Major disruptions rarely happen, Brexit the latest, a surprise to most observers, reverberations felt in Britain, across Europe, in America and elsewhere.
David Cameron is stepping down as UK prime minister, though delaying his departure until October. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership is threatened.
Over half his shadow cabinet ministers intend standing down on Sunday or later in the week – following Brexit and his sacking Hillary Benn overnight Saturday, his foreign policy chief, saying “he has lost confidence in” Corbyn through a spokesman.
Reportedly Benn was planning to lead a leadership fight to replace him. Labour’s shadow health minister Heidi Alexander resigned after demanding a change in party leadership. Two Labour MPs submitted a no-confidence motion against Corbyn to be debated perhaps this week.
Benn issued a statement, saying “there is no confidence in our ability to win the next election, which may come much sooner than expected if Jeremy continues as leader.”
Corbyn rejected calls to resign. Asked if he’d stand for reelection in a leadership contest, he said: “Yes, I’m here.” Through his spokesman, he stressed he’s “the democratically elected leader of the Labour party and will remain so.”
An unnamed Labour source called Alexander’s resignation hugely significant because, unlike Benn, she was a “loyal and pragmatic” member of Corbyn’s team.
Her stepping down triggered other shadow cabinet ministers to follow suit, not easily replaced because other front-benchers may not fill the vacuum.
In her resignation letter, Alexander said “(i)t is with a heavy heart that I am writing to you to resign from the shadow cabinet. The result of the referendum last week means that our country is facing unprecedented challenges.”
“More than ever, our country needs an effective opposition which can hold the government to account and which is a capable of developing a credible and inspiring alternative to an increasingly right-wing and backward-looking Conservative party.”
“As much as I respect you as a man of principle, I do not believe you have the capacity to shape the answers our country is demanding, and I believe that if we are to form the next government, a change of leadership is essential.”
Former London mayor Boris Johnson appears the leading candidate to succeed David Cameron, home secretary Theresa May his main challenger. Others may contest for the job.
Summer campaigning will follow, Tories voting in September for Cameron’s successor, their choice announced at the party’s early October conference.
An online petition for a new referendum so far got over three million signatures in 48 hours, an unprecedented response, continuing to grow.
A previous article explained Britain’s government responds to all petitions getting at least 100,000 signatures. Parliament debates them, most often rejecting petitioners.
On Sunday, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her country’s citizens opposed Brexit on Thursday by a 62 – 38% majority.
She’ll consider asking Scotland’s parliament to block a motion of legislative consent, saying “(i)f (it) judg(ed) this on the basis of what’s right for Scotland, then the option of saying that we’re not going to vote for something that is against Scotland’s interest, of course, that’s going to be on the table.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I care about the rest of the UK. I care about England. That’s why I’m so upset at the UK-wide decision that’s been taken.”
“But my job as First Minister, the Scottish parliament’s job, is to judge these things on the basis of what’s in the interest of people in Scotland.”
Perhaps a second Scotland independence referendum will follow, the 2014 one defeated, Sturgeon adding “(a) second (one) is clearly an option…”
In the meantime, she and other ministers will explore options with Brussels on ways “to protect Scotland’s place in the EU.”
Things are fast-moving at a time of global economic weakness. Major uncertainties remain, reflected in Friday’s market turbulence, much more likely to come.
The sad reality is whatever lies ahead, monied interests will benefit at the expense of ordinary people, the way disruptive events always play out, rare exceptions proving the rule.