Boris bounced from leadership race, but not buried
What was Michael Gove thinking when he knifed Boris? The man freely admits to having “no charisma”, yet having already dumped his previous friend ‘Dave’ Cameron, now thought he could also betray the man who had acted as torchbearer for the Leave campaign. Perhaps someone had whispered “Thane of Cawdor in his ear”. While Boris’s father, Stanley Johnson, portrayed another play, with Gove miscast as the noble Brutus, the classics scholar Boris seems also be taking his cue from Caesar’s nephew, immediately prior to his elevation to the title of Augustus. By resigning his leadership role from the successful Leave campaign, Boris has left a vacuum that has cruelly exposed the now toxic Gove and his political pygmy collaborators. The headlines, including from conspiratorially connected newspapers might have been quick to back Gove, but they will soon find that this star has fallen. As support evaporates from Gove, the Tory old guard think they have found a successor hiding behind the curtain with the equally uninspiring Teresa May. Yes, the half-hearted Bremain Home Secretary who had so publicly failed to deliver on the manifesto pledge to reduce immigration, which had in part led to the mess we are now all in and the same Minister that had to walk back from a highly muddled and oppressive security bill. Despite her thin assurances to respect the referendum decision, Mrs May already seems to be stalling, with suggestions that formal separation proceedings from invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty may not start until 2017. The only candidate for the Tory leadership race with any suitable ‘Leave’ credentials now would seem to be the capable, but largely unknown Andrea Leadsom.
Boris may be caricatured as a bumbling buffoon, but even his enemies concede that he is a vote winner and this is something both Labour and the Tories need. Ronald Reagan is often looked back on fondly by Americans as one of its most successful Presidents. He was not a details man either, but he could tap the mood of public opinion and inspire confidence in his values, something that is sorely lacking across the current political spectrum. The Brexit vote has again exposed an economic and political elite supported by a party system that is increasingly divorced from the opinions of the electorates that they purport to represent. Unlike a general election where the low turnout reflects the low expectations that manifesto pledges will be honoured, the clear mandate from the IN/OUT referendum vote will be more difficult to walk back from, as well as more destructive. As the US republican party is finding out to its cost, sometimes leaders are thrust upon you if you want to win and rather not have them outside your tent.. The parliamentary parties seem determined to elect ‘safe’ establishment friendly candidates when the electorate have voted for change. If they do, then expect a fudge, either in a Norwegian style arrangement where nothing effectively changes or some form of new settlement to provide cover for that well worn European practice of holding further referendums until the electorate get it right. Markets may take initial comfort from renewed hopes of maintaining the status quo, including ever more QE, albeit this presupposes there won’t be a violent backlash at the next General Election, or that Boris will have retired from the stage.