“Big Beast” of British politics, Ken Clarke had served as chancellor, home secretary, justice secretary, education secretary, health secretary and minister without portfolio. mr Clarke’s cheerfully obdurate character was encapsulated by David Cameron in his final prime minister’s questions, when he quipped: “Tory modernisation has never quite got as far as getting Ken Clarke to carry a mobile phone.”
The loss of such big names was not confined to one side of the House, with Dennis Skinner, the so-called “Beast of Bolsover”, losing his seat just shy of 50 years in parliament. Parliament also bade farewell to Frank Field, who lost his seat while standing as an independent, and nigel Dodds, the deputy leader of the DUP, whose seat fell to Sinn Fein for the first time since partition. Further escalation in the region occurred when, on January 3, 2020, President Donald Trump ordered the successful drone strike on Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, commander of the IRGC Quds Force, a designated terrorist group by the US government. The following day, with Iran threatening to retaliate, mr Wallace made a statement to the Commons that British ships and helicopters were “on standby” in the Gulf and that HmS montrose and Type-45 destroyer HmS Defender had been put on a state of “heightened alert” and would be escorting every British-flagged ship through the Strait of Hormuz. The leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, responded to mr Wallace in the chamber by accusing the prime minister of “hiding behind the defence secretary” and being “in hock to Trump”. On January 5, Iran announced it would end its commitments to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the “Iran nuclear deal”, and would continue enriching uranium. The United States had unilaterally left this agreement on may 8, 2018. On January 8, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down and was reported as having crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran international airport, killing all 176 passengers and crew.
The ongoing situation in Iran
The Strait of Hormuz has been the centre of the escalation
Geopolitical events in the middle East have once again seen the Persian Gulf beckon. Under Theresa may, the British government had been calling for an EU task force to patrol the Gulf; however, through a combination of thin defence resources and an unwillingness to commit what they could spare, this did not come to fruition. One of the first actions of the new government was defence secretary Ben Wallace’s announcement that “It is vital to secure the freedom for all international shipping to navigate the Strait of Hormuz without delay, given the increased threat.” The Royal navy therefore joined with the United States navy and the Royal Australian navy, along with four other regional powers in forming the International maritime Security Construct with the goal of maintaining order and security in the Gulf.