I’m wandering across Scotland spreading time between tasting Scotch, admiring the stunning terrain, imbibing the Scottish way, and witnessing historic political events in the UK from Melrose, on the Scottish-English border. DominatingMore
The recent Australia, U.S., and UK $368 billion deal on buying nuclear submarines has been termed by Paul Keating, a former Australian prime minister, as the “worst deal in all history.” It commits Australia to buy conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines that will be delivered in the early 2040s. These will be based on new nuclear reactor designs yet to be developed by the UK. Meanwhile, starting from the 2030s, “pending approval from the U.S. Congress, the United States intends to sell Australia three Virginia class submarines, with the potential to sell up to two more if needed” (Trilateral Australia-UK-U.S. Partnership on Nuclear-Powered Submarines, March 13, 2023; emphasis mine). According to the details, it appears that this agreement commits Australia to buy from the U.S. eight new nuclear submarines, to be delivered from the 2040s through the end of the 2050s. If nuclear submarines were so crucial for Australia’s security, for which it broke its existing diesel-powered submarine deal with France, this agreement provides no credible answers.
For those who have been following the nuclear proliferation issues, the deal raises a different red flag. If submarine nuclear reactor technology and weapons-grade (highly enriched) uranium are shared with Australia, it is a breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to which Australia is a signatory as a non-nuclear power. Even the supplying of such nuclear reactors by the U.S. and the UK would constitute a breach of the NPT. This is even if such submarines do not carry nuclear but conventional weapons as stated in this agreement.
So why did Australia renege on its contract with France, which was to buy 12 diesel submarines from France at a cost of $67 billion, a small fraction of its gargantuan $368 billion deal with the U.S.? What does it gain, and what does the U.S. gain by annoying France, one of its close NATO allies?
To understand, we have to see how the U.S. looks at the geostrategy, and how the Five Eyes—the U.S., the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—fit into this larger picture. Clearly, the U.S. believes that the core of the NATO alliance is the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada for the Atlantic and the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia for the Indo-Pacific. The rest of its allies, NATO allies in Europe and Japan and South Korea in East and South Asia, are around this Five Eyes core. That is why the United States was willing to offend France to broker a deal with Australia.
What does the U.S. get out of this deal? On the promise of eight nuclear submarines that will be given to Australia two to four decades down the line, the U.S. gets access to Australia to be used as a base for supporting its naval fleet, air force, and even U.S. soldiers. The words used by the White House are, “As early as 2027, the United Kingdom and the United States plan to establish a rotational presence of one UK Astute class submarine and up to four U.S. Virginia class submarines at HMAS Stirling near Perth, Western Australia.” The use of the phrase “rotational presence” is to provide Australia the fig leaf that it is not offering the U.S. a naval base, as that would violate Australia’s long-standing position of no foreign bases on its soil. Clearly, all the support structures required for such rotations are what a foreign military base has, therefore they will function as U.S. bases.
Who is the target of the AUKUS alliance? This is explicit in all the writing on the subject and what all the leaders of AUKUS have said: it is China. In other words, this is a containment of China policy with the South China Sea and the Taiwanese Strait as the key contested oceanic regions. Positioning U.S. naval ships including its nuclear submarines armed with nuclear weapons makes Australia a front-line state in the current U.S. plans for the containment of China. Additionally, it creates pressure on most Southeast Asian countries who would like to stay out of such a U.S. versus China contest being carried out in the South China Sea.
While the U.S. motivation to draft Australia as a front-line state against China is understandable, what is difficult to understand is Australia’s gain from such an alignment. China is not only the biggest importer of Australian goods, but also its biggest supplier. In other words, if Australia is worried about the safety of its trade through the South China Sea from Chinese attacks, the bulk of this trade is with China. So why would China be mad enough to attack its own trade with Australia? For the U.S. it makes eminent sense to get a whole continent, Australia, to host its forces much closer to China than 8,000-9,000 miles away in the U.S. Though it already has bases in Hawaii and Guam in the Pacific Ocean, Australia and Japan provide two anchor points, one to the north and one to the south in the eastern Pacific Ocean region. The game is an old-fashioned game of containment, the one that the U.S. played with its NATO, Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), and Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) military alliances after World War II.
