Lessons in voters’ tolerance and socialist policies in Boris Johnson’s victory – Chuck Stephens

There appears to be many lessons for countries around the world including South Africa in the resounding victory of Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party in the United Kingdom election. Never underestimate the patience of the electorate; in the case of the Brits they wanted the bickering and uncertainty to end. Business and industry in the United Kingdom also gave Johnson’s victory a resounding thumbs-up and the pound soared. Although the City of London prefers to stay in the European Union as it benefits from free trade with the EU and their businesses; they want certainty, clarity and direction, which they now have on Brexit as it enables them to position themselves and plan for the future. Even the European Union which does not want the Brits to leave, have welcomed the election result and the clarity it brings. It was also clear that although the electorate were promised improved social services by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn; they did not believe the spending pledges and did not want to take a massive step left towards socialism. Chuck Stephens from the Desmond Tutu Centre for Leadership says the Johnson victory raises questions about the patience of voters in South Africa and says there are lessons for the ANC left wing in the demise of Corbynism. – Linda van Tilburg

Attlee, Thatcher and Johnson

By Chuck Stephens*

Boris Johnson’s win has been more than an election victory. It is the beginning of a new era.

When Attlee beat Churchill in 1945, a new era was ushered in. Post-war governments were on the left of centre and three decades of predominance of “democratic socialism” followed.

Then in 1979, Thatcher changed all that, followed closely by Ronald Reagan in 1980. Prevalence switched to the right of centre. It took Tony Blair to bring back a Labour government that was much more centrist. Most British governments in recent decades have been very centrist.

But Boris Johnson has changed all that. Brexit is now here to stay, and although the SNP seems to have embedded itself in Scotland, there is little hope under Johnson’s majority that there will be a second referendum anytime soon. And if in future there is, by then the UK including Scotland will be out of the European Union. It would not be easy for Scotland to get back in, so that would be a huge Ask of Scottish nationalists. Most of them are quite moderate so it looks like the SNP is in a weaker position than they may think that they are.

The world is changing. There is more emphasis on nationalism, as the Sidama referendum in Ethiopia shows. Not to mention the rise of Catalonia in Spain and the militant Hindu nationalism imposing its will on Kashmir. These are not easy days for separatists.

Here in South Africa, it raises questions about the future of tolerance.

Moving in the direction of “RET” and of “EWC” seems to be going against the flow, if Trump and Johnson are setting the trending world-wide.

Perhaps the answer lies with the Citizens Dialogue that Mashaba and Maimane have started? One can note that the actual Brexit Party did not score well in these elections in the UK, although its footprint is all over the results. Particularly because it led the polls in the recent European parliamentary elections – blazing the trail.

Someone has to serve as a scout to map the Way Forward. Mashaba and Maimane seems better placed than anyone to play the role of Farage here in South Africa. They can engage citizens and find the centre of gravity in terms of public opinion.

Ideological Leftists like Jeremy Corbyn cannot do that. They have their own compass, which always points in the same direction, no matter where you go, or when you get it out. Left.

We have the EFF and the “rump” of the ANC led by Magashule and Mabuza. They can only think one way. In the UK they call it Corbynism. Their ANC faction will go the way of the Labour Party, which hasn’t scored this badly since 1935. Almost a century ago!

But sadly, neither the Ramaphosa faction nor the DA’s Zille reincarnation can any longer offer visionary appeal. To quote French president Macron on NATO, they are strategically brain-dead.

Enter Mashaba and Maimane. Inspiring, thoughtful, and experienced. Above all, participative.

They may not start a new party – they don’t have to, to take the lead and point the way forward. But they can be the two scouts, who visit the Promised Land on reconnaissance, and believe that the new political landscape can be taken. While others play it safe in their comfort zone.

A new era has begun in America, where the swamp is being drained. In our own way, we are draining the swamp of corruption and patronage in South Africa too. Thanks to the likes of Madonsela, Mogoeng and Zondo. But this new trending came into bloom overnight in the UK.

Boris Johnson is not just the next Prime Minister, he is the next incarnation of Democracy. The world will never be the same again. And Brexit could prove to be good medicine for South Africa.

  • Chuck Stephens, Executive Director of the Desmond Tutu Centre for Leadership.
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