Axios Today Podcast: The Great UK Test
Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned on Thursday morning after dozens of his cabinet members left. It’s an unusually turbulent political crisis for the UK that follows allegations of sexual misconduct within Johnson’s own party and a series of incidents that have left many members of his own party with no confidence in him. his leadership. Dave Lawler of Axios says this moment represents a test for UK institutions.
- Plus: Voters seek unity as America’s divisions deepen.
- And: a historic day at Wimbledon.
Guests: Dave Lawler and Margaret Talev of Axios.
Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Alex Sugiura and Ben O’Brien. The music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can send questions, comments, and story ideas to Niala in text or voice memo form at 202-918-4893.
NIALA: Hello! Welcome to Axios today! Today is Friday July 8. I am Niala Boodhoo. Here’s what you need to know today: Voters seek unity as America’s divisions deepen. Plus, a historic Wimbledon final. But first, the UK faces a major test… it’s today’s One Big Thing.
NIALA: It’s been a crazy 48 hours across the Atlantic. Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned on Thursday morning after dozens of his cabinet members left. It’s an unusually turbulent political crisis for the UK that follows allegations of sexual misconduct within Johnson’s own party and a series of incidents that have left many Conservative Party members with no confidence in his leadership. Axios Global Editor Dave Lawler is here with what comes next. Hi Dave.
DAVE LAWLER: Hey, Niala.
NIALA: Let’s start with how we got here. Johnson came to power after Brexit, but is it fair to say that his handling of the pandemic was really what was the beginning of the end for him?
DAVE: So, yeah, Johnson has basically been a walking scandal throughout his political career, but as you mentioned he came to power after Brexit. He won a huge landslide election in 2019. He has come under intense scrutiny for his handling of the pandemic. It was sort of the first phase of this downfall of Johnson. And of course that’s when he threw those Downing Street parties during lockdown, and so that was the major scandal that really triggered that downward slide, both for popularity of Johnson with the public, but also for the confidence of members of his own party in Johnson. . And that’s what finally brought him down. It was his own party that turned against him this week and forced him out.
NIALA: So Boris Johnson announced his resignation yesterday, but he’s not gone yet. Is it circumventing the usual process of operation when a prime minister resigns?
DAVE: So by hanging on for as long as he did until most of his government had resigned, Johnson put himself in a really unusual position in the country. Because he is now in office as caretaker prime minister, but he had to cobble together a new government that will serve for a short time until the Conservative Party can choose its next leader. But he indicated he thinks it should be possible until early October, when the next Conservative party conference meets. That’s a long enough period in really difficult circumstances in terms of inflation, in terms of the war in Ukraine, to have some sort of lame prime minister who in the eyes of many people has lost his legitimacy and has certainly lost the support of members of his own party. But it was certainly a test for British institutions.
NIALA: Dave, does this transfer of power have any effect on the war in Ukraine or on our relationship with the British?
DAVE: So the Russians sure would like you to think so. The Kremlin took a kind of victory lap saying Johnson tried to talk tough with Russia and now look what happened to him. And Ukrainian President Zelensky had a call with Johnson yesterday in which he said, you know, “You are a hero. We all love you.” You’ll remember those images of Johnson walking through the streets of Kyiv and being applauded. But we should expect the next British Prime Minister to take that line. Anyone seriously in the running are pretty supportive of the Ukrainian cause and NATO. In terms of relations with the United States, Johnson could be a difficult partner to deal with at times, he was seen as a bit erratic. But again, we’re going to get many of the same policies from the next prime minister that we got from Johnson, so the personality type of UK leaders might change, but the underlying policies and relationship with the US should be pretty similar overall.
NIALA: Dave Lawler, Global Editor of Axios. Thanks Dave.
DAVE: Thank you Niala.
NIALA: In a moment, we return to how the Supreme Court has further deepened divisions in America.
NIALA: Welcome to Axios today. I am Niala Boodhoo. Polls show political divisions in America deepening in the wake of major Supreme Court rulings, rising gun violence and conflict in the 2020 election. But across parties, voters worry about a decline in democracy and an increase in voter apathy. Axios, Policy Editor Margaret Talev joins us to talk about it during our Friday Policy Roundup. Hi Margaret!
