How is it, that a lame duck prime minister, who has plunged the United Kingdom into deep crisis, can say to the besieged leader of the opposition “for heaven's sake man, go!”, with a straight face, without a hint of irony, let alone without being condemned as a hypocrite? Does no one find it utterly bizarre, that the Labour leadership crisis is being portrayed by the media, as a party on the brink of oblivion, whilst the process of changing prime minister fails to elicit anything like the same level of hysteria? Yes, there is talk, in the media, of Machiavellian machinations being played out in the Tory Party, yet none of the protagonists is being hounded to death, in the way that Jeremy Corbyn is. Surely, this public school, playground spat, which has escalated to become a national catastrophe, should be viewed, at the very least, with every bit as much disdain, as the Labour Party’s self immolation.
Ever since David Cameron let it be known, he would not seek a third term as Prime Minister, there has been speculation as to who might succeed him. Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, the other half of what has been, until now, a highly successful double act, was seen by many, as the logical choice to replace his longtime political tag team partner at 10 Downing Street. There is, after all, little distance travelled, between numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street. Gordon Brown and Sir John Major both made the transition from one, directly to the other. However, the return of Boris Johnson, in May of 2015, as a Member of Parliament, made it clear, if it were ever in doubt, that Mr Osborne would face stiff competition for the Tory Party leadership, when the time came. Who would have thought, when David Cameron, perhaps prophetically, said in early 2015, “the Conservative Party has got some great people coming up - the Theresa Mays, and the George Osbornes, and the Boris Johnsons. “, that two of the contenders would be felled, before they had even stepped into the ring?
Whilst he might have fleetingly considered it, I doubt very much, that when Mr Cameron called the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, he believed it might well bring about the end of his premiership, little over a year after securing the first Tory majority government in nearly 20 years. Nor do I believe, that when in answer, to what he thought prime ministers feared most, Harold MacMillan is said to have replied “events, dear boy, events”, he was thinking of events that occurred as a direct result of his own decisions. Yet, that is exactly what has done for David Cameron, events, of his very own making. Mr Cameron may be the architect of his own downfall, but it cannot be overstated, just how serious, the predicament in which he has placed the UK is. In times of great uncertainty, where strong leadership, and a steady hand are required, the Tories offer up inertia. A void. To make matters worse, they seem in no hurry to fill the void, instead, blithely bumbling about their own Game of Thrones. Meanwhile, as the Tories reshuffle their deck, everyone else, ordinary people, businesses, the EU and the wider world, are expected to wait patiently, wondering if the King might be about to be replaced by a Joker.
The Joker in question, originally thought to have been Boris Johnson, instead turns out to be Michael Gove. Wee, sleekit, slithering snake in the grass, Michael Gove. Michael Gove who told us on more than one occasion “There are lots of other folk, including in the cabinet, who could easily be prime minister. I’m not one of them. I could not be prime minister. I’m not equipped to be prime minister. I don’t want to be prime minister.”, who of us, I wonder, believed him? Is it really plausible, that having known Boris Johnson for all these years, Michael Gove has only now come to the belated realisation that he is unfit for the highest political office in the land? I think not. Despite his protestations that he is standing reluctantly, out of a profound sense of duty to the nation, specifically, those who voted for Brexit, I would hope that most Tory MP’s, and the wider party membership, if it comes to it, can see him for what he is. Treacherous. There are no two ways about it, treacherous is what Gove is, Machiavellian is perhaps a stretch too far, if he’d been half as clever as he clearly thinks he is, he wouldn’t now be so clearly exposed. If there is any sense of justice among Tory MP’s, Mr Gove will be shown to have overplayed his hand. There are already signs, that many of those Tory MP’s who favour a Brexiteer as the next prime minister, are leaning towards Andrea Leadsom as their preferred candidate.
It seems, that however things play out come the first ballot on Tuesday, the contest will be decided by the wider Tory Party membership. Theresa May, strong favourite to win since Osborne and Johnson dropped out, speaking on ITV’s Peston on Sunday, appeared to rule out a ‘coronation’, saying "I believe there should be a proper contest. I think there should be a proper contest and obviously I hope I'm one of the candidates that will go forward to the membership. What that means, is that the rest of us, the country at large, are left in limbo, until such times as the Tory Party deigns to bestow a new leader upon us. Not to worry, until that happens, we can amuse ourselves with the Shakespearean tragedy that is the Labour leadership debacle.