Today, July 23, Boris Johnson has been announced as the new leader of the Conservative party and the man likely to become the UK’s new prime minister.
For months Conservative MPs have taken part in the leadership race until only two remained: campaigning across the country, getting involved in debates and expressing why they believe they are the best candidate for the job.
The only problem? Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt haven’t been appealing to the UK population, a lot has changed since Theresa May’s snap election in 2017, but they’ve only been appealing to the Conservative party’s 160,000 members.
The two leadership contenders have been directing all their attention, their promises, and their efforts towards the small minority of Conservative supporters who choose to pay ‘a standard’ £25 a year for membership.
Why? Because that small minority of approximately 160,000 people have had the final say on which man will next enter 10 Downing Street as prime minister.
One hundred and sixty thousand people. To put that into perspective, the UK’s population currently sits at 66.87 million. In other words, our fate has been decided by roughly 0.2 per cent of the country.
To break that down even further, more than half (56 per cent) of those 160,000 members are over the age of 55, with four in 10 over the age of 65.
Not only that, but BBC News reports 86 per cent of members fall into one of three higher social and economic groups within the country, the ABC1 category.
As such, members of the Tory party ultimately have more education and better paid jobs than those in other groups and are considerably better-off than most voters – particularly when you take into consideration that one in 20 put their annual income at over £100,000.
Furthermore, 97 per cent of the party’s members are white – while 70 per cent are men – so ethnic minorities and women remain heavily under-represented in the Conservative party.
In a country where 51 per cent of the population are women, and 14 per cent are from ethnic minorities, these statistics do nothing to convince me our new prime minister has been chosen by people who represent our country.
This isn’t democracy. This isn’t a system whereby our prime minister has been chosen in a fair and just way. How can we, as a nation, say we feel confident that the man about to move into 10 Downing Street is one who represents us and who can empathise with our struggles?
As per Merriam-Webster, democracy is ‘a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections’.
If we were to break down this statement bit by bit, it soon becomes obvious that this system of having a select few people voting in the next prime minister is anything but democracy.
‘The supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them’: In this case, the power has sat in the hands of 0.2 per cent of the population, and therefore has not been exercised by ‘the people’ as a whole.
‘Through a system of representation’: Those voting for the new prime minister are not representative of the UK in any way – with the majority being white males over the age of 55 , who are in the highest social and economic groups in the country.
‘Usually involving periodically held free elections’: Because a general election has to be held every five years in the UK, another one doesn’t have to be held until 2022 at the latest. Meaning one doesn’t have to be held now, and so we’re left with a prime minister who might not have been voted in with a majority in an election for another half a decade.
Because of this, there’s no expectation the new PM should call a general election, because another one isn’t needed for another three years.
Sure, the new prime minister could do what Theresa May did in 2017 and call a snap election to hand the vote back to the people, but then they risk losing out to the opposition. And why would they do that?
Especially when, as Gordon Brown proved in 2007 and others did before him, you can serve as prime minister for a number of years without ever holding an election. And yet, that’s exactly what Boris Johnson denounced all those years ago when Brown came into power.
Writing for The Telegraph upon Brown’s appointment as PM 12 years ago, Johnson referred to the avoidance of a general election as a ‘scandal’ and a ‘stitch-up’.
It’s the arrogance. It’s the contempt. That’s what gets me. It’s Gordon Brown’s apparent belief that he can just trample on the democratic will of the British people.
It’s at moments like this that I think the political world has gone mad, and I am alone in detecting the gigantic fraud.
Which, according to campaign group Led by Donkeys, appears to be a shining example of ‘thermonuclear hypocrisy’ on Johnson’s part – primarily because that’s exactly what he intended to do to become PM.
— Led By Donkeys (@ByDonkeys) June 26, 2019
UNILAD spoke to Cara Jowitt, a 32-year-old nurse from Wales who agrees with the group’s description of Johnson as hypocritical.
It’s completely indicative of hypocrisy with his politics. Boris clearly stated that a prime minister shouldn’t be in post without a mandate from the British public, but that is exactly what he is attempting to do.
The repercussions from this could be extremely detrimental both to Brexit and to the NHS, Cara explained; without a mandate from the general public, the prime minister is not acting on behalf of the people.
The nurse said not calling an election would be ‘undemocratic’, stating:
The Tory membership represents such a small minority of the British public. The Brexit decision will change so many peoples’ lives – not only in the UK but across Europe. Yet the man leading us into Brexit will do so without a mandate from the British public.
However, James Plumb, a local councillor for Marcham, disagrees, pointing out the new prime minister stood on the same mandate which returned the Tories to government in 2017 with Theresa May – and so ‘in many ways that mandate still stands’.
Nineteen-year-old James, a member of the Conservative party who recently voted for Boris Johnson in the leadership race, told UNILAD that although he doesn’t necessarily feel there should be an election, he also wouldn’t be averse to having one.
‘There’s a strong case for both sides,’ he explained. The teen councillor argued that an election could actually ‘make the situation’ worse because no party is ‘in a position to command an outright majority’, and so the numbers in the House of Commons could deplete.
However, James admits that holding one might be the only option for the prime minister to tackle Brexit, because it could give him the chance to return to the Commons with an increased majority and a mandate for leaving the EU without a deal.
Regardless of the views of the public, Johnson has continued to dismiss calls for a general election, last month telling Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis during a BBC TV debate, as per the Manchester Evening News: ‘No one in Parliament wants a general election.’
Say that’s true and MPs really don’t want to call a general election. That’s all well and good, but it shouldn’t matter in terms of what’s actually going to happen because it’s clear the public do want one.
According to data from a Sky Data poll, nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of Brits think the country is in a state of crisis, while the majority (54 per cent) think there should be an immediate general election once the new prime minister is in place – 2 per cent more than voted for a Brexit we’re apparently fully going through with. Eleven per cent were unsure.
So if the majority of the nation feel as though an election should be called, and if even Boris himself can see what is happening is not democratic (even if he was speaking about someone else), how are we supposed to accept it as such?
The fact remains that the man about to move into number 10 is not doing so on the will of the people; we didn’t vote for him, therefore he shouldn’t represent us.
He might have been privileged enough to win the leadership race, yes, but he hasn’t yet earned the respect of the country.
UNILAD reached out to representatives for both Johnson and Hunt.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).