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Necessary Choice

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There is tremendous unrest in many parts of the world nowadays against governments and systems. It is being expressed in democracies through voters choosing unconventional leaders. In more authoritarian societies, it has erupted on the streets in unprecedented violence and, at many places, considerable loss of life. Hong Kong, Iran, Iraq, nations in South America, etc., are all witnessing such incidents with governments unable to control them, or provide solutions. One of the nations reaching a kind of tipping point on this existential upheaval is Britain, where elections are due on 12 December. This has been sparked by the fallout of the totally unnecessary Brexit referendum by then Prime Minister Cameron, which has now become almost impossible to resolve. Attempts by Theresa May to get Brexit through failed as these neither satisfied the opposition, nor her own party back- benchers. She was followed by present PM Boris Johnson, who has called the election as he faced similar problems. As such, the elections are just as much about Brexit as selecting the nation’s leadership. A ‘hard’ Brexit, as promised by Johnson, could create further problems with Scotland and Northern Ireland questioning their place in the United Kingdom. However, in many ways, the election is also about the personalities of the two leading figures in the fray for prime ministership, Johnson of the Conservative Party and Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party. Both, in their own way, are polarising figures. They represent the kind of choice people in the many troubled nations are wishing to make – the Johnson like break away from the past, or the extreme political correctness of Corbyn. People are tired of making endless compromises to satisfy the scruples of ideological orthodoxy, be it religious in the case of Iran, or of the left in many others. As in the case of US President Trump, the case for withdrawing from global responsibilities and managing one’s own backyard has become stronger. (International ‘obligations’ have been quoted by many who criticised the Modi Government’s effort to define nationality with the Citizenship Amendment Bill.) The choice between Johnson and Corbyn will help define what Britain will be like in the future – a nation with a clearer sense of identity, albeit boorish like Johnson, or hung up on linkages with its imperialistic past ‘remembered in remorse’. It will be a choice between the practical and the make-believe, mirroring events taking place elsewhere around the world.