'The circus has not packed up yet' - politics lecturer on Westminster soap-opera

From Partygate to Truss v Lettuce, the current psycho-drama at Westminster is at once bewildering and confusing. Paul Anderson, senior lecturer in International Relations and Politics, has been guiding listeners of BBC Merseyside through the daily soap opera dominating our front pages. We spoke to him ….

Q – Paul, you’ve been on the radio a lot recently, tell us briefly what you’ve been talking about?

A – Quite simply, the chaos of British politics! I’ve chatted with a few presenters from different shows trying to make sense of what has been going on in Downing Street and Parliament and what this means for the general public and UK itself. We’ve talked mini-budget, elections, wild swing in the polls and the resignations of two prime ministers.  

Q - Have you been as astonished at recent events as the rest of us, or as a seasoned political observer, have you seen this all before?

A - I think even the most experienced political commentators and academics would agree that recent events have been quite something! Events are always a key issue for governments to deal with and sometimes these can overtake normal politics, but what we have been living through recently has been unprecedented. And the circus has not packed up yet. By the time this goes to print, a new prime minister will have been selected – the near future will remain just as interesting, but hopefully less chaotic.

Q - The ruling Tory Party seems to have imploded. Where did it all go wrong?

A- It is quite remarkable to think that only two years ago, the Conservative Party won an election with an 80-seat majority. Now, according to recent polls, they are facing electoral Armageddon. Boris Johnson was elected as leader and prime minister because he had built a reputation as someone who played fast and loose with the rules. This ultimately was his downfall; party-gate really dented the public’s confidence in him and his government. As for the Liz Truss government, in a similar way that Johnson was to blame for his downfall, the same can be said for Truss. She appeared to have lost control almost immediately, to such an extent that she never gained the trust of the voters (her approval ratings were worse than Johnson’s) and was ultimately on the brink of losing the confidence of her party.

Q - Is it possible the Conservatives can come back from this before the next election or is it now Labour’s to lose?

A - My advice to the new leader would be to enjoy the time in office because it is looking unlikely that they will be the Prime Minister after the next general election. I always tell my students: ‘never say never in British politics’ but recent polling has Labour margins ahead of the Conservatives. It just might be, as you say, ‘Labour’s election to lose’.

Q - Does this kind of soap-opera engage more of the ‘uninterested public’ in politics, do you think, or can it turn people off?

I think it’s a bit of a mixed bag. People certainly become more engaged in politics, but that’s because they can’t escape it. But what is true is that more and more people are becoming engaged because they want to see a change in the system and that’s only a good thing, I think. As an academic working on British politics, the last few years, maybe even decade, have been captivating. As I’m sure our politics students at LJMU would tell you, there’s never been a more fascinating time to study politics, both British and global.   


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