The problem that the U.S. has today is that even countries like India, who have their issues with China, are not signing up with the U.S. in a military alliance. Particularly, as the U.S. is now in an economic war with a number of countries, not just Russia and China, such as Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Somalia. While India was willing to join the Quad—the U.S., Australia, Japan, and India—and participate in military exercises, it backed off from the Quad becoming a military alliance. This explains the pressure on Australia to partner with the U.S. militarily, particularly in Southeast Asia.
It still fails to explain what is in it for Australia. Even the five Virginia class nuclear submarines that Australia may get second hand are subject to U.S. congressional approval. Those who follow U.S. politics know that the U.S. is currently treaty incapable; it has not ratified a single treaty on issues from global warming to the law of the seas in recent years. The other eight are a good 20-40 years away; who knows what the world would look like that far down the line.
Why, if naval security was its objective, did Australia choose an iffy nuclear submarine agreement with the U.S. over a sure-shot supply of French submarines? This is a question that Malcolm Turnbull and Paul Keating, the Australian Labor Party’s former PMs, asked. It makes sense only if we understand that Australia now sees itself as a cog in the U.S. wheel for this region. And it is a vision of U.S. naval power projection in the region that today Australia shares. The vision is that settler colonial and ex-colonial powers—the G7-AUKUS—should be the ones making the rules of the current international order. And behind the talk of international order is the mailed fist of the U.S., NATO, and AUKUS. This is what Australia’s nuclear submarine deal really means.
Seventy-seven pieces of lost Cambodian ancient jewelry, handed over by the family of the late antique collector Douglas Latchford, had been returned to Cambodia from Britain, said a press statement from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts on Monday.
Arriving in Cambodia last Friday, gold and other precious metal pieces, made during the pre-Angkorian and Angkorian periods, included crowns, necklaces, bracelets, belts, earrings and amulets, the statement said.
A number of them had been featured in the book Khmer Gold: Gifts of the Gods, co-authored by Emma C. Bunker and Douglas A.J. Latchford (2008), the statement said, adding that many of the objects had never been seen by the public before.
The statement said this returned collection was in addition to other stone and bronze artifacts already returned from Britain to Cambodia in September of 2021.
Cambodian Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona said peace and political stability had given an opportunity for Cambodia to reclaim those invaluable treasures which had been looted from the kingdom during war decades ago.
“The repatriation of these national treasures opens a new era of understanding and scholarship about the Angkorian empire and its significance to the world,” she said.
Sackona also called on private individuals, museums and other institutions around the world that are in possession of Cambodian artifacts to return them to the Southeast Asian country.
“We consider such returns as a noble act, which not only demonstrates important contributions to a nation’s culture, but also contributes to the reconciliation and healing of Cambodians who went through decades of civil war,” she said.
On Sept. 18, 2020, the family of Latchford agreed to give his entire extraordinary collection of Cambodian antiquities back to Cambodia after three years of negotiations, according to the ministry.
PHNOM PENH, Feb. 21 (Xinhua)
A Bloomberg report cited unnamed British ministers, diplomats and officials to the effect that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has tasked senior ministers and officials to draw up plans for rebuilding the UK’s relations with the EU after years of acrimony since Brexit, “across a range of policy areas” on defence, migration, trade, energy and international standards.
Britain hopes to come up in the coming days with a new initiative on post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland. The policy shift is projected as “a reflection of a changing reality” rather than an admission of the colossal failure of Brexit.
The “changing reality” could be anything ranging from the political necessity for Sunak who completed this first 100 days in office as PM to show dynamism as the country heads for general election next year. But the signs are that Britain could be in the long game.
In politics and diplomacy, the sub-plot often turns out to be more far-reaching than the main plot. In the present case, the Brexit is the main plot but laying the foundation for a more comprehensive improvement in UK’s ties with the EU bloc constitutes a consequential sub-plot that is even more consequential.
