Let’s be honest, Boris Johnson will be Prime Minister. The entire leadership race thus far has felt like an unnecessary diversion delaying the inevitable, the only purpose of which seems to be that it confirms that Bojo’s grip on the Tory Party is as tight as a vice. The fact that the governing party is subject to the ever-changing whims of a man who has used Brexit, as he uses all political upheavals, as a method to further his own power is a damning indictment on the state of contemporary British politics. Yet more damning is the lack of credible alternatives, both within and without the Conservative Party, an issue which will allow Boris to saunter into Downing Street largely unchallenged.
Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Rory Stewart, Dominic Raab, Matt Hancock, Andrea Leadsom, Mark Harper, and Esther McVey were the ten candidates who put their names forward on the initial ballot. The latter five were swiftly eliminated from proceedings leaving the former five to battle it out in a frankly embarrassing BBC debate on 18th June. It was a debate defined by deceit, half-truths, and question dodging. A quintessentially Tory debate, you might say.
The key issue of the debate, and the first question that began it was, predictably, Brexit. More specifically, the question was about whether the candidates could guarantee that they would pass their Brexit plan through parliament by the 31st October deadline. Responses were unsurprisingly lacklustre, full of the same soundbites and buzzwords we’ve been listening to for nearly three years. “People are starting to get thoroughly fed up”, said Boris Johnson, seemingly unaware that people have been completely fed up for years now. “We are the party of hope”, said Jeremy Cu- I mean Hunt, a phrase so laughably untrue that it sounded as though he did not truly believe it himself. Even Rory Stewart, the only candidate that didn’t make me ashamed to be British, was completely delusional in his response that we need to try and pass May’s deal again, as if to say ‘fifth times a charm’. Other than that it was the same old meaningless drivel, with the occasional shout of “DEMOCRACY!”, just in case we had forgotten that the EU Referendum was ‘the will of the people’. Perhaps we shouldn’t blame them. Brexit is, after all, undeliverable in any satisfying way. Then again it was the Tories that put us in this mess (particularly Gove and Johnson who were staunch supporters of the Leave campaign), so yes, we can and indeed should hold them accountable.
An imam of a mosque in Bristol cited Islamophobia and asked whether words have consequences. “My great-grandfather was a Muslim, you know”, said Boris Johnson, avoiding the question entirely and conveniently neglecting to mention the time when he said that Muslim women wearing burqas looked like ‘letterboxes’ and ‘bank robbers’. “I am married to an immigrant”, said Jeremy Hunt, “I have three half-Chinese children”, and all of a sudden you get the feeling that this is less a debate, and more a competition to see who’s the most culturally diverse, the answer of course being none of them. “Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic”, said Michael Gove, in fact most of what he said was punctuated by frequent exclamations of “MARXIST SCUM” throughout the evening. Perhaps that is the main thing we can take away from the debate as a whole; the only concrete Tory policy at this point is preventing Corbyn from becoming PM, and they aren’t exactly doing a good job (not that Labour is capitalising on sustained Tory inadequacy).
The debate continued in much the same vein for the whole hour or so, and by the end it was clear, to me at least, that none of the four other candidates were capable of truly challenging Johnson. Even worse, I cannot even say that any of them would be more desirable, each seemed more useless than the last. But the biggest thing that struck me whilst watching was that none of them seem to be aware just how hated their party is in the public sphere. They seem to be unaware that public trust in the self-styled ‘party of government’ is at an all-time low, and shows no sign of recovery anytime soon. One can only imagine that they are in for a shock come the next general election, one which will likely be our most unpredictable in years. Imagine this: Boris Johnson, whose vote share in his constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip halved from 10,000 to 5,000 in 2017, becomes the first PM in history to lose his seat in parliament. Wouldn’t that be something special?
Boris Johnson once said “my chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive”. It seems that even he didn’t predict this wild and depressing turn of events. It doesn’t look as though it’s going to improve and we, not the parliamentarians, will pay the price.
Thank you for reading.