I have been looking at the persisting contenders for the role of British Conservative Party leader and British Prime Minister trying to make up my mind which was worst from Scotland’s perspective, and I am quite unable to decide. It’s like having a choice of what you want in your coffee – cyanide, botulinum, anthrax, strychnine or ricin. I’ll leave it to readers to choose how those are matched up with Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Kemi Badenoch, Penny Mordaunt and Tom Tugendhat. That’s about as good as the choosing gets.
I previously wrote in response to some rather premature announcements of Boris Johnson’s demise that we could not discount the possibility of him leading the Tories into the next election. As it transpired, the serial scandals became too much for even Boris’s famed capacity for survival. His ‘friends’ saw that he was weakened enough to take down so they followed the predatory instincts they have where others have principles and they duly took him down. It is worth noting in passing that perhaps the only occasion the Tories have exhibited any kind of organisation competence was the series of coordinated resignations which sealed Johnson’s fate. Although I may be giving them too much credit. It may have been no more coordinated than the feeding frenzy of sharks onto which my perception is imposing pattern.
Regardless, Johnson is gone. There will be rejoicing. Then the realisation will dawn that the frying pan has been vacated in favour of the fire. But it will not be Boris Johnson who leads the Tories into the next UK general election. How much difference might that make?
I have further speculated that, had Johnson still been Tory leader come election time he would campaign on an uncompromisingly right-wing ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist platform. That platform would include a substantial amount of Jock-bashing with promises to put the Sweaties back in their box and ‘make Britain whole again’. The ongoing project to undermine and sideline the Scottish Parliament and delegitimise the Scottish Government would be ramped up. The process of transferring power to Alister Jack and the UK Government in Scotland would be accelerated. Direct rule would be reimposed more emphatically than at any time in the dark history of the Union under the guise of ‘improved devolution’.
There is no reason to suppose that any of the candidates for Tory leader and British PM will approach the election any differently. Boris Johnson’s brand of British Nationalism sells in the key constituencies. By associating the securing of Scotland and preserving the Union with ‘making Britain great again’ all these candidates know that they can win votes in key constituencies in England. They also know that they have little to lose in Scotland. As has always been the case, they can get a mandate to do as they will with Scotland regardless of how we vote. And what they want to do is end the ‘Scottish problem’ by binding Scotland irrevocably to the Union with changes to the constitution.
My expectation is that in the run-up to the next UK general election candidates for all the British parties will be vying with each other to take the hardest line on Scotland. The contest for the Tory leadership is like a preview of that campaign.
Age is definitely taking its toll. Having published this I realised I’d forgotten the point I had intended to make. What I meant to say is that we should be concerned not only with who might win the Tory leadership contest and thus become British Prime Minister but with what power is wielded by the non-winners. The very fact of having been a contender affords a certain status. Even the ones knocked out early will be sure to have it mentioned every time their name comes up. They will forever be a one-time contender for the top job. Unless they acquire some better claim to fame by, for example, doing a bit of serial killing.
The further they get in the selection process the more power they are likely to wield after the matter is settled. Progress in the leadership contest is a measure of support within the party. Whoever the winner is, they cannot afford to either ignore or trust the runner-up.
With that in mind, I want you to imagine what looks like a likely outcome. Rishi Sunak as PM but with Penny Mordaunt calling a significant proportion of the shots. Actually, you could pick any pair of names you want from the remaining contenders and you get just as dire a prospect.
The media being as pathetically shallow as it is will focus almost entirely on the winner. It would pay us to keep an eye on the other runners.
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