British politics has become like Titus Andronicus without the jokes

1 Jul 2016 at 07:58

British politics has become a cross between Titus Andronicus without the jokes and a Chinese edition of the The Prince where Machiavelli’s sound advice has been lost in translation. The lesson for the Tories is don’t run a leadership campaign from the Oxford Union playbook. And for Labour? Well, I am reminded of some very wise advice from Nick Ridley over a large whisky after I had been unmasked as being involved in a disastrous plot to try and humanise Thatcher. ‘Dear boy, in politics you must always shoot to kill never to wound. A wounded animal is both unpredictable and dangerous. Have another drink, you’ll need it’.

There is another more important lesson. Mercurial politicians are beloved of the media because they are good copy. But appearing on the front pages may do wonders for the ego it does little for one’s reputation at Westminster. Parliament tolerates attention seekers but prefers consistency, judgement and getting on with the job. It is known as a safe pair of hands. We may salivate over outbursts, plotting, knifing and martyrdom but it is ugly and unattractive to the electorate. If fulfils their view of politicians as out of touch prima donnas biting and scratching for position. And never has the greasy pole been dripping with such blood and bile.

Neither Boris Johnson nor Michael Gove have done themselves any favours. Boris has trashed the economy, betrayed the life chances of the young, knifed a great Prime Minister and unleashed dark and divisive forces which have ripped his party and his country apart. We are going to hell in his hand cart and the wheels have fallen off. Now we read that he wanted to do a deal with May. He would graciously lend her the Prime Ministership until 2020. She would have the honour of being his home help cleaning up the vomit, broken furniture and smashed crockery after the raucous party that he had hosted. Then he would come home in triumph and show off his beautifully clean home and become master of the estate. Wisely, May wouldn’t even talk him. All the while he was making promises to his deluded supporters of red boxes and influence. Like all of Boris’s life it was dishonest and delusional. Thank God he has been ventilated from the body politic. He will not be offered a job. He has no leverage.

And my eternal thanks go to Michael Gove for facilitating this. Yet he has much blood on his hands. He unforgivably knifed his close friend Cameron. He promised a low key campaign. Although he shuddered at the Farage poster he lied about Turkey and the £350 million, and accused the likes of the OECD, the IFS, the Governor of the Bank of England and the ‘experts’ of being akin to Nazis. Worse, his views of turning the NHS into an insurance based scheme would be fatal at a general election. His other difficulty is that wants us to be rid of ties with the single market which is economic suicide. And he is mercurial and unpredictable too. Worse he is conjoined with Dominic Cummings, a revolting pile of toxic waste who would wreak havoc at Downing Street. But what will kill his prospects is the anger he has engendered amongst back benchers. By knifing Boris he has destroyed their fantasy world. It will be interesting to see how many Boris votes move to May.

The big story that I expect to read on the front page of the Mail on Sunday and written by the splendid Simon Walters will be when Gove first put in the telephone lines. Because, like Boris, he was playing a double game too. This was not an overnight conversion to realising how duplicitous and lacking in leadership he was. He has known this for years.

So what is the other lesson to be learned? Play with a straight bat. Theresa May just got on with the job. None of the viciousness, none of the dangerous subliminal Farage associations. No lies about the Turks and the economy. No hostages to fortune. No jockeying for position. No knifings. The party will like that and so will the country. In times of crisis we need a safe pair of hands. But it is still early days. Leadsom might to reasonably well amongst MPs. Then she will position. But she has all the baggage that Gove has and little ministerial experience. Too much of a risk. She will do a deal. And the others? Crabb has a good back story but hardly any experience and will expect a good job. Fox? A handful of votes. Maybe a job but not a big one. At the moment I am encouraged that May has a commanding lead. But we have the whole weekend for the pork barrel to be rolled. And this will shock you; MPs are not always entirely honest about their voting intentions.Briti