by Howard Green
The date is the 10th of August 2020. The capital of Lebanon, Beirut, has witnessed a great tragedy. A warehouse filled with ammonium nitrate had exploded 6 days prior leaving much of the city’s port destroyed. With over 220 confirmed deaths, hundreds more missing, 6000 injured, 300,000 homeless and around $15 Billion worth of property damage, the prime minister was set to make a statement. It was his resignation.
Hassan Diab, who served as prime minister for just 7 months, was embodied as the leading figure of a new Lebanon. After suffering many years of economic turmoil and political corruption, Lebanon’s new prime minister set out plans to reform archaic election laws and offer the country a financial rescue plan. However, with a poor response to the Coronavirus which snowballed the country’s previous problems, the final nail in Diab’s government’s coffin was the tragic explosion in his hometown.
Rather, Diab’s resignation puts the United Kingdom’s own political resignations into perspective.
It’s not up to me to evaluate whether Diab’s resignation is an act of noble acceptance of mistakes being made or a retreat out of cowardice and a rejection of responsibility. Rather, Diab’s resignation puts the United Kingdom’s own political resignations into perspective. With avoidable tragedies of our own such as Grenfell and excessive Coronavirus deaths, what kind of tragedy would the UK have to endure for a prime minister to resign?
We have witnessed the members of our country’s executive give up on one another numerous times over the past few years, with the two previous UK prime ministers resigning over cowardice rather than any kind of noble acceptance. David Cameron, a lover of direct democratic gambling, used the 2011 Alternative Vote referendum as a compromise for his collaboration with the Liberal Democrats during their coalition government. Similarly, he did this for the Brexit referendum in 2016 to calm qualms within his party, shooting himself in the foot in the process. Theresa May took another gamble in 2017 with her general election, once again failing and inevitably leading to her resignation.
The two resignations of Cameron and May highlight that our executive value quitting only when their situation has become ungovernable rather than despicable. The Grenfell Tower Fire, which killed 72 people and left many residents homeless, exposed racial and class inequality in this country. The term most applicable with this tragedy is ‘social murder’. Despite it being a tragedy that spawned from an obvious lack of government action and responsibility, it didn’t stop May taking pride in her response to the fire during her resignation parade.
So why didn’t May resign over Grenfell? As a country, we have come to accept that tragedies and disasters that have come through by negligence are the fault of those who have set up the preconditions, or the ones who instigated the accident. As our government lacks action in many important areas of our lives, including housing, third party contractors will do the actual work. Our government is therefore even more tragically at fault. Having the responsibility to protect lives but not doing so is most certainly criminal, but in its own inaction it can reflect responsibility unto others.
what kind of tragedy would the UK have to endure for a prime minister to resign?
What, then, is the answer to what kind of tragedy would the UK have to endure for a prime minister to resign? In this climate, I don’t think there is anything that our government cannot blame on other people. With over 40,000 dead due to the Coronavirus, the government must answer questions on excessive deaths amongst people in care homes, working-class ethnic communities and front-line NHS staff. How many of these deaths will the government continue to blame on the actions individuals have taken or on the unpreventable nature of a disease in a heavily globalised economy? Diab’s resignation shows obviously his inaction, but also displays the slight amount of humanity that is left in some world leaders. So would it be so abrasive – or indeed, far-fetched – to suggest that the current UK Government must resign?
Featured image CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 number 10
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