU.
Although May did not initially campaign for the UK to leave the EU, she is the only politician that has come out of this race for PM with her dignity intact. There is no evidence of her back-stabbing her fellow running mates or using back-door methods to ensure her position. Furthermore she has not been quoted as “calling out” other politicians for alleged inadequacies that may affect their role in public office. Even when Leadsom’s comments came to light, May did not publicly address the issue. It appears that she allowed her opponents to slowly eliminate themselves, either by their own words or actions, leaving her the last woman standing and the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Talk about political checkmate!