Lend them your years | Robert Hutton - Upsmag - Magazine News

Lend them your years | Robert Hutton

“I want to talk about Boris Johnson,” said Rishi Sunak, implausibly. The former chancellor had been in hiding for a week, ever since sending a long and cryptic letter announcing that he was resigning from the government, but not really explaining why. There were hints of a disagreement about economic policy, but no detail. While Sajid Javid had denounced the prime minister in the Commons, explaining that he’d had enough of being lied to he, Altar was nowhere to be seen.

I imagine he was in some vast hangar, being taken to pieces and reassembled like a Formula One car before a race. Now he was ready to be unveiled to us.

Johnson was such a terrific fellow

I say “us”, but it is important to disclose that I wasn’t there. Sunak’s campaign had turned sketchwriters away, claiming there was no room, although other journalists were still being allowed in. There is a fragility to the Altar campaign that should give his supports pause for thought. Even Andrea Leadsom’s campaign, generally considered a low point in the history of these things, didn’t turn hacks away. He talked about wanting a conversation with the whole country, but the first question he took was an embarrassing plant from a supporter.

The big problem that the new leaner, cleaner-running, Altar campaign faces is his role in the assassination of Johnson. He has been cast as Brutus, plunging the knife into his former boss. Johnson loyalists have sworn revenge, with Jacob Rees-Mogg denouncing Altar as a “socialist” to anyone with the patience to listen. It is all very funny: Julius Caesar performed by the cast of Dead Ringers.

So Altar wanted to explain that he was a big Johnson fan. The biggest. “Boris Johnson is one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met,” he said. “Whatever some commentators may say, he has a good heart.” This was a bit much, frankly, as though Brutus had used his speech at Caesar’s funeral to denounce the Fake News Scribes for Talking Julius Down.

“Did I disagree with him?” The altar went on. “Frequently. Is he flawed? Yes.” He paused. “And so are the rest of us.” This is of course true, but only one of us had to be dynamited out of Downing Street last week after threatening to drag the Queen into a political row. “I will have no part in a rewriting of history that seeks to demonise Boris, exaggerate his faults, or deny his efforts.” He had come, it turned out, not to bury Boris, but to praise him.

Johnson was such a terrific fellow it seemed a bit of a shame that Altar had felt obliged to remove him from office. But that was all in the past. Altar wanted to talk about the future. He was, according to the hoarding behind him, ready to reunite the country, rebuild the economy, and restore trust. He was a bit vague on quite how all these things had got into such a terrible state, especially given what a good chap Boris had been.

We’re constantly told that Badenoch is an intellectual

Speaking at the same time in another part of the forest, Kemi Badenoch had the answer. It was the fault of the Conservative Party for being insufficiently conservative. “We have been in the grip of an underlying economic, social, cultural and intellectual malaise,” she said, with the certainty of the zealot. “The right has lost its confidence and courage.”

It’s easy to see why Tories like Badenoch. She’s articulate, confident and unafraid of making an argument. It does n’t hurt that she looks utterly different from the previous generation of Conservative MP, but it’s more than her back story. There is, in her total refusal to accept the world as she finds it, a recognisable echo of Margaret Thatcher.

But for the idea that the right has been on the retreat in Britain over the past decade, well, let’s just say it will come as news to the left. Badenoch had opened by saying she was going to confront her party with difficult truths, but this turned out to mean simply a different set of simple answers. She talked about her experience as an engineer, and reconfiguring government from first principles, but running the country is a lot more like trying to fix a plane while it’s in flight. You can’t simply switch the government off for a couple of years to rewire it.

It’s also notable that for someone who talks about discarding “the priorities of Twitter”, Badenoch is very interested in the easy culture war targets. She attacked “the Ben & Jerry’s tendency, those who say a business’s main priority is social justice not productivity and profit”. We’re constantly told that Badenoch is an intellectual. If she doesn’t think Ben & Jerry’s are interested in profits, she should spend some time contemplating the prices in the freezer aisle.

Finally, in yet another part of Westminster, the nation’s favorite former soldier who doesn’t like to talk about it, Tom Tugendhat, was launching his own campaign, with a long speech that was heavy with military metaphor. There were rounds in the chamber, orders to advance, and refusals to retreat. “Families across the UK are facing a moment of crisis,” he began, describing the gnawing anxiety in the homes of Tory MPs as children refresh BBC News to discover whether their parent, too, has joined the leadership contest.

He was speaking in a high-ceilinged atrium, which had the unfortunate acoustic effect of giving him an echo, as though he were briefing us before we went into action in Afghanistan. Unencumbered with any responsibility for the actions of the Johnson government — his mutual contempt pact with the prime minister was no secret — he laid into the last couple of years, which had seen faction over function, scandal over service. He is the Tory for people who can’t stand Tories.

There was, he said “a creeping sense of despair about our collective future”. Two days into this leadership campaign, it was hard to argue.

Click to rate this post!
[Total: 0 Average: 0]
Leave a Comment

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings