MICHAEL GOVE’S surprising candidature for the leadership of the Tory party is compromised by the Justice Secretary’s own self-assessment: “I don’t think I have got that exceptional level of ability required to do the job.”
Given this appraisal was offered days before Britain voted to leave the EU, he is either the most improved politician in the country – or it is conclusive evidence of a Machiavellian-like ruthlessness.
It is why his application needs treating with caution, despite his wholehearted endorsement of the Northern Powerhouse that has not been matched by his rivals to date. What is at stake is the post of Prime Minister – and what Britain requires is a confident and “exceptional” leader. It might still prove to be Mr Gove – time will tell – but the country can’t afford a leader who will face ceaseless speculation about his motives following the dramatic breakdown of relationships with first David Cameron and then Boris Johnson.
Trust and economic competence are now paramount, even more so after Chancellor George Osborne warned that the UK will not now record a surplus by the end of this Parliament and that this will require tax rises, spending cuts or austerity being extended into a new decade.
At least Theresa May – Mr Gove’s primary rival – recognised the economic challenge when she launched her own campaign on Thursday.
With characteristic pragmatism, the Home Secretary recognised that it would be irresponsible to impose even more draconian cuts now, and especially on those communities left behind in the globalisation race. Until now, Mrs May’s greatest strength has been her uncanny ability to avoid the limelight. Perversely, she will only win the leadership race if she embraces the media, builds on the statesmanlike start to her campaign and shows why the most ardent Brexiteers should entrust her with a job second only in difficulty to leading the Labour party.
Zero tolerance: Tide of racism must be stemmed
OF all the words spoken during another tumultuous week, the most profound came from the Bishop of Leeds when Nick Baines presented Thought For The Day on Radio Four’s Today programme and confronted the post-Brexit upsurge in racism. They are worthy of a wider audience: “If racism and violence grow from small seeds that are allowed to take root in the minds and hearts of our children, then it is equally true that these will be challenged not by wishful silence, but by the planting, watering and nurturing of seeds that grow hope, commitment and love.”
It goes without saying that the Brexit vote, and its implications, has caused great unease across society, not least here in Yorkshire. Yet this does not excuse – or justify – the frankly despicable torrent of abuse that an ignorant minority have unleashed against immigrants or, in many cases, the UK-born descendants of families who moved here from far afield. Senior Wakefield councillor Nadeem Ahmed, the latest victim, points out that this is a result of migration policy becoming inextricably linked to the EU.
He might now be a lame duck Prime Minister, but David Cameron does still have time to carry out one last act. He should compel every chief constable to instruct their officers to enforce a policy of zero tolerance from today onwards – and arrange for hate crime perpetrators to attend sessions on community cohesion as part of a challenging programme of restorative justice and healing. Nothing less should suffice if the aforementioned values of “hope, commitment and love” are to flourish.
Legacy of Somme: True heroes of Great Britain
IN a celebrity era when the most minor of showbusiness or sporting personalities are hero-worshipped by the masses, this false adulation is put in perspective by the heroism of those brave young men who gave their lives on the Somme battlefields a century ago in the name of freedom.
Soldiers totally unprepared for the raging battle that awaited them, their courage – and humbling willingness to serve their country – continues to inspire as a result of a belated appreciation of the sacrifices that they made.
Long may this continue. As Prince Charles spoke movingly about the prevailing “spirit of reconciliation and respect”, it is heartening to see how these commemorations have piqued the interest of so many young people in family history. If this is the prevailing legacy of the cumulative events to commemorate the First World War, it will bolster the twin pillars of humanity and hope in a troubled and uncertain world.