What We’re Watching: Tories Transformed
New Conservatives – Following a dramatic few days of parliamentary combat over Brexit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson no longer leads the same Conservative Party he inherited just six weeks ago. Gone are 21 members, some of them with decades of service to the party, who were expelled for voting with the opposition to strip Johnson of control of Brexit negotiations with the EU. Gone too is Boris' younger brother Jo, who, according to wags on Twitter, quit the party on Thursday to "spend less time with his family." The prime minister can now encourage party members to select Brexit hardliners and Johnson loyalists for the Tory electoral list, reshaping the party in his own image. British voters will then decide, once the opposition agrees to elections, where that party will go.
Italy's new interior minister – Matteo Salvini built his case to lead the Italian government on a reputation for furious opposition to would-be migrants. (As interior minister, he closed Italian ports to asylum seekers.) Now that a spectacular political miscalculation has left him outside government, a change made official when members of the Five Star Movement voted to approve its party's coalition with the center-left Democratic Party, Salvini has been replaced as interior minister by Luciana Lamorgese, an official recently in charge of planning refugee and migrant reception centers in northern Italy. This move represents a sharp shift in Italy's immigration policies and a big political opportunity for Salvini, now in opposition.
China vs Foreign Retailers – On Monday, as students in Hong Kong skipped the first day of class to join pro-democracy protests, Spanish clothing retailer Zara temporarily closed four of its 14 stores across the city. A local newspaper then published an article speculating on whether the stores were closed in support of the protests. When the story hit social media giant Weibo inside China, many angry Chinese called for a boycott of the store. The store's parent company then issued a statement that stores were closed only because protests delayed the commute of its employees and expressed support for the principle that Hong Kong is part of China. Weibo users said an explanation is not enough and demanded an explicit apology. Zara isn't the first, and won't be the last, Western company caught in the crossfire of controversy inside China.