image caption: Gurmukh Singh

PM Boris Johnson Under Pressure

  • Tory leadership contest will be damaging for the country.

  • British Sikhs should secure own political future.

Previous Prime Minister, Theresa May, was forced to resign and Boris Johnson took over in July 2019. He may be facing the same fate in the New Year.

He won the General Election in December 2019 by a huge majority and managed to get UK out of the European Union, the economic and political union of 27 member states. Some would argue that Boris relates to the people well due to his easy-going humorous personality and that he comes across as a Prime Minister of the people. To some, even his bungled Peppa Pig speech and office parties come across as human failings. He is not the best of speakers nor a very good administrator. Yet, some observers argue that he would still succeed where others, much cleverer than him, would fail in meeting the current massive challenges facing the country. Clever people are not always the best leaders when consensus is needed.

Unfortunately, UK establishment and Tory back-bench knives are out against Boris Johnson. For many unrelated reasons, he can be forced out through a premature leadership contest at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. There is even a chance that due to the nature of the Tory leadership election process, someone of Asian background can become the next PM. It is not clear if UK is ready for a non-white PM and especially one from Indian or Muslim background in view of institutional racism. Certainly, British Sikhs continue to experience such racism in the political parties, the government and the media.

Some argue that Tory loss of North Shropshire seat to Liberal Democrats has damaged the election winning reputation of Boris Johnson. The by-election followed the resignation of Owen Paterson who was found to have breached parliamentary rules on lobbying. Yet, people know that there is much confusion about the rules and no party has a clean record. In fact, the election result has exposed the Labour Party as not ready for a General Election. Too much can be read into the Tory defeat.

It was interesting that there was hardly any mention of the pre-election performance of the Tory candidate, Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst. Not much is known about him but his name suggests part Indian background. Electors never announce their racist biases on TV and we will never know how well did Shastri-Hurst relate to the voters during the canvassing phase, in the streets and at the door. The impression is that he was not given much coverage in peak-time news. Such background factors could have mattered in a constituency like Shropshire which has always voted true-blue Tory candidates from the majority white community.

So, the situation is that the Brexit process is not quite complete, the country is still in the death grip of COVID-19, the economic challenges are massive and the Irish and Scottish problems are still there. It is arguable if there is any outstanding successor to Boris Johnson. Despite setbacks, including his own glaring mistakes, he is still popular. As one political commentators noted, Boris Johnson does have an extraordinary ability to bounce back.

As these political uncertainties continue, British Sikhs do need to continue working towards greater presence in UK politics to secure their future.

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant Retd