Britain and the United States have often seemed lashed together amid the populist storms of the last few years — Brexit and the Trump White House echoing and amplifying each other across the Atlantic. But in one respect they have radically diverged.
In London, rebels in the Conservative Party staged a dramatic insurrection in the past week against Prime Minister Boris Johnson, blocking his plan to withdraw Britain from the European Union even without a deal. In Washington, scarcely a handful of Republicans have stood up to President Trump, even when he has flouted party orthodoxy on issues like trade, immigration and the deficit.
The Tory party’s revolt against Mr. Johnson, and his ruthless purging of the rebels, are reverberating through British politics, threatening his hold on power. For dispirited Republicans, though, this British revolution has become an object lesson in how a center-right party can stand up to a wayward leader.
The Conservative rebels “showed courage and principled concern about the impact of bad policy on the U.K. economy,” said Daniel M. Price, who served as an economic adviser to President George W. Bush. “This contrasts with congressional Republicans here who have mostly been meek, mute or complicit.”
The uprising in Westminster came even though British political parties enforce discipline far more strictly than their American counterparts. Mr. Johnson punished the 21 renegades by throwing them out of the party. Mr. Trump can ostracize Republican dissidents and dry up their funding, but he cannot expunge them from the party rolls.
Much of the difference, experts said, has to do with a magnitude of the crisis on each side of the Atlantic. The Tories who broke with Mr. Johnson regard his vow to take Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31, come what may, as so reckless that it poses a dire threat to the nation — one that would wreak economic havoc and sunder both their party and British society. [Continue reading…]