Yet another wannabe Tory leader has joined the Tory leadership contest. This time it’s someone you’ve never heard of, which could be considered a positive attribute given that the only reason you’ve ever heard of any of the rest of them is because they’re vile. Sadly we can be pretty certain that Mark Harper – see, I told you you’d never heard of him – isn’t really some saint, he’s just vileness in waiting. Proof of this resides in the fact that when he was Minister for Immigration, he had advertising lorries drive around areas with a high migrant population telling people to grass up their neighbours for being in the country illegally. Then he had to resign because he employed a cleaner who was in the country illegally.
Before we get into this article, I should, in my defence, point out that I did try to write a serious article about the Conservative leadership contest. It’s just that it is impossible to write profoundly about some deeply shallow people none of whom would merit serious consideration for the post of manager of a medium sized branch of Tesco Express, even if they do share a love for plastering Union Jacks on everything. It would be easier to write a nobel literature prize winning novel about the emotional and intellectual range of the Telly Tubbies. Sometimes when you’re staring desolation in the face, gallows humour is all that is left.
This beauty parade of misfits, careerists, opportunists, and people who want to run the country but don’t know how to use a comb will eventually be whittled down to two by Tory MPs. The final choice of who gets to be the next Prime Minister of the UK will be made by 100,000 predominantly elderly white men who’d enthusiastically throw their hats in the ring if the post of torturer for the Spanish Inquisition was an elected position and many of whom last cast their vote for Nigel Farage. But it’s another referendum that’s the real threat to British democracy.
The Tory leadership election is like Love Island, in which a large cast of stupid people compete with one another to see who is the most self-regarding. The only difference is that the Tory leadership candidates are physically as well as morally repellent. In a battle of wits they’d only be half prepared. This is the election where all the candidates are so bad that Tory MPs are forming a bloc to prevent Dominic Raab from getting through to the final two, because the teddy bear tied to the grill of a bin lorry that is Boris Johnson isn’t the worst of them.
Dominic Raab is the kind of person who believes that disabled people would be a lot healthier if they went jogging more, and in order to encourage them to do so he’ll confiscate their wheelchairs. His main claim on the leadership is that he’s the one who’d look the best in a blackshirt uniform. His brand of economics is more extreme even than Thatcher’s, and he believes that the UK’s economic problems are largely due to the fact that British workers are lazy. Clearly he has personal experience of this, as he himself was too lazy to bother reading the 34 page long Good Friday Agreement even though he was the Brexit Secretary in charage of negotiating a deal on the Irish Border. Dominic is just one of the Tory leadership candidates who is the son of immigrants and who’s standing on a platform that would keep his parents out of the country. Well that’s one way of avoiding those awkward family gatherings with embarrassing relatives. Dominic’s parents must be so relieved.
The really scary thing is that it’s not just Dominic Raab. There’s some way to go before Boris Johnson is the worst option. This is the candidate list that makes Rory Stewart seem like the sensible one, and he’s the one who’s confessed to accidentally smoking opium at a wedding when he thought his host was only offering the pudding course.
Prior to this contest Rory is best known for his appearance on a radio interview in which he claimed that 80% of the public supported the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal. He later was forced to admit that he’d made the number up to “illustrate what I believe”. If only he had written the number on the side of a bus, he’d be the leading contender right now. Other than that he has appeared in whacko documentaries, and has the unfortunate air of an extra from Lord of the Rings who was thrown off set for making the Orcs look sexy. Rory has much rumoured links with the intelligence services, which he denies, leading some to speculate darkly that the entire mess of Brexit is a conspiracy to get Rory into power, even though deliberately creating that degree of incompetence is far beyond the competence of any British institution. And Rory is the best one on offer. He at least gives the impression of thinking, if not the substance. Just like the rest of them, Rory would deny the people of Scotland their democratic right to decide their own future on their own terms. It’s just that he’d be more polite about it.
Then there’s Esther McVey. Esther suffers from the delusion that being crass is an effective substitute for a personality, or indeed basic humanity. Esther was brought up in Liverpool during the 1980s when the city was being devastated by the effects of Thatcherism. That’s what you need to remember when recalling Esther’s statement that “It takes a very special kind of personality to grow up in Liverpool the same time I did and then join the Conservative party.” Well yes, Esther, that’s one way of putting it.
When she’s not defending the rape clause or saying that social security payments for disabled people should be cut because “bodies heal”, Esther is a woman who believes that parents always know what’s best for their children. You know, like antivaxxers during a measles epidemic, or Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining. Esther doesn’t want children to learn that gay people exist, in case it gives them the dangerously radical idea that being different might not be wrong. Perhaps a more pressing question is at what age should a responsible parent allow their child to know that Esther McVey exists.