Sunak’s blossoming personal equations with French President Emmanuel Macron pave the way for cooperation with France, as Europe’s power dynamic after the yearlong Ukraine conflict is evolving. Sunak and Macron are on the same page on Ukraine, although the UK is far more vocal and takes a hands-on role in the war. Last week, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky travelled from Kiev to London and then onward to Paris to meet Macron on a British government plane.
Sunak and Macron have much in common as two highly educated politicians and finance ministers. Politico dubbed them as “two peas in a pod” who favour tailored skinny blue suits; Guardian labelled it as a “bromance” of two ex-finance ministers with common threads in their backgrounds and routes to politics. (Both millionaires are the eldest sons of doctors.)
That said, the UK and France are great powers with a rich historical memory who wouldn’t act impulsively. In the context of the realignment under way in European politics since the war began in Ukraine, there is an opportunity and need to reset Franco-British ties. Both countries are at sea, rudderless as past certainties — EU anchor sheet for Sunak and the Franco-German axis for Macron — have vanished.
The pomp and ceremony of the 60th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty in Paris on January 22 exposed the futility of recapturing the verve of the Franco-German axis in the dramatically changed milieu in European politics. As for post-Brexit Britain, it finds itself in a cul-de-sac and is struggling to figure out an exit strategy.
The future challenge for both countries is about the need to work on a way ahead for the “big picture” of European integration while also seeking compromise and a common path on many complex and difficult policies.
At the time of the Brexit negotiations six years ago, Britain didn’t reciprocate the EU’s push for more defence cooperation. On the contrary, one of the proposals under consideration in London currently is a formal defence and security relationship and dialogue between the UK and EU, as well as a legal agreement to more easily allow the British military to join EU operations.
Macron no longer says that the NATO is “brain-dead.” Britain intends to propose a plan at the NATO summit in Lithuania in July for a defence budget by member states going beyond the group’s existing commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence.
Sunak will accept Defense Secretary Ben Wallace’s call for greater investment in Britain’s Armed Forces, and a post-Ukraine update to the Integrated Review of British defence, security and foreign policy, which is due in the coming weeks. In political terms, he is consolidating his credentials to lead his party.
On the other hand, the recent heated behind-the-scenes disagreements with Germany regarding the Ukraine war on issues such as tanks saw France and the UK more aligned on foreign and defence policy than at any point in decades. Historically, the UK and France have the most powerful militaries in Europe. But the so-called Zeitenwende is Germany’s biggest rearmament since World War II.
What is unspoken is about the trend toward the rearmament of Germany and about the global role that Berlin will play. Two days after Russia’s special military operation began in Ukraine, in an emotional speech to the Bundestag, Chancellor Olaf Scholz declared: “We are experiencing a Zeitenwende.”
The Zeitenwende becomesa watershed moment, a changing of the times, a “turning point” in German security policy, as Scholz promised to raise military spending to at least 2% of GDP and create a 100 billion euro defence fund. The ratings of Scholz and his Social Democratic Party soared.
The Bundeswehr may be in some ways a domestic political project but it has a foreign policy dimension. The Zeitenwende will make Germany’s military budget the third largest in the world, coming after the US and China and leaving France and the UK trailing behind.
Indeed, the game between all parties around the West’s conflict with Russia has intensified, and the geopolitical situation in Europe has undergone drastic changes. It is against this background that Poland has sought nuclear sharing with the US to relieve its own security pressure.
On September 1, the 73rd anniversary of Germany’s invasion of Poland, Warsaw released the final report which maintained that the country was entitled to approx. $1.39 trillion as war reparations from Berlin. Following Germany’s refusal to pay war reparations, Poland is calling on the US and the UN for support.
Britain and France know only too well from history that militarisation does not guarantee peace. With the Zeitenwende, Germany is set to become a cornerstone of conventional interstate war power in Europe. And the machine behind this will be a German military-industrial complex.
Enter Seymour Hersh. The investigative report by the renowned American journalist Seymour Hersh on February 8 lays bare that the US Navy executed the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines and, furthermore, that the White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan himself oversaw the plans for the covert operation — even before the Russian operation began in Ukraine.
