The problem for the Conservatives is that they were rumbled at the end of the ITV leaders’ debate when the issue of trust – I should say mistrust – had come to the fore.
What does it say about the state of politics when Boris Johnson, the current Prime Minister, has to be asked on national television: “Does the truth matter in the election?”
The fact that there was mock laughter, and astonishment, from the studio audience spoke volumes when the Tory leader, hesitantly and unconvincingly, replied: “I think it does.”
Good – but it still does not explain, or justify, a Conservative social media feed being rebranded ‘factcheckUK’ before declaring, predictably, that Johnson was the winner over Jeremy Corbyn.
The fact that it included the Twitter address for CCHQ is also risible when most unsuspecting people will have little idea that these four letters stand for ‘Conservative Campaign Headquarters.
Desperate tactics that deliberately circumvent the lack of regulation on social media – unlike broadcasters who have to conform to very strict impartiality rules in election – the resulting furore actually masked a wider failing in politics and, specifically, Johnson’s economy of truth.
The Tories should not need to resort to such rogue ruses – they should have so much confidence in their policies, and ability to articulate them, that such duplicity and negativity is not needed. Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, and Michael Gove, another senior Cabinet minister, should have known better when they tried, and failed, to defend such behaviour the next day.
And the very fact that such an underhand approach is having to be deployed against a hard-left Labour leader likened to a Marxist offers further proof about the decline in political debate and conduct.
Yes, Brexit has added a new dimension and toxicity to contemporary politics, but it does not excuse the Tories – and others – demonising their opponents instead of presenting a positive case for reform.
As for the debate, Johnson and Corbyn both did enough to appease their own supporters. Neither did enough to win over the unconvinced and undecided.
And Britain is certainly no nearer to identifying a leader who is remotely capable of uniting this country and beginning to restore trust to the political process.
That, for me, is the greatest regret of all.
BORIS JOHNSON’S flat-footed response to the Yorkshire floods is not new – David Cameron is particularly critical in his book, For The Record, about the-then Mayor of London’s response to the 2011 riots in the capital.
Bemoaning Johnson’s late arrival at successive meetings of Cobra – the Government’s emergency committee – the PM was piqued when his supposed friend and colleague went out of his way to blame the disorder on police cuts.
“I was furious and called him straight away. ‘Why the hell did you do that?’ He said it was revenge for No 10 saying this was his ‘Hurricane Katrina’ moment, alluding to the fact that he had been away on holiday and it had taken him several days to return to London,” wrote Cameron.
“This had not come from my team, but from a Guardian article. He was being paranoid, and frankly at that stage of proceedings a massive irritation.”
The ex-Tory leader says Theresa May, George Osborne and also Nick Clegg were resolute in their desire not to reverse police cuts. “While the mayor of London was veering all over the place, Cabinet was pulling together as one,” he added. All over the place? That does not inspire confidence.
IT appears David Cameron was generous to his successor Theresa May in his memoir because he did not want any disclosures – or the book’s serialisation –to add to her difficulties.
What he did not appear to realise is that she would be replaced by his on-off friend Boris Johnson by the time of publication and that Cameron’s candour is all the more revealing about the current PM’s character.
Take the pair’s meeting when Cameron asked Johnson for his big idea for his ultimately successful campaign in 2012 to be re-elected as the mayor of London. The response? “Driverless trains”.
Cameron’s verdict? “This made perfect sense on brand new networks, like the metro system in Dubai, but sounded hopelessly vague – and probably even dangerous – for a complex, older system like the London Underground,” he wrote.
“And anyway, Boris saying ‘driverless trains’ had the potential to frighten the life out of people. ‘I have a nine-point plan’, he then said. But he couldn’t even remember the points.” Not the most ringing of endorsements or testimonials, is it?
FORMER Treasury minister Jim O’Neill, one of the Northern Powerhouse architects, said, in the aftermath of the South Yorkshire floods, that leaders here should complain less. Try telling that, Lord O’Neill, to the Don Valley flooding victims who feel this region is still on the wrong end of so many Government spending decisions over infrastructure investment and future-proofing the economy?
A PERTINENT line from TV naturalist Sir David Attenborough about the state of politics – and approach to climate change. “There you are,” he said this week when pressed on the general election and related matters. “Democracy is not as effective as direct action by a totalitarian state, but it’s preferable.”