Yes, Rishi Sunak, the world is a scary place. That is why we need a new prime minister | Rafael Behr

Rishi Sunak

Before the last general election, nobody was discussing plans for dealing with a possible pandemic or how to handle a situation in which Russia invaded Ukraine or if the Middle East became unstable. Based on recent events, it is likely that the UK's upcoming prime minister will have to tackle unexpected global emergencies as well as those that are already apparent.

Rishi Sunak appears to have a different perspective than many people when it comes to the potential risks that lie ahead. While others may see looming dangers, Sunak interprets the situation as an opportunity for simple campaign slogans. With no significant accomplishments on the domestic front to tout, the prime minister has chosen to focus on global instability as a key part of his platform for the upcoming election. This messaging was evident in a recent speech he made, where he warned that the world can be a frightening place and that only the Conservative party can offer protection.

There is no doubt about the first part of the statement. Russia's relationship with its neighboring countries has been completely destroyed by Vladimir Putin. The tension between Israel and Iran, who are already opponents through their representatives, is incredibly high and a single event could push them into a full-scale conflict.

The competition between China and the US for international influence will carry on. Conflicts over tariffs and transferring technology will intensify as the rising superpower challenges the established one. The US is expected to become more protectionist, while the EU will try to gain "strategic autonomy" by speeding up its efforts. Other emerging powers, such as India, will take advantage of this volatile situation to benefit themselves both strategically and in terms of business.

The situation presents distinctive difficulties for a nation that has recently separated itself from its nearby regional alliance. Brexit was a significant gamble against the notion that location was significant in economic and security policies in the modern age. Unfortunately, location emerged victorious.

Sunak doesn't have any valuable solutions to address the issue. He can only mention potential threats from outside of Britain and blame Keir Starmer for lacking the courage to confront them. This accusation has two parts. Firstly, Labour still holds on to the idea of being skeptical towards NATO and supporting pacifism, which were the core beliefs of Jeremy Corbyn. Secondly, the opposition party refuses to mirror the Conservative party's commitments towards investing in defense.

It's a fact that Starmer has taken decisive action to remove the left-wing supporters of Corbyn from the Labour party, whereas Sunak has not been as stern in dealing with extremists on the right. Discussing past leaders who should never have been given the opportunity to work in Downing Street is not an easy subject for the Liz Truss party.

When it comes to the budget for national defense, the main contrast between the Labour and Conservative parties is that the latter are not worried about coming up with large figures as they don't anticipate having to secure the funds following an election.

Sunak has proposed to allocate billions of pounds to the defence budget in the future by making assumptions that other departments will have to face cuts. However, these cuts seem impossible to implement as the public services are already in a dire state. This tactic is similar to the conservative party's method of financing tax cuts, which aims to put the opposing Labour party in a difficult position by either exposing them of ill-intent with public funds or trapping them in their own fiscal fantasies.

Labour intends to prioritize defence spending if they come into power, as Nato requires financial resources while European democracies require Nato as an assurance against potential Kremlin hostility. This is especially pertinent now, as the present situation is comparable to that of the cold war era. Starmer's dedication to this mission is not a mere ploy for electoral gain, it is a reaffirmation of the pre-Corbyn practices that every former Labour prime minister upheld, which unequivocally prioritized pro-western alignment. For instance, it was Clement Attlee who initially involved Britain in Nato.

While it is accurate that choosing to focus on rearming will upset those on the political left, Sunak is mistaken if he believes that Starmer and Rachel Reeves will shy away from this responsibility. In fact, they are more likely to push on despite the potential backlash. This could lead to a gradual loss of support from disillusioned Labour supporters, who may opt to switch their allegiance to the Liberal Democrats (as occurred during Tony Blair's leadership) or the Greens, following the trend seen in recent local elections.

When Starmer governs from the middle, it can be expected that a growing opposition on the left will emerge, paralleled by ever more paranoid populism on the right, leading to a geometric effect. Additionally, the Conservative party will be left feeling disheartened and beaten, making them an easy target for a group that places blame on migration for all national problems and views international agreements as a violation of sovereignty.

If Donald Trump becomes the president of the United States in November, a lot of members of the Conservative party will align themselves with him. This would sever any weak connections they have with international institutions and the legal system. The current leader of the Conservatives, and any future replacements, are unlikely to oppose this trend. If we go by what Sunak is saying, that the election is about keeping Britain's democratic values intact, then the only right thing to do would be to send the Tories into the opposition.

The calculations indicate that it's not possible to separate domestic politics from foreign and security policy. The two are always interconnected, especially as financial markets react to global events and can disrupt national economic policy.

As global instability continues to increase, it reinforces the connection between events. For instance, when Russia invades Ukraine, it causes energy bills to go up for households. Similarly, the conflict in Gaza prompts demonstrations in London where citizens demand things that politicians simply can't provide.

When there is conflict outside of Europe, it often leads to a large number of people leaving their homes and seeking refuge elsewhere. This causes people to worry more about migration. The way that international laws are followed can also become a topic of debate between those who believe in human rights and those who want strict border control. However, even before climate change is factored in, it's known to cause people to migrate and is also a cost that governments are hesitant to impose on their citizens.

To state that British politics is completely neglecting these problems would be an inaccurate claim. The topics were mentioned by Sunak, but not in an organized and comprehensive manner. As the current foreign secretary, David Cameron appears to be very solemn and focused. He is pleased to see the traditional grandeur and status that he has always believed he deserves finally being restored. However, he, much like the prime minister, is not at liberty to openly discuss the sequence of tactical errors that have resulted in Britain's current dilemma.

Regarding the Labour Party, David Lammy, who currently serves as the opposition's foreign secretary, has written insightful pieces regarding the changing distribution of power worldwide. He argues that it's essential to rid ourselves of mindsets that maintain a sense of entitlement rooted in a hegemonic Western society. However, we cannot fully understand what Lammy's version of "progressive realism" entails until we witness how it adapts to governmental crises.

Certain tough decisions are foreseeable, such as managing Trump, determining the extent and pace of rebuilding ties with the EU, and establishing boundaries between competition and danger from China. However, their predictability does not make them any simpler. Additionally, there will likely be unanticipated predicaments that will define the latter half of the decade, much like how pandemics and conflicts influenced the first.

With a lot of unknown factors and very little desire from politicians to confront these issues, I can confidently state two things: The upcoming election will not be determined by which political leader has the superior plan for Britain's position in the world. However, that particular topic will ultimately determine the success or failure of the future Prime Minister.

who writes about politics and current affairs. He contributes regularly to the newspaper, offering insightful and thought-provoking analysis on a wide range of issues, from Brexit and the future of the EU to the rise of populism and the state of democracy. Behr has built a reputation as one of the UK's most respected political commentators, thanks to his sharp wit and incisive writing style. His pieces are always well-researched, and he's not afraid to take controversial positions on contentious issues. If you're looking for intelligent political analysis and a fresh perspective on the news of the day, Rafael Behr is definitely worth following. Whether you agree with his views or not, there's no doubt that he's one of the most compelling voices in British journalism today.

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