This sabotage is the culmination of a long-term American strategy dating back to the cold war era to dismantle the extensive economic links between Moscow and Germany. The US oil companies have profited immensely by shifting German energy consumption away from Russia, which has also created a difficult environment for broader German industry as a competitor to American goods.
Hersh’s report deals a humiliating blow to German pride and national honour. There is deafening silence in Berlin. What ensues can only be known if and when the Ukraine conflict ends. But the Biden Administration is in no hurry to end the conflict and is instead leading from the rear a campaign to lock in Germany to the fight against Russia in Ukraine.
A more dangerous world is ahead, which dictates that there is no choice but to work closely with allies. This means Britain and France moving away from the past collisions with each other and toward a more stable relationship as critical friends.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak marked 100 days in 10 Downing Street on Thursday, February 2, 2023 pleading to restore trust, confidence, and integrity in politics. But how does it feel to be first among equals as Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, today?
Mr Sunak’s premiership began on October 25, 2022 after former Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned after just six weeks. He was the runner-up in the summer Tory leadership race and was the only candidate to receive 100 supporting MPs in the second contest. Despite support among the Tory party, he has no public mandate, many state. “The Southampton-born former investment banker had served as an MP for his Yorkshire constituency of Richmond since 2015 and been a cabinet member for two years before becoming the youngest British Prime Minister in over 200 years and the first of Asian descent”.
The most pressing issue upon entering office was to stabilise the economy after Ms Truss left it in a volatile state, wiping £30 billion from it in less than three months. Alongside his Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, Mr Sunak has lowered inflation, despite its remaining high, and worked to increase growth and get public finances back on a sustainable path. Mr Sunak promised to clear up Tory sleaze but has still been faced with several issues. Last week Mr Sunak sacked his Party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi over his tax affairs after an independent investigation. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab is also the subject of a formal investigation into bullying”. This is called the “balancing act”.
He also is finding it hard to unite the Conservative Party, as there are rumblings within and outside.
Politics and Position in Britain
Being Prime Minister for 100 days today in Britain, is like being “top dog” for 100 years. Or so it seems?
Many feel the position of Prime Minister of Great Britain is a poisoned chalice? Economically, the UK is viewed by some abroad “less a poisoned chalice and more a poisoned barrel”. By some assessments, the UK is already in recession with a massive hole gaping in its public finances. Soaring inflation is hitting the public and the Bank of England has raised interest rates to keep pace from 3.5% to 4% on 2 February, to bring inflation down to BOE official target of 2%. But it is a far cry, as inflation is in double figures today and not expected to come down until December 2023.
Higher energy costs are starting to hit households hard this winter. Gas meters have been compulsorily installed in homes of “the vulnerable” unable to pay their bills and there is a big hue and cry by Labour. Meanwhile, there is nationwide industrial unrest, including in postal services and transport, nurses, ambulance drivers, doctors, even Civil Servants.
Like many fellow Conservatives, Sunak is suspicious of China. He considers it “the biggest threat, more than Russia” to the UK and has called for the shutdown of Confucius Institutes in Britain. Whether he will prosecute policies against the world’s No 2 economy as Prime Minister, remains to be seen.
No one will believe it if I say, a lucrative future awaits him in the United States, at any time of his choosing? That does not mean, he will jump ship anytime now, as he has many friends in the “business world,” who would egg him on to stay on at least until the next General Election in 2024.
Being Prime Minister is a stepping stone to returning to United States at some foreseeable future as he is quite young, capable, enthusiastic and willing to work to the bone.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, is watching and waiting in the wings to take it on, “as the “empire strikes again,” and if and when it becomes vacant?
When an ugly power play marks the end of the career of a phenomenally successful politician, it presents a painful sight. From all accounts in the British press in the most recent weeks, it was clear that the night of the long knives was approaching for the most photogenic prime minister Great Britain and Northern Ireland ever produced — Liz Truss.
Enoch Powell, if I remember correctly, once said that the tragedy of most politicians is that they do not know when to quit public life before the sun starts descending westward on their career. Indeed, Truss invited upon herself such an ignominious end to her stunning political career.
