Sunday, 7 April 2019

The form guide of the damned... Runners and riders for our next PM

Theresa May is a dead woman walking, although her cadaverous prime ministerial form has managed to stagger on for longer than many expected. But she will not be the PM to contest the next election, which will presumably be against Jeremy Corbyn, unless he is, I dunno, caught interfering with barnyard fowl in the speaker's chair or something. 

As such, the country is witnessing the unedifying spectacle of assorted Tory MPs on leadership campaign manouevres that are as subtle as Liberace's bathroom - Poundland Machiavellians, the whole sorry lot of them. How about on this Grand National weekend we take a stroll through the terrible contenders who might replace the terrible incumbent, shall we? None of them are likely to get shot if they break a leg but, rest assured, they are all more concerned with not breaking the Conservative Party than they are about not breaking the country.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is the man who wasted money while Mayor of London on everything from a cable car that is used most days by approximately three people and a Basset hound called Trevor to secondhand water cannon that ended up being sold for scrap for £11,000 to a £1.4 million fiasco in which he thought gluing pollution to the road might help London meet, funnily enough, EU air quality standards. Boris Johnson is the man who is originally responsible for people whining about Europe because of supposed regulations about things like the shape of strawberries and the bendiness of bananas, after he got bored while play-acting at being an EU correspondent for the Telegraph and simply made shit up. Boris Johnson is the man who played no small role in ensuring Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe won't get out of an Iranian prison any time soon. Boris Johnson is the man who buggered off to Afghanistan at our expense to avoid facing an embarrassing vote on the expansion of Heathrow Airport. 

Boris Johnson is an irresponsible, verbally incontinent, principle-free, contrived, self-serving pedlar of clown car fuel. As such, he should not be anywhere near 10 Downing Street, yet William Hill has the odds of him being next PM at 9/2. 

Dominic Raab

In these absurd times, it is absolutely fine that this glorified nightclub bouncer with an amoeba's grasp of European geography should be considered a serious contender for the highest political office in the land. 

He said, out loud, in a public forum, where other people could hear him, that he "hadn't quite understood the full of extent of this, but if you look at the UK and if you look at how we trade in goods, we are particularly reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing."

Despite this blinding flash of clarity about why it might be important to ensure trade remains seamless with our nearest neighbours, Raab insists on styling himself as Mr Hard Brexit. Sure, he, along with Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, were the trio of self-interested flakes who suddenly decided Theresa May's rancid Brexit deal was alright after all, but he still likes to come across as some kind of Brexit enforcer. This is despite resigning from the post of Brexit minister over work he'd done himself during his ill-starred tenure, claiming as recently as March 21 that a no-deal Brexit will be just dandy - and, scandalously, admitting that he had not properly read the Good Friday agreement. Never mind that reading the Good Friday agreement from cover to cover should be a bare minimum requirement for anyone who thinks they can sort this shitshow out. 

Here's a crib note, Dom - Strand 3 is the bit that you really need to read to understand why a hard Brexit with a hard Irish border could see a return to the violence that had been left behind 21 years ago. But rather like Johnson, Raab doesn't do details either. 

Sajid Javid

All hail The Saj! For that is how he refers to himself, apparently - and who doesn't want a bellend who refers to himself in the third person for PM, eh?

So far, as Home Secretary, he is proving remarkably bold. Stripping Shamima Begum of her citizenship was clearly a populist move - it won't do a damn thing to keep the UK safe but it plays well to his crowd. And it appears that his crowd are UKIP types who are desperate to appear progressive in a reductive "some of my best friends are Asian" kind of way. 

Today, he is happily riding out the remainer outcry about the words "European Union" being removed from British passports, even though we're still in the EU. He says it's simply more efficient to take these words off the front of passports now, even though that explanation makes precisely no sense.

Last week, he loyally joined forces with Theresa May to urge hospital staff and teachers to spot young people who might be at risk of being involved in knife crime. Unsurprisingly, there does not appear to be any evidence of extra funding for this plan - no mention of when already-overworked NHS and teaching staff will be trained to spot the signs, whatever they may be, or how such training will be funded, or who would conduct the training (probably G4S after the bang-up job they did with Olympic security...), or whether more staff would be employed in hospitals and schools to help with this new addition to everyone's job description, or what sort of protection might be on offer for hospital and school staff who report on such young people and find themselves on the receiving end of threats themselves. Nope. It's just another pie-in-the-sky idea with no real money attached to it, and it will be as effective as a fishnet condom.

But, like Johnson and Raab, The Saj is another one who does not feel the need to do details. Which brings us nicely to... 

Michael Gove

In the Govester's defence, he was quoted out of context when he said people were "tired of experts". He actually said: "I think people in this country have had enough of experts ... with organisations with acronyms saying they know what is best and consistently getting it wrong." 

To be fair, there is a grown-up conversation to be had around this idea but, just as we are no longer in an era where potential PMs need to be at all details-oriented, we are in the era of bumper sticker politics. It is cheap soundbites that win the day. While it was easy to be outraged at Michael Gove saying we've all had enough of experts, it was a soundbite that played well with the leave voters who are perceived by all these runners and riders to be the people they need to stay in power. 

