A SPINELESS dereliction of duty, abdication of responsibility, an act of cowardice, betrayal, treachery... words simply cannot do justice to the manner of Boris Johnson’s bombshell decision to pull out of the Tory leadership race one week after persuading the country to leave the European Union and, in doing so, plunge the country’s economy into unfathomable chaos.
Strangely silent since the shock outcome, a result which brought about Prime Minister David Cameron’s resignation, this bolt from the blue can be attributed to three core reasons. The de facto leader of the Brexit campaign had no idea himself how the UK could extricate itself from the EU without compromising trade; his popularity amongst Tory activists was over-exaggerated and he was too weak to stand up to confront the backstabbing of his lieutenant Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary.
Given the extent to which the former Mayor of London’s personality decisively swung public opinion, the very least that the electorate deserve is some sort of explanation. Yet what did they get? Mr Johnson shuffling off without answering a single question, presumably because he values his contract as a national newspaper column more than the British people.
The only saving grace, at a time of profound political, economic and constitutional turmoil, is that Mr Johnson’s unsuitability for high office was established now – and not after he had won the keys to 10 Downing Street.
This U-turn should, thankfully, be a watershed and mark the end of his Parliamentary ambitions, but at what cost to the credibility of the Tory party and the country?
It has left the divided Brexit wing of the Tory party fielding three candidates – Andrea Leadsom, Liam Fox and the aforementioned Mr Gove who spent the recent referendum campaign saying he was not up to being PM before having his arm twisted by his own wife Sarah Vine, another Fleet Street commentator.
This potentially play to the strengths of Theresa May. Even though the Home Secretary backed the Remain campaign, and is accused by opponents of presiding over the breakdown of immigration policy, she has largely stood above the tawdry personality politics that have been so unedifying and is the most experienced of the five nominees.
And it should be remembered that Mrs May made a quietly authoritative pitch for the leadership. Significantly, she secured the support of Cabinet colleague Chris Grayling – another prominent Brexit campaigner left out on the cold following the bloody battle of egos between Messrs Gove and Johnson – and she was steadfast in her view that Article 50 should not be invoked until Britain has a clear plan for the future.
Time will tell whether Mrs May not only wins – but whether she can avoid the need for an early election and formulate a strategy which yields positive dividends for the whole of Britain, Yorkshire included.
At least she has proven form as a negotiator, not least the extradition of radical cleric Abu Hamza which she personally presided over after being told it was impossible. This is the type of resolve that will be needed in the coming, days, weeks, months and years – and hopefully a more measured and mature debate will follow after the implosion of Boris Johnson’s candidacy and reputation. At this stage, the race appears to be Mrs May’s to lose but this is a febrile period when a day, never mind a week, is proving to be a very long time in politics.
Somme remembrance: Nation remembers bloodiest battle
IT is a humbling thought that today’s travails, however troublesome, are nothing compared to the magnitude of the events a centenary ago when 21,000 British soldiers were killed, and another 35,000 injured, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme – the defining struggle of not just the First World War but one of the 20th century’s bloodiest battles in history.
It is also a moment for solemn reflection; remembrance of those brave young soldiers, some technically not old enough to serve, from the Pals battalions across Yorkshire, and the rest of the UK, killed answering their country’s call and quiet gratitude that the battlefields of Europe are, in fact, now fields of peace, even though it would take a second global conflict from 1939-45 to bring the world to its senses.
Yet it is also to this country’s credit that events to mark the brutal conflict of 100 years ago have led to a reawakening of the debt of gratitude that current generations owe to their forebears – and this continues to be illustrated by very localised memorial events across Yorkshire to remember the specific sacrifices made by individual communities.
Standing in silent tribute for two minutes today is a small price to pay for a peace that must never be taken for granted.