MARGARET: Hey Niala.
NIALA: So Margaret, we have a new poll on political divisions in America. Can you tell us about what we have learned in particular over the past few weeks?
MARGARET TALEV: Niala, we have a project with our friends at Ipsos called the “Two Americas Index” and it measures how divided Americans are, what they think they have in common with others. In our May survey, we actually saw an opening, which suggested that since late last year, the Russian invasion of Ukraine had created a time when Americans felt more optimistic about having more in common with each other because they had a common enemy. It’s over. Since the Roe decision, our latest numbers from Ipsos, which we report today, show that these divisions have grown significantly over the past month, particularly among Democrats and among independents. They show that Democrats, 85% of Democrats say they have nothing in common with people from the other party. And, independents have gone from about half of independents to nearly two-thirds saying they really have nothing in common with people in the Democratic or Republican party. When you look at the timing of this, this change has taken place since the Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade. And the question is, is this the new normal, or is this a temporary change and Americans will somehow become divided again.
NIALA: What do we know about what people think of major party leadership in the Democratic and Republican party right now?
MARGARET: If you look at the two leaders like Joe Biden and Donald Trump, they don’t feel good with either of them. Something like, 7 out of 10 Americans say Joe Biden shouldn’t run again and 6 out of 10 say Donald Trump shouldn’t run. It’s a Harvard-Harris poll that came out recently. And it’s a little different from party to party. There are proportionally more Democrats who don’t want to see Biden run again, than Republicans who don’t want to see Trump again. But when you look at America as a whole, most Americans don’t want any one of them to continue leading the country or their respective parties.
NIALA: So given that divide, there’s a growing movement to counter voter apathy, including with a nonpartisan group hosting dinner parties for friends to come together and pledge to protect democracy. Margaret first, when we talk about voter apathy, what exactly do we mean, people don’t want to vote?
MARGARET: People don’t feel apathetic about problems. We know people are deeply concerned about inflation, they are deeply concerned about abortion rights or gun safety issues. The question is, especially halfway through, will they vote or will they feel so depressed about what they want to know about whether America is divided or about those issues, that they just won’t take no need to go to the polls. And that’s the kind of apathy that these groups are trying to counter. There are a lot of these bands that have sprung up over the past few years, they’re all doing something a little different. Some deliberately aimed to bring people from different parties together to debate, some aimed for civility, others aimed for bipartisanship. This group you mentioned is called, democracy, dinners.org. It was launched on the 4th of July weekend and the idea is not to bring people together, to vote for a particular person, but to bring people together, to talk about what democracy means, why it is worth worth protecting and how you can use your vote to do this.
NIALA: What does the data show if it makes a difference when people are literally sitting and talking to each other?
MARGARET: Well, it’s really hard to say because it’s not like a significant percentage of Americans are deeply engaged in efforts like this. But the idea is that for people who really fear that American democracy is on the brink, not to feel helpless, that there is something that can be done, that people can organize themselves to stretch the hand at the local level, to get to know the people who live next door to them, the people they work with, the people with whom they may not agree and say: “we may not not agree on everything, but we can agree on the need to vote and the need to agree. ”
NIALA: Margaret Talev is Axios’ Policy Editor. Thanks, Margaret.
MARGARET: Thank you Niala.
NIALA: One last British title for you. Ons Jabeur [jah-BURR] became the first Arab woman to reach the Wimbledon final – and the first African woman to do so in the modern era of professional tennis – something she hopes will be an inspiration – she told the BBC after winning the semi-finals.
ONS JABEUR: I am a proud Tunisian woman standing here today… I know in Tunisia they are going crazy right now. I just try to inhale, really, as much as I can. I want to see more and more players – not just Tunisians – Arabs, Africans on tour. The final match will take place on Saturday.
And that’s it for us this week. Axios Today is produced by Nuria Marquez Martinez and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our sound engineers are Alex Sugiura and Ben O’Brien. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is the Editor-in-Chief of Axios – and a special thank you, as always, to Axios Co-Founder Mike Allen. I am Niala Boodhoo. Have a great weekend – I’ll see you on Monday.