And with Gove, we have another one who breezes through scandals with effortless ease. He has brushed off questions about whether he was aware of any illegalities in the Vote Leave campaign by simply saying he had no idea because he was too busy campaigning in the lead-up to the referendum. Still, he was only the co-convener of Vote Leave so it's not as if he was involved with any of the major campaign decisions. 

So, in this case, we have someone who probably does do details and may well have been aware of certain unsavoury goings-on, but in this case, it serves him well to bat off any hard questions from journalists by portraying himself as a hardy little Brexit foot soldier, out there on the campaign trail back in 2016, not really having any time to be aware of any irregularities. Details, like any fallout from a hard Brexit, are for the little people. Someone else can worry about those piffling trifles.

Andrea Leadsom

Oh good! At last! We have a woman in the running to be the next PM! Oh shit. It's Andrea Leadsom. This is the woman who made people defend Theresa May after Leadsom made appalling comments about May's childlessness last time she aspired to the top job. It was a nasty, unnecessary cheap shot, particularly as (a) there are plenty of good reasons to criticise Theresa May no matter what side of the political fence you sit on and (b) nobody ever starts wondering out loud about whether a man's fatherhood status is relevant to his ability to do pretty much any job.

Thanks to crap from the likes of Leadsom, women really can't win - we're either being told that we're bad employees because we'll all sod off to have babies and then want silly things like maternity leave and affordable childcare or we're told that if we don't breed, we've somehow failed as women. With this in mind, not to mention her hateful voting record, it's quite clear that a Leadsom government would not be a feminist statement. Still, that's probably not her demographic either so why would she care?

It is pretty clear that a Leadsom government, just like the government of any of these contenders, would look to things like further NHS privatisation and a one-sided trade deal with the US, particularly in the event of a hard Brexit, which she favours with almost religious fervour. 

Jeremy Hunt

It is not exactly a state secret that any of these contenders are more concerned with their own careers and with the survival of the Conservative Party than doing what is best for Britain. But of these craven cynics, it is Hunt's mask that fell the hardest. 

He appeared on Marr last month and said that it would be "devastating" for the Conservative Party if Brexit wasn't delivered. He doubled down on this astounding rhetoric by saying his party was in "perilous waters" and that the Conservative Party would be blamed if the UK didn't leave the EU. To which anyone who gives a damn about the national interest should say "So bloody what?". 

Of course, it is naive to suggest that either major party is absolutely devoted to serving the people of this country and that nobody is obsessed by getting into power - it is what they all want - but for it to be said so brazenly was a new low, even for Jeremy Hunt. He was Britain's longest-serving Health Secretary and, on his watch, A&E waiting times went up, funding in real terms went down and junior doctors went on strike. I'm not sure what one expected when a failed marmalade mogul was given this job rather than, say, an expert. 

Like Johnson, Hunt has flip-flopped on Brexit, campaigning for remain and now trying to out-UKIP UKIP in his quest to fly the flag for a hard Brexit while simultaneously staying loyal to Theresa May's Brexit deal. Like Johnson, he is not a conviction politician. He is a snake in the grass but he is not bright enough to be truly sly. Like Johnson and Raab, it is a mystery why he is considered a serious contender for Prime Minister or why his message, whatever the hell it is, would resonate with anyone.

Matthew Hancock

Who? Oh yes, that's right, the talking potato who is the Health Secretary... Nope, again no idea why he thought he had anywhere near enough runs on the board to make a serious bid for the Tory party leadership. Next! 

Ian Duncan-Smith

Oh Christ, not him again... He already had a go at leading the Tories between 2001 and 2003 and look how well that went. To paraphrase former Australian PM Paul Keating, when asked about the resurrection of the political career of one of his rivals, Andrew Peacock, is IDS another souffle who could rise twice? Next!

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Et sanguinem infernum, as Rees-Mogg himself might say... He is another one, like Johnson, who puts on a ridiculous persona to ensure he gets a leave pass no matter how awful he might be. Last week, he was lumbering about, moping like a gothic Eeyore, as reporters asked him if he was going to try and convince other MPs to support Theresa May's deal, after he finally voted for it as "the least worst option". He looked like a man who had no real zeal for pushing for a hard Brexit. In any case, he is so wealthy that it doesn't matter how things pan out - it's not as if his six kids will go without shoes any time soon. 

I predict that, assuming the next Tory party leader is a Brexiter, Rees-Mogg will get a nice cabinet post. For all the talk of him being the next PM, William Hill only has him as a 50/1 chance. But, hey, if you think a man who has let his religious beliefs interfere with his parliamentary votes on abortion and same-sex marriage should be in charge, knock yourself out! I'm jetlagged, I need pasta and I'm overwhelmed by the state of it all. Don't even get me started on some of the absolute melts on the other side of the house...

Image by Karen Arnold

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