For, she should have known that in life, it’s more important to be aware of one’s weaknesses than strengths. But she was fired up by an overvaulting ambition to slip into the shoes of Margaret Thatcher, while it was crystal clear to anyone who watched her controversial visit to Moscow in February that Truss was perilously close to being exposed as an incompetent politician. Come to think of it, she eagerly sought an invitation from Moscow keenly seeking media headlines as a tough-talking diplomat even as the storms were gathering over Ukraine.
But then, Truss probably believes that success and competence are not necessarily inter-related and politics is all about packaging and marketing — or, plain luck. She’s right in thinking so. Boris Johnson had his uses for her. But Truss ignored that Britain is not only sick but likely terminally ill, and only a politician with a magic wand can navigate the country out of its misery, and that she was not up to the task.
The result is that within a month of her time as prime minister, Truss has proved that Elensky curse is real. If she wanted to abandon plans to scrap the scheduled increase in corporation tax from 19 to 25 percent, it was bad. But when she retracted, that was also bad. The political atmosphere became sulphurous.
Of course, a day is a long time in politics, but from the look of it, Truss is a burnt-out case and her days as prime minister are numbered. Attention has already turned to Rishi Sunak as her likely successor. Will that make any difference?
Sunak bears an uncanny resemblance to Barack Obama — a voluble, charismatic, well-educated globalist, who would have acceptability with the country’s permanent establishment as someone who can be trusted not to upset the apple cart. But is that all that is needed to steer Britain out of crisis mode?
A significant part of Britain’s travails today stems out of the West’s sanctions against Russia. According to a Sunday Telegraph report, by mid-April, British citizens were already militating against the sanctions due to rising prices, especially fuel price. The Guardian newspaper also reported that there would be inflationary pressure and economy will slow down in the UK following economic measures against Russia.
“The shockwaves from the Russian invasion of Ukraine will cut UK living standards by £2,500 per household, lead to more persistent inflationary pressure and slow the economy to a standstill next year, economists fear,” the newspaper wrote in March.
Market confidence has crashed, the value of the pound and government bonds is tanking and the Bank of England is restive, as investors fear that the British economy cannot possibly underwrite a £60 billion hit to public debt.
On the other hand, public spending must be cut even at the risk of provoking a broader social explosion. But, how to find tens of billions of pounds of cuts in just three weeks? The sell-off of bonds and the fall in the pound prompted the Bank of England to raise interest rates more quickly than planned, which in turn sent mortgages soaring.
The catch is, if Sunak is indeed brought in as PM, that will be the outcome of a palace coup and for the wrong reasons, especially his formidable manipulative skill in the corridors of power. Times wrote: “Senior Conservatives are holding talks about replacing Liz Truss with a joint ticket of Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt as part of a ‘coronation’ by MPs.”
“Around ‘20 to 30’ former ministers and senior backbenchers are attempting to find a way for a ‘council of elders’ to tell Truss to quit.” The coup is executed almost openly by the world’s banks and asset managers with the rising expectation that the new team might restore confidence in the UK economy — while, in reality, would satisfy the interests of the financial oligarchy.
If the trick doesn’t work or if something goes seriously wrong, there is Plan B — a general election. The interesting part is that if the opposition Labour wins — as it well might with current polling figures showing that the Conservatives will be reduced to just 85 seats, down from 356, and their worst ever result by far — the interests of the financial oligarchy will remain utterly safe in the hands of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who can be trusted to subserve the global speculators and corporate boardrooms. After the overthrow of Jeremy Corbyn, there was a thorough purge of his flock of socialists.
It is a dreary outcome. Recently, Al Jazeera featured a riveting report about the working of inner party democracy within the Labour, which shows “how the party’s bureaucrats, whose nominal function is to serve the interests of the party, attempted to undermine members supportive of Jeremy Corbyn,… Labour’s leader from 2015 to 2020,… the first unequivocally socialist leader of the party since the 1980s, (who) rode a wave of popular discontent against the political establishment, standing on a platform of public ownership of key industries, a strengthened welfare state, and an end to the austerity measures imposed by the Conservative government at that time.”
