World Oil editorial: UK Conservatives should have thrown out Johnson sooner
Well, well, the political heat finally got to be too much for a host of members of PM Boris Johnson’s government, as well as other Conservative MPs. The movement to force Johnson out of his role as UK Prime Minister gained critical mass over the last several days, culminating in Johnson’s announcement on Thursday that he would resign.
Too much time. But it shouldn’t have taken this long. The Conservatives had a golden opportunity to depose Johnson during the “no confidence” vote that was taken on June 6 (the 78th anniversary of D-Day in World War II) and keep some modicum of reputation. Instead, they were spineless and voted to keep Johnson as PM by a 211-148 margin.
By the way, the share of Conservative MPs that voted to keep Johnson was only 59%, which is less than the 63% garnered by former PM Theresa May in December 2018, as she struggled to remain in office. Of course, she eventually was out in a little less than six months later, which ushered in the Johnson PM era.
There have been so many reasons to push Johnson out of 10 Downing Street, including the factor at the top of our industry’s list, which has been the idiotic tax surcharge on North Sea oil and gas production. In turn, there was the Robin Hood plan to take the proceeds from the production levy and distribute them to everyday citizens, as if that was going to magically tamp down the effects of out-of-control inflation—hardly. There also are all the lockdown party scandals, which elicited lie after lie from Johnson about what happened. And the final straw was the latest scandal, where Johnson appointed a Conservative MP to a key party position, and left him in that role, despite knowing and hearing allegations of sexual assault by said MP. Again, Johnson could not tell the truth about the situation, instead deflecting questions or making up other reasons.
So, where to go from here? The Conservative Party must now exercise great care in picking a new leader, and thus a new PM, but also do it quickly. What they need is a common-sense leader with a good head for business. And it needs to be somebody who is willing to get rid of the extra production levy, as well as its accompanying plank that said to operators, “the more a company invests, the less tax they will pay.” This Marie Antoinette “let them eat cake” strategy will not work.
God forbid that the now-former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, should be the Conservatives’ pick for the new leader. For too long, he has played court jester to Johnson’s bombastic tenure.
Among the names floated so far, perhaps the most reasonable candidates might be Thatcher-like Foreign Secretary Liz Truss; straight-talking Defense Secretary Ben Wallace; widely popular Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt; or young, ambitious Attorney General Suella Braverman.
We urge the Conservatives to make a wise choice, based on capabilities and merit, and do it with some dispatch. Every day that goes by, more damage is done to the British oil and gas industry.
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