It’s hard keeping up with politics at the best of times. But right now? Well, it’s kind of like judging a chess tournament when your only knowledge of the game comes from Ron Weasley and all the players are cheating anyway. To recap: pound down, cost-of-living up; Truss out, Sunak in; national morale decaying, democracy dead.
As rich boy Rishi becomes our second prime minister who wasn’t elected by the general public this year, we can only imagine how the never ending farce of British politics looks to outsiders. With endless U‑turns, scandals, incompetence and leadership contests, the UK’s image on the global stage is perhaps at its lowest since Suez. One of Germany’s largest news outlets Der Spiegel christened us “The Bananas Island”. In an unprecedented move, President Joe Biden commented on UK politics to say that Truss’ original mini-budget was a “mistake”, later poking fun at the fact the Tories now have yet another leader by saying “go figure”. In India, we’ve become a “cautionary tale for how bad politics can lead to even worse economics”, according to The Hindu. Great, Britain. We’ve really fucked it, haven’t we?
Obviously, those comments come from people abroad who are deeply embedded in politics and are always aware of international affairs because that’s literally their job. But what’s going through the heads of normal people in other countries when they look at the UK’s beyond-parody politics? Is our international reputation really in complete tatters to them? There’s only one way to find out…
Silvia, 28, Milan, Italy
“I lived in the UK for seven years and I moved back to Italy in February. As soon as something big happens, the Italian news makes sure to talk about it. It’s [constant] shocking news, one after the other. I don’t even think people are surprised at this point. My opinion about the UK hasn’t changed. I still think it’s a great country to live in, but unfortunately, like in the majority of other countries, the people who run it ruin it. I think it’s sad that since David Cameron and the Brexit vote, the UK hasn’t been able to hold a decent prime minister. But I also think this was to be expected, as there was so much confusion about Brexit. These are the consequences that the UK is paying for leaving Europe, without truly thinking about what this would cause.”
Samuel, 26, Bangkok, Thailand
“What I know about the current political situation is that Liz Truss, who was not elected by the common people, is stepping down from the position of PM after what might possibly be described as the worst start any PM has ever had. Within six weeks her economic policies have caused the pound to crash and she seems to have flipped on her own policies and promises. This leaves me feeling a lack of trust towards those who are in power and questioning if many of the MPs really stand for the well-being of the common people.
As someone who has always been abroad and a spectator of politics I feel that recently the UK has been portrayed in a worse and worse fashion. The recent news that other countries are highlighting focus around scandals or negative news, ranging from Brexit to Prince Andrew’s relationship with Epstein. The only news that I felt held a modicum of respect was the death of The Queen. Recently, it has been hard to find good news surrounding the UK and this makes it difficult to think of the UK in a positive light.”
Briony, 25, Sydney, Australia
“I feel like I know all the big headlines but not much detail: Boris had a Covid party and people weren’t happy, he resigns after a while and is replaced by Liz. Shortly after, the Queen dies (is the monarchy considered politics?), the economy tanks and before you know it, a lettuce is running for office. Honestly, it all feels very chaotic and I’m pretty glad I’m not living there at the moment.
In Australia, we’re seeing headlines most days on the news which I feel are mostly factual. When it comes to social media, though, it’s just a rampage of satirical articles and memes. But sometimes it helps to be able to laugh at how ridiculous the situation is, especially when there’s nothing you can do about it.
Honestly, ever since Brexit I feel like I’ve lost a lot of respect for the UK and not much has been done to turn that around in my mind. It wouldn’t stop me from visiting, but I wouldn’t want to live there anytime soon. Australia has had its fair share of political embarrassment and high-turnover in recent years and, as selfish as it is, I’m just glad the spotlight’s not on us right now.”
Cindie, 30, Paris, France
“What do I know about UK politics? That it is a mess! I read that the third prime minister of 2022 is serving now… who was also the previous financial minister. I feel like Liz Truss was absolutely not the right person. She put the country in a very unstable financial situation, caused by her plans for unfunded tax cuts. She seems to be chaotic and hopeless. My opinion of the UK has changed since Boris and Brexit. More since Truss, and even more since Sunak. I was working with UK distributors for my business and I had to change due to price increase. I would never have imagined this before Brexit.”
Hannah, 29, Seattle, US
“It’s wild how quickly Liz went in and out. That isn’t possible in American politics and it seems really chaotic, especially with jokes like the lettuce outlasting her. However it’s admirable that the British political system can respond so quickly to a PM who is doing a terrible job. It’s hard to keep up with who is in and out – I know plenty of people still thought BoJo was in office when the Liz Truss drama started.”