Both in terms of the class war at home and Britain’s war against Russia and China abroad, no serious shift can be expected out of a regime change calibrated by the Deep State. The only silver lining is that Britain’s capacity to fuel the Ukraine war has drastically diminished as it fights its own battle for survival. With a 80,000-strong standing army — one-fourth the size of Eritrea’s —Britain was anyway punching far above its weight in Ukraine.
The right thing to do is for the next UK prime minister to visit Washington without delay and prevail upon President Biden to end this senseless war in Ukraine and lift the sanctions against Russia, which bled the economies of the UK and other European allies. The heart of the matter is that Europe’s prosperity was built on the availability of cheap, reliable, energy supplies from Russia in huge volumes.
But it will be a dare-devil act — almost suicidal — for Sunak or any British politician to take on the Deep State. Will Sunak be up to it? Left to himself, he never sounded enthusiastic about the Ukraine war or the regime in Kiev. So, will the Deep State take chances? Indeed, that is precisely where the chances of Ben Wallace, the defence Secretary, would lie. A dark horse trotting down the path in the wilderness of British politics!
Click here to read the author’s personal blog, where this piece first appeared.
This is a moment of history as Queen Elizabeth II, a beloved monarch who has reigned for over 70 years, is dead. Her legacy in winding down a vast British Empire and forming a bond between the sovereign and subjects in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the New Commonwealth, has tremendous significance in the world as well.
Queen Elizabeth’s presence is still embedded in British life in coins and banknotes, stamps and post-boxes, in royal warrants, but more in the hearts and minds of her people, who have turned out in their thousands to line the route of the cortege a distance of 100 miles from Balmoral estate to the Palace of Holyrood House overnight, before being moved to St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland, where it will lie in state on Monday 12 September 2022, ahead of her State Funeral on Monday 19 September in the Palace of Westminster, which has been declared a bank holiday.
Queen Elizabeth had much affection for Scotland as her family, her mother Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, was Scottish and her beloved husband, Prince Philip took the title, The Duke of Edinburgh. Her love of everything Scottish was legendary.
The proclamation of King Charles III
It is also the time for Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall who has waited 53 long years in preparation to the throne, proclaimed as His Majesty King Charles III in legal succession.
It is the first time that there was pomp and ceremony as well as mourning, as the Crown passed, as it has done for over more than 1000 years, to the new monarch.
State trumpeters sounded the royal salute, before the Kings Guard lifted their hats over their shoulders, to give three cheers to their new King at St. James’s Palace, in London on Saturday 10 September 2022.
At one stroke the people of Great Britain become one family from the four corners of this nation, to acknowledge their allegiance to their King. Many had forgotten that the national anthem now demands “God save the King”.
Constitutional Monarchy vs Current Absolute Monarchy?
Most modern kingdoms are considered constitutional monarchies. Monarchs are generally ceremonial heads of state with public responsibilities, with meaningful political authority granted to a Prime Minister or President by a constitution.
Fifteen Governments and 36 nations in the Commonwealth have King Charles III as the reigning monarch and ceremonial Head of State, as in Great Britain.
Absolute monarchies, where the monarch is the final authority are few and far between. There are currently among five including Brunei, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland and Qatar. An absolute monarchy can have a political constitution, with a hereditary Head of State.
Has modernity replaced tradition, call it ritual?
Now as Britons reel from the death of their dearly beloved Queen, her lasting contribution to the nation, the Commonwealth as well as to the world at large, is remembered as the embodiment of both modernity and continuity, in a world of continuous change.
The British monarchy is all about tradition, continuity and the evolution of the style of British democracy over many hundreds or thousands of years.
However, all great institutions have to change to keep in step with the values and aspirations of the people they serve.
Queen Elizabeth’s reign lasted from the industrial age to the internet age, some 70 years of endurance and stoicism in which she graciously helped steer Britain through the loss of its empire and its emergence as a multicultural nation.
Britain is the home to 270 nationalities speaking 300 different languages, foundered on tolerance and respect for difference.
Britain is a global hub for travel and commerce, with nearly 5000 international journalists in London to cover the ceremonial lying of state and funeral of the late Queen.
We are told an estimated 2 billion spectators across the world will see the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on Monday, 19 September 2022.
