Monday, October 24, 2022


Official photo issued during Johnson campaign

The problem with writing about politics is that events often travel at break-neck speed, so I am not surprised at having eschewed politics as a subject for discussion at all. Give me postmodernism, pens and cars any day, along with any subject that remains evergreen, or slow-moving enough to pin down.

What rendered my previous article about the latest Conservative Party leadership election having been rendered out of date later the same day [link] was the announcement by one candidate that they were withdrawing from a race they never actually said they were standing in, like they had shown up to run the London Marathon with a hand-drawn number, withdrawing after realising whatever time they placed would never be counted.

The assumption made by Boris Johnson, returning from his holiday in the Dominican Republic to pick up from the point he had left in July, speaks of a man who hasn’t been in the country much at all in the intervening time. That he could ask the other two candidates, Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt, to stand aside for him, is spectacularly arrogant – Sunak’s meeting with Johnson ended without agreement, while Mordaunt perhaps won some respect by asking Johnson to step aside for her. It also didn't help that the two photographs taken and issued on Twitter by supporter Lee Anderson MP, of Johnson calling MPs on the phone to secure their support, shows him looking like he is lacking sleep, visibly jet-lagged, or having been hit in the face by a football.

Then the statement he made on Sunday night – the first and last time during the weekend that someone did not speak for him – was delusional: “I have been attracted because I led our party into a massive election victory less than three years ago - and I believe I am therefore uniquely placed to avert a general election now... I believe I am well placed to deliver a Conservative victory in 2024 - and tonight I can confirm that I have cleared the very high hurdle of 102 nominations... and I could put my nomination in tomorrow... There is a very good chance that I would be successful in the election with Conservative Party members - and that I could indeed be back in Downing Street on Friday.”

Once he had placed himself on a pedestal, Johnson paints the portrait: “But in the course of the last days I have sadly come to the conclusion that this would simply not be the right thing to do. You can't govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament. And though I have reached out to both Rishi [Sunak] and Penny [Mordaunt] - because I hoped that we could come together in the national interest - we have sadly not been able to work out a way of doing this. Therefore I am afraid the best thing is that I do not allow my nomination to go forward and commit my support to whoever succeeds. I believe I have much to offer but I am afraid that this is simply not the right time.”

The other official photo issued

What we have now is a way for Johnson to say, further down the line, “don’t say I didn’t warn you, I’m afraid”, while also still saying he is the only person that can unite the country, based on the General Election result of 2019, before so many other things happened. 

Marina Hyde, writing for “The Guardian”, had pointed out that Cincinnatus, the Roman emperor referenced by Johnson in his resignation speech who returned to his plough, and referenced because he came back and governed again, had only ruled for three more weeks before stepping down, once a plot to usurp power in Rome had been dealt with – his rule being a dictatorship is a fact that will just have to sit there.

Still, the situation means that the spectre of Boris Johnson hangs over the Conservative Party like a bad smell. Rishi Sunak was elected leader on Monday 24th October, after Penny Mordaunt withdrew her candidacy at the last minute, leaving Sunak as the last one standing, and as someone who had only sent out two messages on Twitter during the race, both in reference to Johnson dropping out.

Now that we have the fifth Prime Minister in the last six years, they have to pull their party together before they can hope to pull the country together, and whether the Conservative Party can do the first one, or is they are even willing by this point, is the next question. Popularity polls suggest that calling a General Election would currently be a death wish for the Conservative Party, but it has two years left before one has to be declared anyway. 

I resolve to myself that the General Election, whenever that may be, will be the next time I talk about politics.

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