Watching the Channel 4 leadership debate last night was thoroughly depressing. If only Boris Johnson’s premiership hadn’t ended in the way it did – a surreal version of the famous butterfly effect where one man gropes another in the Carlton Club and the leader of a nuclear power gets the boot.
The Tory party has made a terrible mistake, one they will regret bitterly when they are soundly beaten at the next election. Naturally, they will blame it on him.
Without Boris there seems so little to differentiate the Conservatives from Labour. Both parties claim to want to lower taxes. Both seem utterly unable to navigate the mad woke maze. And both desperately want us to believe they alone have the solution to an inflationary crisis that threatens to sink the global economy, when clearly they don’t (it’s fair to say Boris didn’t appear to, either).
But without Boris’ charisma and intelligence, now suddenly both parties seem peopled only with the usual chancers and terminally dull corporate-sounding droids we have for so long associated with British politics.
Yes, Rishi Sunak might be able to speak with relative eloquence on the subject of inflation, but isn’t that the very least we should expect of him, given his role in causing it? If he knew Johnson was wrecking the country, as he implies now – ‘enough was enough’, he said last night of his decision to resign – then why did he stand for it for so long?
It was impossible to watch last night’s debate without being struck by how unbelievably dreary it seemed. These people want us to believe they are inspirational leaders, but they were so uniformly platitudinous and stilted. In what parallel universe is Tom Tugendhat, Liz Truss, Kemi Badenoch, Penny Mordaunt or Rishi Sunak anyone’s idea of an adequate substitute for a man of Boris Johnson’s talent and flair? The debate highlighted this truth unignorably.
It’s Brexit of course that’s ultimately done for Boris. It’s hard to get past the suspicion the vast majority of his legion Remainer enemies in the City, the home counties and, particularly, the British media never cared one jot about the so-called shindigs at No. 10 during lockdown. But they all saw in partygate the perfect cudgel with which to beat him.
Can this really be the full extent of the case against Boris? The Tories have adiosed a prime minister who’s never lost a meaningful election and who delivered an 80-seat majority not three years ago because Chris Pincher can’t control himself after a few drinks, and some irresponsible staffers who worked together thought no one would notice if they also got drunk together?
If it is, then the Conservative party deserves all it gets – which, if the economy becomes as grim as forecasts suggest, is probably a good decade out of office. Act in haste and repent at leisure, and all that.
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