King Charles III is already visiting the realms of the Crown in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, together with his Prime Minister, Liz Truss to meet the people of Great Britain in person.
King Charles III has also anticipated the will of the people and has conferred the title of Prince and Princess of Wales on Prince William and Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge ahead of his own Accession and Coronation. This in itself shows how fast things are moving in His Majesty’s realm.
The buttoned down approach to life in Britain has changed with the consent and cheers of his people, who are no longer considered as subjects of the realm, but participants in the change going forward.
I’m wandering across Scotland spreading time between tasting Scotch, admiring the stunning terrain, imbibing the Scottish way, and witnessing historic political events in the UK from Melrose, on the Scottish-English border. Dominating the news are two events: the battle for No 10; and the embarrassing failure of HMS Prince of Wales to sail.
At 12.30 PM Monday, the Conservative Party at Westminster chose Foreign Minister Liz Truss over Rishi Sunak with a surprisingly small majority to become Prime Minister of Britain following the coup against Boris Johnson in July. Truss’s win was widely predicted and only a miracle could have helped Sunak win. Commentators said they would ‘eat their hat’ or any other item of accouterment was Truss to lose. The UK is not yet ready to have a non-White as Prime Minister.
At 96, the ailing but most loved Queen did not ask the heir to the throne, Prince Charles to swear in Liz Truss, a ceremony that was performed for the first time at Balmoral Castle during her 70-year reign and not Buckingham Palace where thousands of tourists pay Pound Sterling 30 (Rs 3000) for a guided tour. Instead, yesterday the Queen received the PM-in-waiting Truss for the ‘kissing of the hand’, forming the government, and a photograph. In 1908, King Edward VII gave an audience to Herbert Asquith when the monarch was relaxing at the French coastal resort of Biarritz. Both Truss and Sunak had agreed to meet the Queen wherever she was, with Sunak adding: “the PM serves her Majesty”. For Indians, Sunak reaching so close (and yet so far) to becoming PM must be something to celebrate.
On 27th August, the Daily Telegraph put out a two-page supplement for its guesstimate of the Truss cabinet. Expected for the three most senior posts of Chancellor, Home Secretary, and Foreign Secretary are Kwasi Kwarteng, Suella Braverman, and James Cleverly. Kwarteng is a free marketeer and a consistent political ally of Truss. Together they have advocated low taxes, low regulation economy, and minimum governance. John Redwood and Jacob Rees-Mogg are likely to assist the Chancellor. Braverman will have the challenging mission of ending illegal immigrants across the Channel (last Sunday 1061 crossed over). She’s known to have favoured their deportation to Rwanda, since suspended by the courts. Braverman, a child of Kenyan and Mauritian immigrants had described the British empire as “on the whole, a force of good”. For Foreign Secretary, Truss’ likely choice and replacement are James Cleverly assisted by Tom Tugendhat, who was one of the PM aspirants. Cleverly was a junior minister in the Foreign Office.
Tugendhat, a former Army officer, and like Truss a China hawk is chairman Foreign Affairs select committee. Ben Wallace, the current Defence Minister, is likely to keep his job. He has advocated a higher defence budget which agrees with Truss’pledge to raise it to 3 per cent of GDP. Some other ‘likelies’ in the Cabinet are Sir Ian Ducan Smith as leader of the House, Nadeem Zahawi whose leadership bid failed spectacularly, as Health Secretary, and Ranil Jayawardene of Sri Lankan descent as Environment Secretary. Whether Sunak will be in is the big question. He has said he wants to support the Conservative Government in “whatever capacity”.
Sajid Javed who triggered the coup against Boris Johnson and later backed Truss may be rewarded with a ministerial post. Big names likely to be left out are Rishi Sunak, Dominic Raab, and Alok Sharma. The Truss government faces enormous economic challenges especially meteoric energy bills. While the pound sterling is struggling, funding the National Health Service is the other big challenge. The never-ending row with France is back in the spotlight. When asked last week whether she considered Macron a friend or foe, Truss replied: ‘the jury is out’. Macron’s response: ‘The UK is a friendly nation, regardless of its leaders’. Macron added: ‘if Britain and France cannot determine whether they are friends or enemies, then we are heading for serious problems.
