Victory for Boris shows how tired Brits are of Brexit limbo

Columnist  | Kishwar Desai

Opinion, Oped

There was a time when finding a story on India in the London press was difficult, but now you can find at least a couple of stories.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Photo: AFP)

With vision 2020, as the last year whizzes past, one realises that while Theresa May as Prime Minister had done all the groundwork on Brexit, it is Boris Johnson who will walk off with all the accolades (if there are any). The year 2020 will bring a new UK, and a goodbye to the links with EU. Now more than ever, it is clear that people were fed up of the deadlock in Parliament, and also knew that if this time they did not go out to vote, they could be stuck in limbo for a very long time. So perhaps opinion polls which showed the two parties literally running neck-to-neck actually compelled voters to brave the cold and make Brexit a reality.

Because Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considered a friend of India, there is a sense of personal triumph over his victory. But a successfully run campaign is a far cry from running the country. There will be pressures on Boris about being impartial, and now he has to weigh each decision not in terms of the community — but in terms of what good it brings to the UK. Thus, having achieved his objective of a thumping win, it is possible Boris will not push in any direction. He has succeeded thus far by walking the middle path and avoiding confrontations at any cost. On his team, Boris has three people who are PIOs: People of Indian Origin. Priti Patel is home secretary and Rishi Sunak is economic secretary. Alok Varma has been there since Theresa May’s reign. Rishi made a mark when he stood in for Boris in one of the TV debates during the election and he is being noticed for his acumen. But there is also Sajid Javed, a person whose parents were of Pakistani origin. So it will be interesting to see if there will be any India tilt in his policies — and how far he can go with it. My hunch is that our excitement must be laced with pragmatism. Boris cannot lean in any particular direction. He may look like he has agreed on something, and then suddenly go soft on it.

If America has been buffeted by typhoons, and Australia charred through forest fires, the UK has been battling torrential rains, and it is going to be a very, very wet Christmas! Parts of the UK are soaked and soggy, and some areas are flooded. Transport and travel are disrupted and it’s good that Santa uses a private sleigh through the skies otherwise his reaching is looking doubtful! But then grey skies and drizzles are what we expect here, along with non-stop drinking in this merry season. Whilst we have images of people cavorting on the streets powered by endless liquor, the UK aviation industry has come forward to pull the rug from under those who like a tipple when they fly. They have begun a “One Too Many” campaign, with an £80,000 fine if flights are disrupted. Will that take away the joys of flying, or sober those who like to booze up, especially as the holiday season is nigh?

Disorderly and drunk passengers will find it tough from now onwards. Or so we hope!

Well, we could have all done with a stiff drink perhaps when Parliament was opened for the second time within two months. The long suffering Queen had to be pulled away from her holiday at Sandringham and head for chilly London, get into a Rolls (no horse and carriage this time) and head for Parliament. She was accompanied by her son, Prince Charles. It did not help that her husband Prince Philip was not well, and had to be checked into hospital just the following day. She was, many commented, looking decidedly not-too-happy as she went through the Queen’s speech. The one happy man was obviously Boris Johnson, who noticeably looked relaxed. Unlike Jeremy Corbyn, who refused any overtures of friendship from Boris. Well, its nice to be Prime Minister with a majority isn’t it? And not so nice to be a redundant Leader of the Opposition.

The only sad part was that there were a lot of empty seats in the Lords, when the Queen opened Parliament. Not so long ago, it was a prized occasion, and a lottery had to be held to get a seat! That is how I was lucky enough to be in there, twice, when Parliament was opened in a striking and traditional ceremony. Alas, when elections are held so frequently, the charm goes, I suppose.

There was a time when finding a story on India in the London press was difficult, but now you can find at least a couple of stories. Not all of the coverage is favourable. The propaganda war is as good as the country that participates in it, but it is essential in order to maintain the country’s image. The recent violence over the CAA has also been published here in the UK. A few demonstrations have also been held. So will we see a counter narrative, or clarifications? While the foreign press may not matter in Indian electoral politics, it is a barometer of the country’s image abroad, which is important for investors.