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September 22, 2019

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EDITORIAL:

GOP senators could learn a thing or two from British conservatives

In rising up against U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week, conservative members of British Parliament showed their gutless counterparts in the U.S. Senate what true leadership looks like.

Rebels from the British Conservative Party scored a victory for democracy when they joined the opposition to block the reckless Johnson from executing a no-deal Brexit.

For Johnson, it was a crashing blow politically. After pressing his executive power to the limit and trying to circumvent Parliament to force Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, Johnson came out of the week with his party majority up in smoke, his negotiating leverage destroyed, his government teetering and his future in serious doubt.

Even his own brother, Conservative Party member Jo Johnson, bailed on him.

This, Senate Republicans, is how to treat a dangerous leader.

Notice, the Brits didn’t cower at the possibility of backlash from Johnson’s extremist followers. They weren’t afraid of being subjected to angry tweets. They didn’t put their party loyalty over their duty to the nation.

What they did do was their job, to protect the country’s best interests and defend its system of government. Their concern over a no-deal withdrawal from the EU was certainly warranted, as many economists worry that it would slam the British economy as hard as the 2008 economic downturn. Damage estimates include an 8% drop in gross domestic product, a tripling of the inflation rate and more than a 3% increase in unemployment.

Then there’s the impact of Johnson’s assault on the democratic process, which included him taking the extreme step of asking Queen Elizabeth to suspend Parliament for five weeks leading into the Oct. 31 deadline on the EU exit. The move, which the queen approved, would shut down Parliament between Sept. 11 and Oct. 14, leaving politicians with little time to stop or slow the exit.

For members of both parties, Johnson’s aggression was too much. Twenty-one members of the Conservative Party broke ranks on Johnson’s no-deal proposal, prompting Johnson to kick them out of the parliamentary party. Among those he booted was the grandson of Winston Churchill, which added to the uproar over his actions.

But Johnson’s actions cost him his majority, and now he’s seemingly running out of options.

In a rambling speech Thursday, Johnson said he’d rather be “dead in a ditch” than negotiate a Brexit extension, but didn’t say what he’d do if he were forced to do so.

Politically speaking, Johnson may be dead in that ditch already. A key indicator awaits Monday, when Johnson is expected to once again call for a general election to force the exit.

Regardless of how that votes goes, the British conservatives have offered politicians across the Atlantic an invaluable lesson in how to maintain a stiff upper lip and deliver a sharp upper cut when the situation calls for it.

And for voters in the U.S., they’ve offered inspiration. If the British people can elect politicians who will stand up to power, we can kick out the Republican cowards in the Senate and replace them with people who will uphold their duty.