An embarrassing event that Britain could have done without last week was the failed maiden voyage to the US of the UK’s largest (65,000 tonnes) aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, dedicated to Nato. Earlier this year, the second aircraft carrier, Queen Elizabeth, was on a long tour of the Indo-Pacific which included exercises with the Indian Navy. A British Gurkha veteran I spoke to, was puzzled about the four-year Agnipath scheme. Operation BoJo (return of Boris Johnson as PM) many Brits feel, could happen before Christmas following a no-confidence vote in Truss so that he can lead Tories into elections in January 2025. Labour is ahead in the recent polls. India is hoping the FTA under India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership due by Diwali will happen and the price of Scotch will be deregulated. Cheers from Melrose!
Talk about the changing seasons, there is no better country than Britain to change its leaders.
“Knickers to the pessimists, how about that, knickers to all who talk Britain down,” so said Boris Johnson, when he took office as Prime Minister, two and a half years ago when he replaced Theresa May in December 2019. Theresa May was preceded by David Cameron in 2016.
Parliaments are for a fixed term of five years, but it seems the electorate gets fed up with leaders as they fail to meet their expectations.
Many believe, that Boris Johnson was elected as a one-issue Brexit Prime Minister, but he not only delivered Brexit against all odds but made the capital, by rolling out COVID-19 vaccinations, which was the envy of Europe, if not the world. When the job was done, he was thought of as excess to need and booted or so it seems.
Next Prime Minister
Tomorrow 6 September 2022, Liz Truss (47 years old) who beat Rishi Sunak with 81,326 to 60,399 votes (57.1%) to claim the leadership of the Conservative Party, will be formally appointed as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom when she meets H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, this time at Balmoral, instead of Buckingham Palace, at the ceremony called “the kiss of hands” before taking office.
What the voters wanted to hear from her, she stated in her victory speech today 5 September at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. She said: “I will deliver a bold plan to cut taxes and grow our economy. I will deliver on the energy crisis, dealing with people’s energy bills, but also dealing with the long-term issues we have on energy supply.”
The mantra “Delivery, delivery, delivery”
“I know that we will deliver. We will deliver, we will deliver, we will deliver. And we will deliver a great victory for the Conservative Party in 2024,” she stated, as she accepted the applause from her party supporters.
The British people are very cautious and resilient. It is too early to tell if Prime Minister waiting, Liz Truss has received a cautious welcome. She has inherited a raft of problems; inflation – the highest in years, energy bills spiralling, Northern Ireland and Brexit on the boil, the war in Ukraine, growing strike action in the UK, trouble everywhere?
Can Liz Truss deliver on promises, promises?
What are the options on her mind? Stability is key for a healthy economy. When it comes to resolving more than one issue, Liz Truss is adept at having a bold plan to first cut taxes, to grow the economy. Who are the people who will benefit most? The rich and the well-to-do business enterprises will benefit the most from a tax cut, while the poor and the vulnerable struggling on low wages will suffer. She is expected, to rely on and surround herself with the “Ultra Conservative” mindset, unlike Boris Johnson, to help her “deliver” by promoting high investment projects with high returns to grow the economy fast.
What are some of the projects that will get capital investment? People have already been told to invest in “Wind Farms”, and buy lands with windmills, to save on their energy bills, long-term.
Will she be promoting more privatisation, who knows? She has pledged her commitment to removing planning restrictions in an attempt to boost housebuilding, but simultaneously, abandoning the government target of building 300,000 houses a year.
The big question is who will she appoint as her Housing Minister, to deliver on her promises? There have already been 20 Housing Ministers who have come and gone since 1997, with little to show.
She is a keen supporter of “fracking” for oil and invests in Nuclear Power Energy to supplement future energy supply.
She is a keen supporter of women, herself taking on the role of Women Minister, her first Ministerial post in 2010.
What choices does she have?
When she has settled in, the first choice she will have is to decide to call a General Election to confirm her position by the electorate. But will she be constrained to plod along with her current reduced majority of 60 Conservative MP’s or wait until 2024, the planned date of the next election? Who knows?