The Two Rules Of Politics?
Long, long ago, when I was a student, I had to follow an elective course on politics. I remember that the lecturer (who was also a local Tory Councillor) informed us that in politics there were only two rules: Get in and stay in. I have always remembered this truism.
It seems to me that Boris Johnson is applying this concept to his bid to become Conservative party leader and, by default, Prime Minister. In order to achieve this, his task is now simply to get more votes than his rival, Jeremy Hunt. Johnson has managed to obtain the backing of both “soft” and “hard” Brexit supporters within his party. This is contradictory since these two camps want and will accept totally different outcomes from the Brexit process. As Theresa May found, there is no “magical language” which can unite these two groups – at three attempts to sell her withdrawal deal to parliament, she was never able to unite all the Brexit faithful behind her vision and it was never on the cards that she could get the backing of Europhile Tories that still want the UK to retain its place in Europe and within the EU – let alone enough opposition MPs to carry the day.
Johnson remains favourite to win the vote of the Conservative Party in the country, gaining the majority of the 160000 or so votes. However, a domestic argument with his girlfriend which involved the police paying a visit to her flat and an unwillingness to engage in televised public debate with his rival have started to challenge this notion.
Johnson has now started to engage with the media, but refuses to be drawn on the details of the spat with his partner. A photo of the couple looking at ease with each other has failed to defuse the problem since Johnson will neither say who released it or when it was taken. The fact that his hair is longer in the picture than it was following the argument suggests that this is an old photograph and that no such rapprochement just took place.
The media interviews show that Johnson has no new ideas on how to get a deal passed parliament. Whilst he is advocating positivity and general optimism, that does nothing to resolve the mathematics of the political divide within parliament and, indeed, within his own party.
He took odds with Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, when he insisted that the EU and the UK could decide not to levy tariffs on one another’s goods under Article 24 of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs. However, in the no deal scenario he was suggesting, such a solution would be impossible since it would require the EU to grant the same privilege to all nations, not just the UK. Such a scenario is simply implausible.
The election of the new leader will be decided by postal ballot with the ballots to be distributed by the 8th of July. Jeremy Hunt will hope to make Johnson’s character an issue in the election whilst pointing out that his opponent’s charisma and (supposed) flair for words is no substitute for proper policy – his only problem is that his own Brexit proposals are only marginally less fanciful than those of Johnson.