When burning an effigy isn’t enough.

Last Saturday was November 5th. Here in the UK, that’s known as Fireworks Night, Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes night. It’s in commemoration of The Gunpowder Plot to blow up parliament. Guy was found guarding the barrels of gunpowder. He was arrested and questioned (read: tortured) and was sentenced to be Hanged, Drawn and Quartered. Now every year we remember the Gunpowder Plot by setting off fireworks and burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes atop a bonfire. It’s a night of family fun and excitement. For the Kiddies.

Fireworks night was a little different this year. Many local councils cancelled their fireworks displays as too expensive. People who would usually do fireworks in their garden weren’t as interested this year. The current cost-of-everything crisis has everyone tightening their belts and home fireworks would literally be setting your money on fire.

And maybe this year, people think the plotters had a point.

Traditionally, they burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes at the top of the Bonfire, although in Lewes, it’s Pope Paul V, who was pope at the time of the plot. But it’s an adaptable tradition, and people are free to burn an effigy of whoever they like. Or dislike, as the case may be. This year, we were spoilt for choice. There wasn’t room at the top pf one bonfire for all the effigies, and not enough wood in the country to give each one their own bonfire.

Liz Truss was a popular choice, for obvious reasons. It’s likely the only thing for which she’ll ever be the popular choice, for obvious reasons. She was burned either holding a head of lettuce, or with a lettuce for the head, based on the “A lettuce will last longer than Liz Truss as PM” meme. I was offended by it. We’re in the middle of a food crisis, with shortages and price rises, this is not the time to waste food.

Burn all the Liz Truss’ you want, but leave the lettuce alone.

Boris Johnson made a return to the Bonfire. As PM, he had a guaranteed spot but he left office months ago. Gone but not forgotten, and people are, justifiably, holding a grudge. Boris Johnson built the pile of explosives that is the current Tory Government; with Brexit; his mishandling of the pandemic; his parties during lockdown while people were dying alone away from family due to the lockdown rules HE set; his denials of rule-breaking when confronted; changing the rules when they didn’t suit him. BoJo built the bonfire, Liz Truss lit the Trickle-Down Economic flame that exploded the tories.

Rishi Sunak is on a few bonfires as well, physical and metaphorical. He hasn’t been PM long enough to make any major mistakes, of course, beyond cabinet appointments, he hasn’t made major decisions. His Cabinet Appointments have been questionable in some cases, flat out wrong in others. If Therese Coffey has the same care for the environment that she had for the NHS, then Britain will soon go the way of Atlantis. Suella Braverman was forced to resign from Liz Truss’ cabinet for sending classified information from a private email account. Sunak rehired her as Home Secretary. She failed to meet the standards of the Truss government, but here she is again, ready willing and able to send refugees to Rwanda. Then there’s Minister without Portfolio or Politeness Gavin Williamson, now facing charges of Bullying and threats. Sunak knew about the charges before he appointed Williamson. Just like BoJo and the Tory Whip Chris Pincher the Pincher, they should have seen the problem coming. The other Bonfire Sunak is sitting on is Cop27. He wasn’t going to go, citing the need to sort out the economy. Eventually, enough people told him he was Prime Minister of the Country, not just the economy, so he went.

The biggest reason people are putting Rishi Sunak on the Bonfire is that… he’s there. Not by the people’s choice, not by election. He was appointed by 202 Tory MPs. His presence in Downing St is an assault on British Democracy, especially following Liz Truss, who was chosen by 81000 members of the Conservative party. The UK has 48 million registers voters, but 202 people are choosing who runs the show. At the rate we’re going, the next PM will be appointed by King Charles after consultation with his late mother’s Corgis.

The Brits have a Long and Proud tradition of poking fun at our leaders, and Bonfire night was always a good vent to frustration. Maybe the lack of enthusiasm for Bonfires comes from the fact that venting isn’t enough anymore. Voting is what we need. The Tories are ruling without a mandate at a time when vital decisions need to be made. The economy, the environment, the NHS, social welfare, infrastructure; the direction this society goes in for the next 20 years will be decided in the next two and we need a government that at least some of the populace has voted for.

The gap between rich and poor is widening. The Middle class is almost gone. The Government and the 1% are doing whatever they like without consequence. Voting is the only legal power the people have. If we are not allowed to use it soon, we will stop poking fun at the leaders and start poking them with something sharper. Burning politicians in effigy will not be enough and I wonder how flammable those bespoke suits are.

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