Tory members vote for oblivion
|Prime Minister designate Boris Johnson|
A few minutes ago, the result was announced...to the backdrop of Peter Gabriel's Don't Give Up - a song about an unemployed man living in Thatcher's Britain. Boris can't even start his leadership of the Conservative Party appropriately, so what are the chances of making a success of it?
The "unite the country" rhetoric was always wishful thinking by supporters of Johnson. No-one seriously believed either Johnson or Jeremy Hunt had the skills to unite their party, never mind the nation. What is interesting is that Johnson won by a landslide, an indicator that today's Conservative Party is not only comfortable with his lies, intolerance and ineptitude but actually sees them as qualities.
I know what Conservative Party members think they have voted for. I don't need that to be spelled out to me, but I maintain that is a very different proposition to what they have actually voted for. Johnson can sell whatever unicorns he wants in order to become leader, but the challenge is in actually delivering anything that comes remotely close to what he has promised. He lacks even the modest abilities of his predecessor in being able to negotiate with EU leaders, however unpalatable the agreed deal proved to be. Johnson has a reputation among his followers, largely self-created, of being a man to get things done - but the evidence paints a rather different picture.
Never in UK political history has such an inept, morally bankrupt and discredited politician become Prime Minister. Lord North's unsuitability may have led to the loss of the American colonies and plunged the UK into political crisis, but at least he took responsibility for the situation and acknowledged his faults. Anthony Eden's brief tenure in Number 10 is remembered for all the wrong reasons, but in his case he was a respected foreign secretary at the time of his election to the leadership - it was only later, over Suez, that his career unravelled.
Johnson has for some time been driven by his ambitions to become Prime Minister, but now he is set to reach that goal he has little idea of what to do now he's there. All he has to offer are laughable platitudes about "unity" and the ability to lecture us all, rather ironically, on "positivity". Just have optimism, he tells us, and everything will be OK. In his acceptance speech today he said: "D I don't know about you, but I like Prime Ministers to be able to offer something more substantial than the kinds of vacuous lines I associate with champions of homeopathy.
There is a persistent myth that Johnson was an effective mayor of London. The fact is that he wasn't particularly great as mayor, but what he did have was a seeming interest in people. However unconventional he was, here was this affable man who always had time to listen, whose foibles became endearing precisely because they allowed him to stand out as being different to the usual professional politicians. However, if the last four years have shown us anything it's that Johnson represents no-one's cause other than his own. He went whichever way the wind blew with Brexit, finally settling on the side that he felt would further his profile most effectively - for once calculating correctly.
What Conservative Party members have actually voted for is oblivion. There is no other, or more polite way, to say this. They have voted for fantasy over reality, for dishonesty over integrity, for vanity over rationality and for intolerance over hope. And, let's not forget, they have voted for someone whose time as foreign secretary was an unmitigated disaster. There are no excuses for them, for they know who it is they voted for. They will reap what they sow. The election of Johnson as leader will only serve to plunge the Conservative Party into further chaos.
It doesn't bode too well for the country either.
...Conservative Party members may, inadvertently, have done the country a great service. We need to be realistic here - Boris Johnson is an absolute gift: a gift to the Liberal Democrats, a gift to Jeremy Corbyn (who desperately needed one), a gift to the Scottish independence movement, a gift to the Remain cause and a gift to anyone who represents anything other than Johnson's cynical British nationalism.
His election will, inevitably, galvinise opposition. The fact is that he has become a divisive figure, a far cry from the public persona he sought to create while London mayor. It will be far easier for Jo Swinson to present herself as a moderating force and a voice of reason when her political opponents are the intransigent Jeremy Corbyn and the oafish Boris Johnson. The notion that somehow Johnson can do the miraculous and pull off the perfect Brexit in three months is absurd, and he will be judged by his inevitable catastrophic failure. It should also be noted that Labour will be far more likely to resist the government's Brexit strategy under a Johnson leadership that looks doomed from the outset.
Johnson will be the first PM, at least in my lifetime, who will have no "honeymoon" period. Even before he officially becomes Prime Minister tomorrow, several cabinet ministers look set to quit the party, depriving him of a functional majority before he even takes office. His first week in number 10 should give him a few headaches too, not least with the ongoing Iranian crisis, the EU rejecting his proposed Brexit plan and polls pointing to a likely Lib Dem gain in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.
Johnson's election is, as David Lammy tweeted a few moments ago, "a sad indictment of the state of modern Britain. Even after a career marked by incompetence, lies and vanity, if you have been to the right school and university, you can get the top job in the country." No healthy political party would elect a leader like Boris Johnson, and unfortunately the Conservative Party is the sick man of UK politics.