Nigel Farage’s former Brexit party, which now operates under the name “Reform UK”, is seizing the opportunity to win over millions of Britons who are calling for an early end to the corona restrictions.
Dominic Cummings is a policy advisor. Not just anybody. Cummings is considered to be the architect of the successful Brexit campaign. Since Boris Johnson took office, he has served as special advisor to the British Prime Minister. Now Cummings has announced his withdrawal. On Friday evening he left the seat of government with a box of his belongings.
Two days before Cummings, his partner Lee Cain had resigned as communications chief. Both had little support within the cabinet and have recently acted rather unhappy. Johnson loses two of his closest confidants – and Britain experiences a veritable government crisis amid the greatest challenges in post-war history. The inclusion of the non-party Cummings in the closest circle had repeatedly met with criticism from within its own ranks, not because of his time in Russia, where the fluent Russian-speaking Oxford graduate tried his hand at becoming a businessman in the mid-1990s, but because the 48-year-old never made a secret of his contempt for politics.
In 2019 he was banned from seeing certain government matters, which did not prevent Boris Johnson from sticking to his “mastermind”. He also defended Cummings against massive calls for resignation after he was caught in multiple violations of Britain’s strict corona restrictions. The word of the bustling Johnson consultant carried weight for a long time, sometimes so much that he was considered a secret head of government to scoffers. Now Johnson’s closest confidante has been thrown out. The departure is the temporary end of a power struggle that has been smoldering for weeks and has long been concealed.
Johnson’s partner Carrie Symonds won it. The 32-year-old political activist is viewed with suspicion by Conservative Party leaders for her enormous influence on Johnson, 24 years her senior. In the end he seemed like a plaything for his conflicting entourage, torn between the loyalty to his partner and the convictions of his Brexit companions. His uncertain course in the Corona crisis has damaged his once great popularity as well as the perception that he wasted valuable time negotiating the best possible trade agreement with the European Union and got tangled up in questionable parliamentary initiatives. The Corona year has left deep marks – not only on the Prime Minister himself, who spent days in the intensive care unit in the spring, but above all in his cabinet, which not only has to get Brexit under control, but also the enormous economic turmoil caused by the Corona measures. Without Cummings, Britain is now heading for a completely different government policy. With him and Cain, the advocates of an uncompromising course against the unloved EU disembarked. It is now considered likely that Johnson and Brussels will comprimise on the disputed points and accept a deal less favorable to the UK. The House of Lords had recently rejected its “Internal Market Act” for the unilateral retrospective amendment of the negotiated contracts with the EU for the second time.
But London will not only strike a new note when it comes to Brexit. The government’s corona course will also change. If it just looked as if those who advocate an early easing of the rigid measures in the British government would gain the upper hand, there are now no more doubts that the nationwide lockdown will remain in place. This came as a surprise to many Brits, as Johnson’s government had recently asked citizens to return to normal working life. Johnson’s weakness is the chance for an old friend who had already managed to drive a British government before him: Nigel Farage is back.
His former Brexit party, which is now trading under the name “Reform UK”, is seizing the opportunity to win over millions of Britons who are calling for an early end to the corona restrictions. Interestingly enough, they also include those “progressives” who voted against Farage’s 2016 Brexit. They insist on their basic rights and do not want to watch a country ruin itself economically because its government cannot come up with anything to protect the weakest in society while at the same time keeping the service sector alive. Farage has proven that he can mobilize a large number of people on the fly.
The longer the restrictions last, the greater his chances. The planned reshuffle of the cabinet at the turn of the year will not change that. The departure of Dominic Cummings could resonate for a long time for Boris Johnson and make his Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak the youngest Prime Minister since 1812. And Nigel Farage could once again become kingmaker. The British have an exciting year ahead of them.