I’ve always liked Andrea Leadsom. She’s what many would call a Mensch. I’ve always thought that had she stuck the course in 2016 and taken Theresa May to the hustings, she could easily have emerged as the winner.
We’ll never know now. Her resignation on Wednesday evening gave her first mover advantage and if, by the time you read this, others have followed her lead they will look as if they’re just carrying out a ‘me too’ resignation. A bit like Boris Johnson when he resigned after David Davis had led the way last year.
Leadsom is without doubt intending to stand – and she has every right to. She’s had a very good last year, emerging as a safe pair of hands in the media and developing a good reputation as a Commons performer too. Can she, though, put together a meaningful bid and attract the same level of support that she did last time? The jury is out on that.
Chris Heaton-Harris and Tim Loughton, who were leading voices in her 2016 campaign have already attached themselves elsewhere. Even so, Andrea will bring some much needed colour and original ideas to a contest which may well lack both. Unless Boris is let off the leash, of course.
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There is now a real risk that, when the European Election results come in on Sunday night, there won’t be a single Conservative MEP elected. It could be a wipe-out of Canada style proportions.
Even Daniel Hannan, the number one Tory MEP candidate in the South East, may be for the chop. Since the Tories haven’t even bothered to mount a campaign, they will get what they deserve. The freepost leaflet was a joke. There is nothing on the front page of the Conservative Party website about the elections. There’s plenty about potholes though. On the Party’s Twitter feed, there is very little about the elections. Plenty about banning plastics, though.
You reap what you sow, and if the Conservative Party gets a single MEP seat on Sunday it will be one more than they deserve. The failure to run any kind of campaign has been deliberate. It’s also been a giant two-fingered salute to the British public, who were in any case angry that Brexit hadn’t been delivered on time.
Theresa May can blame who she likes for that, but in the end the buck stops with her, as does the responsibility for this clustershambles of a European election campaign.
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Who knows what’s going to happen over the next few weeks, let alone the next few days, but the stars are now aligning for a Boris Johnson premiership. Even a few weeks ago, I don’t think many would have predicted this turn of events. The conventional wisdom was that he wouldn’t get into the final two. It now is that he will.
So let’s assume that he does, and that he wins the party members’ vote hands down. He will then have to form his cabinet. One of the first things that he should do is stop this ridiculous farce of allowing countless non-Cabinet ministers to attend. He should restrict Cabinet to 22 members and 22 members only.
Looking through the list of current Cabinet ministers, I can only identify six who I think would be guaranteed places in a Johnson cabinet. And I can identify at least 12 who don’t stand a chance in hell of being retained. And in most cases, they don’t deserve to do so.
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On Monday I achieved something I had been trying to do for many years. I got to do an interview with Tony Blair. (See above.) Big deal, you may say. Well, it was.
In a 26 minute interview ,I got more out of him than I think any other interviewer has for a very long time. He even sounded positively Brexity at one point, saying that the time for compromise was over. He dismissed any kind of Norway Plus, Single Market alignment or customs union.
He said: “Politicians are looking for a compromise. I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t a Brexit compromise. There isn’t a Norway compromise or customs union compromise. What’s the point of doing a Brexit that the Brexit people say isn’t Brexit? The choice is between staying or hard Brexit. Those are the realistic choices. I think Parliament might be tempted to go for a soft Brexit but the moment they do that you’ll have people saying, well what’s the point?”
Asked if he resigned as Prime Minister too early he said: “I don’t think I left too early. Maybe I got the office too early. Since I left office twelve years ago, I’ve learned so much. I’m both encouraged and slightly appalled by the amount I’ve learned. Your real-life experience when you start early is limited… I’d be a lot wiser and more knowledgeable about the world now.”