|All registered members of the British Conservative Party are currently voting to elect a new leader to replace Prime Minister Theresa May. Hailed as an exercise in party democracy, it’s more like a chook raffle.
Ten candidates, all chancers and second-raters, have nominated for the job and they share a fatuous and overblown belief in their capacity to lead the UK out of its biggest crisis since the end of Empire 75 year ago.
The nominees are promising to save Britain from the shambles of Brexit, and
rescue the discredited Parliament, the Tory Party and the shattered City of London which once bankrolled world capitalism.
When the country is crying out for a William Pitt, Duke of Wellington, Benjamin Disraeli, Stanley Baldwin or a John Major, the Tory Party is proposing to offer Benny Hill.
Bizarrely, the Tory leadership election is being run by old fogeys from the backbench faction known as the 1922 Committee. It is also nicknamed “the 22” and “men in grey suits”. It has a fearsome reputation for removing Prime Ministers and Cabinet Ministers by fiendish behind-the-scenes plotting followed by the fateful “tap on the shoulder”.
Over the next few weeks all 313 Tory MPs will hold a series of ballots until two candidates who score the most votes are left standing. They then face a run off to choose the next resident of No 10.
However, the Tory Party’s preferred outcome is a single candidate who can
claim the top job unopposed. This will allow the party’s formidable propaganda machine to trumpet that the whole party is “united” behind the next PM.
That is how Mrs May came to office: all the other contenders were “persuaded” (heavied?) to stand aside so she could take the Prime Ministership unopposed.
The problem for Tory backroom wire-pullers is that Old Blighty has changed since the vicar’s daughter danced into Downing Street. Commentators, academics and MPs past and present are lining up to say that Britain’s 66 million inhabitants, Brexiteers or Remainers, won’t accept a new PM decided by an undemocratic and unrepresentative “swill” at Westminster. Why? Because they have no say at all in the Tory selection process and it is furiously resented.
Without a written constitution, English Tory MPs, most of them privately educated at Eton and Harrow, and then picking up a degree at Oxford or Cambridge, have consolidated a “good chap” theory of government in Westminster and Whitehall. It is personified by old Eton chums, former PM David Cameron and Boris Johnson, the current bookies’ favourite to win. (According to a quite believable legend Cameron dreamt up the idea of a referendum on the EU while eating a pizza at Chicago airport.)
The Economist magazine, robust bible of Tory opinion since the early 19th century, said scathingly: “The 124,000 members of the Conservative Party who will choose the next Prime Minister, an unrepresentative sample, to put it mildly, will thus take it upon themselves to resolve the question that has split the nation down the middle.” (The Economist, 1 June 2019)
The magazine added: “A group of people more likely to be of pensionable age than not, more than two-thirds male, just half the size of Wolverhampton and
far less ethnically diverse has become Britain’s electoral college.”
Put it this way: if all the registered voters in either Toowoomba in Queensland and Ballarat in Victoria chose the next Prime Minister of Australia, would the
Australian electorate accept it? No, of course not.
The next British PM could stem some of the UK electorate’s fury by giving a written undertaking to hold a General Election or a new EU referendum within, say, six months of taking office. But all of the Tory candidates in the leadership race have specifically ruled out any public vote of any kind, election or referendum. So much for democracy from the “Mother of Parliaments”.
Before he was emptied out of Downing Street, having occupied the Prime Ministership for about five years too long, Winston Churchill issued his dictum on Tory Party regime change: “If the leader trips he [sic] must be sustained. If he [sic again] makes mistakes, they must be covered. If he [sic
Mrs Theresa May’s pole-axe moment has arrived. She tearfully resigned the Prime Ministership on May 24 to sit on the backbench. Some say she is privately hoping to be recalled to find a Brexit deal with the EU leaders. Others believe that the Tories elect the Old Etonian clown, Boris Johnson. But that will simply lead to further catastrophes and humiliations.
Anything seems possible in the current political environment. Didn’t the Ukraine just elect a comedian named Zelensky as its new President? Will he be any funnier than the one in the White House?
By the way, whatever happened to the Mother Country which once basked in a reputation as a “green and pleasant land” and “the industrial workshop of the world”? Just asking.
Alex Mitchell is the former political editor of The Sun-Herald, and writer of the blog www.cometherevolution.com.au
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