Politics is hard to predict, but Boris looks set to win the Tory leadership

Chris Moncrieff
Chris Moncrieff
Share this article

Jo Swinson, who is expected to be the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, is not a person of half measures.

Even before she is officially at the helm of the party, she’s talking about how much she would enjoy being Prime Minister — a little premature some might think.

Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson leaving his home in south London on Monday June 17, 2019. ''"If he becomes Tory leader, his first job will be to bang heads together to achieve loyalty," says Chris Moncrieff''Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson leaving his home in south London on Monday June 17, 2019. ''"If he becomes Tory leader, his first job will be to bang heads together to achieve loyalty," says Chris Moncrieff''Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

But Swinson is a high-flyer and, unlike some of her predecessors, will not be concerned so much about saving this ailing party from extinction, but from taking it to the very top of the political agenda.

Over the past two or three decades this party has been reduced to something approaching single figure membership of the House of Commons, with the glorious past of their history over the past century something totally unlikely to be repeated.

But Swinson does not think in those terms. After the disastrous leadership of Nick Clegg, she is looking forward to what the cliche-writers describe as the sunlit uplands for the party.

No more riding on the backs of the Labour and Conservative parties — but thinking through their own policies without reference to their opponents.

In short, she plans to see the Liberal Democrats climbing up the opinion polls - which they have already started to do since Brexit — and becoming an important force in their own political right.

They have acquired a new and important member in Chuka Umunna, who was a contestant for the Labour party leadership before pulling out and subsequently joining the breakaway Change UK party, which he’s now left.

But will he be content to play second fiddle in the Liberal Democrats to politicians who many regard as inferior political activists?

Whoever becomes leader of the Liberal Democrats, whether it’s Swinson or possibly Ed Davey, may have a problem on their hands with Chuka, not exactly a menacing figure, but a possible leadership challenger in the weeks to come.

So whether it will be a peaceful handover, or one which turns difficult in the days ahead, remains to be seen.

But now the party is riding higher in public popularity than it has been doing for years.

• It would be unwise in British politics to predict the outcome of the current Conservative leadership battle although, especially in the present maelstrom condition of the Tory party. But early indications suggest Boris Johnson will be the next incumbent of 10 Downing Street, even though he is conducting what for him is a pretty mute and out of character campaign.

His first job as Tory leader will be to bang a few heads together to achieve that old fashioned virtue of loyalty — the absence of which has so damaged the Tories, and Labour as well, over the past 18 months.

Unless the Tories can show some kind of unity and above all loyalty to their new leader, the party could sink beyond trace.

A lot of Conservatives treated Theresa May very badly indeed over the Brexit wrangles, and Johnson — or whoever it is who succeeds her — will have to put an immediate stop to that kind of disloyal and self-destructive behaviour.

So the work really starts for the Tories when the new leader is in position. They and prime minister will have to start banging the table in Brussels far more robustly than has been the case in the past, allowing the EU grandees virtually to walk all over the UK’s arguments.

In the past, the EU bosses were frightened of Margaret Thatcher. That seemed to work. The UK’s new leadership should try that tactic again.

Apart from Johnson, none of the other candidates for the leadership seem adequate to fill the job. So even those who cannot stand Boris Johnson may find him more successful than any of his rivals might be.

• The UK is being forced to pay billions of pounds to the EU for the “pleasure” of leaving the community. Now, shockingly, it is revealed that at least two of the Brussels’ negotiating team are in line for nearly 440,000 pounds in so-called “golden handshakes”.

Already the EU spends money like water and it is an outrage that these people who have done their worst to try to squeeze every drop of blood out of the UK should be rewarded like this with public money.

Indeed, the spending habits of the EU and the fraud which exists in some parts of its member states is a total scandal, which no one seems to address.

They just let it go on.

If the British government of any hue spent money on the scale of the EU, there would probably be a revolution.

• It appears that some members of the Labour party don’t know their own rules. Labour is said to be the only one of the major parties — that is if Swinson gets the Liberal Democrat job — not to have had a female leader. But they are wrong.

When in 1994, the then Labour leader John Smith suddenly died, the Deputy Margaret Beckett became leader.

Most people thought she was an acting leader or a proxy leader, but in fact the Labour Party Rules say hers was a full-blown leadership and not just an interim measure.

So now they know!