View: Survival of the specious or a beauty contest,Brits have a strange way of finding a PM

View: Survival of the specious or a beauty contest,Brits have a strange way of finding a PM


Not many prime ministers of any country would cite Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in their resignation speeches. British PM Theresa May was in tears three years ago when she announced her resignation. In contrast, Boris Johnson stressed that no one is ‘remotely indispensable’ in politics, adding, ‘Our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader.’

Did Johnson cleverly shift the blame onto a ‘survival of the fittest’ system for his exit, and not face up to his failures? Is it a tacit admission of a loser in the game of thrones that politics is not a public service for him? Television presenter Chris Packham didn’t take kindly to BoJo’s Darwin-win explanation when he said, ‘Our political system isn’t ‘Darwinian’… Our political system as it stands should be extinct because it’s plainly not functional and bloody obviously not to meritocracy.’

The term Darwinian or Darwinism, of course, dates from the 1859 publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species – full title [deep breath]: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life – in which he argued for evolution through natural selection. The term ‘survival of the fittest’ became famous after the book’s fifth edition was published in 1869. Darwin borrowed the term from Herbert Spencer’s 1864 book Principles of Biology, which he coined after reading Darwin’s magnus opus.

The winners with respect to species within ecosystems, however, could become losers with a change of circumstances. The mammoth was more fit during the most recent Ice Age, but it became less fit as the climate warmed.

So, what’s the Darwinian political system? Well, just before May’s resignation in May 2019, Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid, Michael Gove, and Matt Hancock gave speeches and interviews after a poor result for the Conservative Party in the local elections. Tim Shipman in the Sunday Times described it as a ‘beauty contest between those jogging to succeed Theresa May’.

The political system that produced BoJo as the ‘fittest’ (sic) three years ago is now actively finding another leader. A changing ecosystem, certainly. Frances Ryan, in the Guardian, however, described the Tory leadership contestants as ‘a motley crew of extremists, fools and people who would sell your grandma for a chance at power. Or sport her.’ (We cannot ever describe our leaders in print like that since, quite obviously, such leaders do not exist in this country.)

The Darwinian political system of Britain is cruel enough, sometimes accused of using ‘dirty tricks/a stitch-up/dark arts’ and even ‘relocating’ votes. Labor leader Keir Starmer thought Tories’ leadership hopefuls are ‘scratching each other’s eyes out’. Even the proposed third TV debate – an American political import — was canceled after Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss pulled out after a bruising set of exchanges in the first two debates. too toxic? Or, Darwinian?

But a TV debate to impress whom? In the Conservative leadership contest, the candidate with the fewest votes of the MPs was to be eliminated in each round, except the first round. The 200,000 Conservative Party members across the country – demographically a wholly unrepresentative 0.2% of Britain – will choose between the final pair of contestants Liz Truss and Sunak.

So, who will emerge as the ‘fittest’? Pollsters kept on providing contradictory predictions thus helping the momentum going. The final is between foreign secretary and big Margaret Thatcher fangirl Liz ‘In Liz We Truss’ Truss, big and former chancellor of the exchequer – a British fancy way of saying finance minister – ‘Dishy Rishi’, who some two decades ago admitted (showed off?) that he has ‘no working-class friends’.

A Darwinian ‘beauty contest’ for ‘natural selection’ goes on to find the ‘fittest’ British prime minister on September 5 when the Conservative Party will announce its replacement for homo bojoincus. Fittest, that is, until either Oxford University alumni is you as the next prime minister of Hogwarts.

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