BHATS UKET returned. The fashion of the 1990s, which adorned the head of singer Liam Gallagher, is experiencing a renaissance. Dior sells one for £ 560 ($ 700); Sports Direct acquires Adidas for £ 13. Across Britain teenagers wear hats that were last in vogue before their birth.
If the 1990s are in vogue, then British politics a la mode. Westminster fell into the warp of time and found itself in that decade. It would be nice if it was the second half of the 1990s, the time of Euro-96, cool Britain and sustainable economic growth. Unfortunately, British policy returned to a darker period, and in particular to 1994. As then, various scandals capture headlines. As then, the unpopular leader is ruled by an exhausted Tory government who has little understanding of what to do with power and lacks the mind to promote the ideas he has.
Mucus, Westminster’s favorite term for financial and sexual crimes, is back. Neil Parish, an MP with an interest in rural affairs, resigned after admitting that he had twice watched pornography in the House of Commons. He first said he was trying to find materials related to the tractor. In the second he did it for fun. In early April, Imran Ahmed Khan MP for Wakefield, resigned after being found guilty of harassing a 15-year-old boy. In November, Owen Patterson, then at MP for North Shropshire, resigned after lobbying on behalf of paid clients in Parliament. It’s a launch that has been rivaling since the early 1990s when MPS were accused of receiving cash for asking parliamentary questions, and one minister was eventually jailed for perjury.
The unpopular Prime Minister is sitting on Downing Street again. Boris Johnson’s net approval rating hit a low in January at -46, the lowest level since Prime Minister Sir John Major in 1994. Conservative MPS would probably have fired the prime minister if they had the opportunity, but the lack of alternatives gives a reason (or rather a reason) not to go against him. Liz Trass, the foreign minister, is described as fundamentally frivolous. Rishi Sunak, Chancellor, is seen as a political ingenu. Critics say Jeremy Hunt, a tolerant conservative MPis a lavish version of John Redwood, the somewhat bizarre Secretary of Wales, who unsuccessfully challenged Sir John for his leadership of the Tories in 1995.
Mr. Johnson sits at the head of a weak government. He has a large majority – more than 70, but a meager legislative agenda. Bold plans to reform Britain’s growth-inhibiting planning laws have been scrapped as the Conservative MPrunning scared NIMBY voters flock to the Liberal Democrats. However, the government has found time to support a ban on glue-traps. It makes no sense to have a majority if the government does not use it. However, there are a few ideas floating around. Conservative MPwith the private question of whether there will be a restorative stay in opposition. In the early 1990s, the Conservative government wavered between votes of confidence, seeking to stay alive. The pulse of the current government is almost not felt.
Still have something to do. Public services are exhausted. Satisfaction with NHS is at its lowest level since 1997, as it stops amid the backlog of cases accumulated as a result of the pandemic. The waiting lists, a symbolic symbol of the 1990s, are at their highest level since the beginning of the record. Public services collapsed in the first half of the 1990s, but at least the economy still collapsed. This time the private sector is in the same state as the public, growth is slowing. Like his counterpart in 1994, the government has been in power too long to evade guilt. In an interview this week, Mr. Johnson was challenged about a 77-year-old woman who was forced to ride a bus all day to keep warm; his first response was to brag that he was responsible for giving her free travel on the bus.
Two things mean that a return to the mid-1990s doesn’t have to end so painfully for the Conservatives. The first is the caliber of the opposition. Labor has learned to love the 1990s: the 25th anniversary of their convincing victory in 1997 has just sparked a fit of political masturbation. But Labor seems determined to love the wrong things in this. The New Labor Party was radical in introducing Thatcherism into the UK economy and redistributing income (at least in theory). It was an ideological project disguised as pragmatic. The current Labor leadership offers little to offer such a vision. Tony Blair was diligent; Sir Keir Starmer preaches banality. Labor seems to be allergic to political ideas, not to mention ideology. This stunning Labor leadership keeps the Conservatives and Mr Johnson calm on Downing Street.
The second is the size of the majority in the government. Inaction of the executive branch is a choice. The government could still reconsider Britain if it wanted to. Indeed, it was a fundamental motivation for her support to leave EU. But while conservative ideas of freedom previously existed in two forms – freedom from restrictions and freedom to move forward – Brexit has created a third: freedom to do nothing at all.
Don’t look back in anger
Mr Johnson, who was once a perfect political player, became paranoid about the frustration of those who remained, even in the vast majority. Raising the level seems destined to remain a slogan rather than a policy. Instead, the government is likely to issue increasingly specific legislation against animal cruelty and ideas designed to annoy liberal voters rather than change the country.
Johnson still has a chance to emulate his idol Michael Hezelton, a former Conservative cabinet minister who sat in the 1980s and 1990s and oversaw the regeneration of Liverpool and the London East End. Mr. Hazeltine shaped modern Britain, even though he never ruled it. Mr Johnson has a chance to succeed where Lord Hazeltein has failed, leaving behind a balanced and reformed country. If he breaks it, he will be remembered as the second coming of Sir John, who ruled an age of meanness, inertia and decline. Going back to the 1990s could be ugly. Bucket hats are not for everyone, but for politicians. ■
Read more from Bagehot, our columnist on British politics:
Sir Keir Starmer, cynical leader (April 30)
Why Boris curses the archbishop (April 23)
Martin Lewis faces a world he can no longer fix (April 16)
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