Boris Johnson reading from a red folder.

June 2023 in review

June 2023 was a month of unexpected spectacle, and of news the media often struggled to keep up with.

We saw real weaknesses in the Conservative party, an extreme tourism tragedy, and Russian orthodoxy was threatened, for a brief moment at least.

9th-17th June: Conservative MP resignations 

A slew of Tory MP resignations occurred in mid-June, triggering pivotal by-elections for the ruling party.

Three went within a breathtaking 24 hours.

First to ‘go’ was Nadine Dorries.

Announcing her resignation ‘with immediate effect’ on X on 9th June, she had denied plans to resign only hours earlier on TalkTV.

She resigned formally 81 days later on 29th August, as she investigated why she was blocked from Boris Johnson’s honour’s list. 

The second to scramble was former PM Boris Johnson.

He announced the news in a statement the same evening criticising Sunak and describing the Privileges Committee investigation into whether he misled Parliament as a “witch hunt.”

The dust had not settled before another Boris ally quit the following day.

Selby and Ainsty MP Nigel Adams took flight; speculation suggested he also resigned in protest of being blocked from Johnson’s honours list.

Later, on 17th June, David Warburton, who was suspended from the Tory party in April 2022, resigned from his Somerton and Frome seat amid accusations of sexual assault and drug abuse. 

The subsequent by-elections saw two constituencies with strong majorities flip from blue to red, and another turn to Lib Dem.

Johnson’s former seat narrowly maintained a Tory majority because of tensions over ULEZ.

18th-22nd June: Titan submersible

The most captivating story this year, to which the ever-watching news cycle was totally blind for days, was the missing Titan submersible.

Media attention focused on the North Atlantic ocean from 18th June as contact was lost with an OceanGate deep sea submersible diving to the wreck of the Titanic. 

The world was entranced as the grim hours were counted down before the submersible ran out of oxygen, and the five aboard, including OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, could be assumed dead. 

There was no sign of Titan until debris was located on 22nd June 500m away from the Titanic wreck.

In the interim, the world wondered what life would be like for the five crewmembers squeezed into a small capsule in the deep depths of the ocean.

It was confirmed the submersible, which Rush had assured was safe, imploded under high water pressure, and all crewmembers likely died instantly, before they knew their lives were threatened. 

There was anticlimax, as our hopes of and anxieties for any survivors had been dashed before the story was even first reported.

Ethical questions of extreme tourism and how the richest in society spend their wealth circled across social media.

23rd-24th June: Prigozhin coup

If we were blind to the events of the Titan submersible, we experienced one of the most visually striking stories of the year a day later. 

Putin’s former chef and the subsequent leader of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin began a coup to challenge those leading Russia’s war in Ukraine.

This was something – given Putin’s ruthlessness – no one expected. 

The visuals were surreal: military vehicles rolling up the motorway to within 200km of Moscow, Wagner members in full military gear ordering fast food at a former McDonalds, and a video of Prigozhin announcing he had captured the main military sites in Rostov-on-Don.

But the insurrection ended before the world had a chance to fully realise it had begun.

A deal to end the insurrection was brokered between Prigozhin and Belarusian premier Aleksandr Lukashenko on 24th June.

The mercenaries fled to Belarus and then reportedly onto Africa.

Image credit: Number 10

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