Who other than Boris is likely to rediscover a world where people retain more of their own money and where the state does not encroach into every aspect of peoples’ lives, asks Laurence Hodge.
It’s hardly surprising that Boris Johnson attracts so much antagonism from his fellow parliamentarians. Labour MPs are jealous because Boris is more popular with their voters than they are themselves while for the bulk of Conservatives, it’s because he is cleverer and wittier. It must be galling to spout sanitised approved lines with always an eye to the weathercock of political correctness while that which Boris effortlessly delivers off the cuff is more effective and more credible.
Being thought intelligent in a cohort of self-regarding parliamentarians isn’t much of an accolade with some so consumed by identity politics that they are unable to see a white face without feeling aggrieved and the majority of MPs cloak themselves in dreary virtue signalling and offence-taking in order to elbow their way into the public consciousness.
Boris was vilified for his remarks about letter-box women often by people who had previously said much the same things themselves and his subsequent metaphor involving suicide vests has also drawn predictable flak from various quarters, not least from his own side. He has this in common with Donald Trump that many people will ineluctably criticise what he says for no better reason than that it comes out of his mouth.
It is said, for instance, that Boris only cares about Boris and while high doses of self-belief are common to all political creatures (often with little justification) it is hard to imagine that he doesn’t have the self-awareness and ambition to place himself in a broader context.
Indeed the accusation would far more justifiably be aimed at every single Prime Minister from John Major onwards who all positioned themselves as the towering embodiment of visionless managerialism. Can it really be said of Boris that he doesn’t want to achieve something other than rank?
Much is made of Boris’s private life which, it is claimed, is indicative of the relationship he would have with the electorate. History, recent history even, is littered with politicians who were less uxorious than they might have been and their political success or otherwise was not materially influenced by their infidelities. The British are as a rule overly puritanical –or is it prurient? – about such things.
Then again, some complain that Boris can’t do detail. Perhaps so, but then Philip Hammond can do detail which is probably all that needs to be said on the subject. A Prime Minister’s greater quality is to develop the broad plan while leaving its detailed execution to ministers and officials and to have a gift for appointing the right people to those positions.
Boris’s many detractors continue to adumbrate his faults, real and imagined, to little effect in the mind of the public. This is because the market has already priced all this into the perception of Boris and his two successful terms as London mayor which voters in Khan’s Knife Kingdom now look back on with misty eyed nostalgia established him as an achiever.
Theresa May and her box-wallah Robbins are running out of road and when May accepts that nothing in her premiership will become her like the leaving it and makes room for a successor, then Conservative MPs need to consider who it is who enjoys the greatest support among their members and, crucially, who is the only leader-in-waiting capable of making big inroads into the Labour vote.
They should also consider who is likely to be able to bring forward policies that would previously have passed for mainstream Conservatism but which must now pass for radical. Successive governments have been so bereft of ideas that thy have lavished taxpayers’ money on quangos, fake charities and special interest groups who in turn have lobbied government to skew public policy. Who other than Boris is likely to dismantle that?
Governments have become indistinguishable from one another in their high tax, high spend, high borrowing policies. Who other than Boris is likely to rediscover a world where people retain more of their own money and where the state does not encroach into every aspect of peoples’ lives.
And where is the future Prime Minister with the nerve to rebalance the blessed NHS so that money follows the patient rather than the other way round, which encourages waste, bureaucracy and where the patient can like it or lump it?
When the time comes, it will be for Boris to set out his stall himself but already now Conservative MPs could do a lot worse than look up into the autumn sky on a clear night and be inspired by the Big Dipper in the northern sky, impressive, expansive and independent of the huddle of lesser constellations that are often faint and hard to identify.