The fact that not one journalist was granted access to this week’s hustings at Parliament between the leading contenders, and MPs, to record proceedings speaks volumes about the party’s arrogance – and contempt – for the people that it purports to govern.
It reaffirms the view that the contest is all about back-room stitch-ups, and preferment for key protagonists, rather than the future of the country at large. In case they have forgotten, issues like social care and the Northern Powerhouse agenda matter just as much as Brexit.
Yet, as MPs begin to sort the front-runners from the also-rans, it is time the public were even acknowledged. This is not just about the selection of a new party leader and Prime Minister – assuming, of course, Buckingham Palace is sufficiently reassured that the victor is in a position to be asked by Her Majesty to form a government, command the Commons and work with MPs on Brexit.
It is not just about their qualities and vision. It is about their team – running a government is not a one-person job – but the people that will work alongside them.
And, in the interests of transparency, I think the five candidates with the most support after next Thursday’s first ballot should reveal who they intend to appoint as Deputy Prime Minister, Chancellor, Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary and Brexit Secretary. They should also confirm who, if elected, will be their chief of staff and an outline of their first Queen’s Speech, even more so given the extent to which Westminster is now in legislative limbo.
Why? Not only will this reveal the direction that the candidates intend to take, but it will provide an insight into whether they can unite a deeply divided party.
Just as presidential nominees in America are compelled to name their ‘running mate’, the same principle should apply here, starting now, if candidates want to reassure voters – their ultimate employers – that they’re worthy of the job of Prime Minister until they can seek a public mandate. And if not, why not?
MY initial instinct was that the Tory leadership contest would develop into a two-way fight between Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove on the basis that Boris Johnson would – at some point – press the self-destruct button.
This could still happen. The ex-Foreign Secretary will never be more than one gaffe away from personal and political humiliation, hence why his aides have been deliberately keeping his public appearances to a minimum in a campaign which is far more organised than his botched effort in 2016.
Yet it is not stopping him from writing his weekly column in the Daily Telegraph as part of a £275,000 a year contract – income that is presumably funding his leadership campaign. And while he used this platform to promise to “significantly” increase the amount spent on every secondary school pupil to at least £5,000, at least raising the possibility of parity of funding for the North with the rest of the country, he also revealed a fundamental error.
If school results are to improve still further, a laudable ambition, this exercise needs to begin in primary schools where the ability – or otherwise – of pupils to grasp the three Rs is fundamental to their future fortunes. Perhaps Mr Johnson would like to expand on this for The Yorkshire Post.
IN the latest ConservativeHome survey of activists on their satisfaction – or otherwise – with Cabinet Ministers, the negative rating given to Theresa May falls off the chart. Yet the fact that one person is even more disliked – no prizes for guessing that it is Chris Grayling – shows why the PM’s loyalty towards her failing Transport Secretary was so misplaced and why none of the contenders for her job want his endorsement.
A QUITE profound point was made by Neil Kinnock in the BBC’s fascinating documentary about Margaret Thatcher as he assessed strife-torn Britain’s turmoil in early 1982 prior to the liberation of the Falklands.
Any leader who keeps saying they’re strong, like Mrs Thatcher did at the time, is probably trying to mask great weakness. It also explains why Theresa May’s ‘strong and stable’ mantra was the most disastrous election slogan in living memory.
TALKING of Theresa May, her husband Philip has been an unsung hero this week, chaperoning his wife during President Donald Trump’s state visit and meeting world leaders at D-Day events. Like the Queen and, in fairness, the PM, he, too, did not put a foot wrong.
FINALLY, 5,270 additional reasons why Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee are a class apart ahead of the Leeds leg of triathlon’s world series this weekend – an event which had to be moved to Yorkshire because of their phenomenal success as sportsmen and role models over the past decade.
That’s the number of youngsters who completed one of the mini-triathlons organised by the incomparable Brownlee brothers, and a small army of volunteers, in Yorkshire the other week to promote their sport – and the benefits of regular exercise.
It’s some legacy as they begin to set their sights on victory at next year’s Tokyo Olympics after a couple of years blighted by injury and illness. If only they had time to organise this country. Come to think of it, they’d make a better of job of it, with their gruff Yorkshire resilience, good humour and can-do attitude, than most of those in the running to become Prime Minister...