Then there’s Matt Hancock, whose lack of talent is inversely proportional to his ambition. Which to be fair could be said about the lot of them. Matt recently said that he’s against another Scottish independence referendum “because we live in a democracy”. Because we live in a democracy we shouldn’t have any of that nonsense about public votes or holding politicians to account for their promises. Hell no. Instead we should allow a small and unrepresentative self-selected group of elderly right wing bigots to choose our leaders instead, because that’s totes democratic.
Sajid Javid, like Dominic, wants to keep his relatives out of the country. And to be fair if they are anything like Sajid we should consider this a small mercy. Sajid is the reason why Alan Partridge is a recognisable character. Sajid became very popular in Scotland this week, after telling the country that he wouldn’t allow it to have another independence referendum. Sajid is now the go-to guy for Scottish people seeking permission to turn the TV channel, buy a slightly more expensive brand of toilet paper, or have jam on their pieces. We are now all hoping for the next great pronouncement from The Saj, in which he will definitively rule on whether it’s toasted or roasted cheese.
Michael Gove, unlike Sajid, is actually Scottish, however no Scottish person would dream of asking his permission for anything as Michael has revealed himself to be one of those self-loathing Scots who infest middle management in southern England. It’s not enough just to torture his accent out of existence, Michael passes the time at the golf club by making jokes about Scottish beggars on the Tube. When he was Education Minister in England, he sent copies of the bible to every school, each inscribed with his name. It’s not that Michael imagines that he is God, he thinks he’s better than that.
Then there’s the one man rhyming slang dictionary that is Jeremy Hunt. Having distinguished himself as the least popular health secretary in history, Jeremy’s sole saving grace is that he’s not actually Chris Grayling. He has no chance as leader however, since he voted remain in the EU referendum and the Tory membership want a swivel eyed Brexiter. That’s where we are now people, not even the guy who tried to privatise the English NHS by stealth is right wing enough for the Tory party.
Andrea Leadsom was the main challenger against Theresa May the last time round, and was distinguishable mainly for her claim that she was more fit for the leadership because she was a mother. Since the Tory leadership candidates are mostly remarkable for their lack of self-awareness, maturity, or insight, they do very much resemble toddlers, so perhaps Andrea has a point. Her main claim to fame is that she has a long running personal dispute with Speaker of the House John Bercow after John referred to her as a stupid woman, so if she did become leader it might be worth it just for the drama. Andrea claimed it was sexist to refer to her as a stupid woman, even though she is stupid. She’s a hardline Brextremist who’d be happy to take the UK out of the EU without a deal, but that’s not stupid at all, oh no.
There’s a selection of also-rans and no-hopers. There’s James Cleverly, who is living proof that nominative determinism isn’t a thing. Kit Malthouse, whose sole claim to fame is that he managed to come up with a proposal for Brexit which sounded like an episode of the Big Bang Theory, and was equally unfunny. The Malthouse Compromise was immediately rejected by the EU, but Tory leadership hopefuls aren’t the sort who’ll let reality get in the way of their dreams. They’re like those spectacularly hopeless individuals who appear in the early elimination stages of Britain’s Got Talent. They’re only there so that they’ll have a story to tell their pals in the pub in ten years time.
And finally, we get to Boris Johnson, the runaway favourite with the Tory party membership. This weekend Boris was recommended by Donald Trump, which all by itself ought to tell you how dreadful he’s going to be. Boris is lazier than any of the workers castigated by Dominic Raab, has a greater sense of entitlement than the Word of God that is Michael Gove, is posher than Rory Stewart, less competent than Jeremy Hunt, and is more full of himself than The Saj. But he delivers it all in a carefully constructed clownish persona that is calculated to appeal to a certain type of voter, the kind of voter who’s a Tory party member, the kind of voter who believes in English nationalism. He’s all artifice and no art, all wittering and no wit. Unless he manages to self-destruct his own campaign, which is not unlikely, he’ll be the next Prime Minister.
Meanwhile Scotland gets to sit on the sidelines, our future to be decided by people who know nothing about us and who care even less. How’s that promise that we could only remain a part of the EU if we voted against independence working out? How’s that promise that no Westminster government would alter the devolution settlement without the express consent of the Scottish Parliament panning out? How’s that valued and equal partner in a family of nations, how’s that punching above our weight, how’s that best of both worlds working out for Scotland? You can be certain that those are not questions which preoccupy any of the Tory leadership contenders. They’re just queueing up to tell us that they won’t allow us to hold them account.
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