Boris Johnson must work fast to stop Brexit being seen as an act of treachery

时间:2019-09-08 责任编辑:栾荑夼 来源:澳门赌博网址大全-2019专业平台Welcome√ 点击:122 次

“Power is where power goes.” this was one of Lyndon B Johnson’s most cherished aphorisms, and one that noted in his reading of Robert Caro’s masterly biography. As Westminster’s pundits wonder “where Osborne is” and what his intentions are in the forthcoming leadership race, this particular aperçu has struck the chancellor as especially apposite to the post-referendum landscape. Power is indeed shifting dramatically from one regime to another still being formed.

Do not infer from Osborne’s musings that he has made a definitive decision not to stand – “we have more support than we expected”, according to one of his cabinet allies – still less that he is certain to back if he himself opts out of the race. As the same ally points out tersely: “George isn’t in hiding – he’s running the country, calling G7 leaders and protecting British stability.”

This is a very odd contest indeed. Most such races follow a general election defeat, or a mutiny triggered by the incumbent’s manifest inability to lead his party to victory. But it is little more than 13 months since became the first Tory leader in 23 years to win a Commons majority: “the sweetest victory of all”, as he called it. That victory was welcomed by Brexiteers as it enabled the prime minister to hold the in-out referendum they had long yearned for.

That referendum – and that referendum alone – has destroyed Cameron. Having campaigned for remain, he realised the day before the vote that he could not negotiate Britain’s extrication from the EU, implementing a popular decision that he had vigorously opposed. There is, at least, some dignity in this path. Who wants to be a gilded ventriloquist’s dummy?

The contest to select his successor has not been mandated by Cameron’s inadequacy but by a sensational change of context. Contemporary history now divides clinically into before and after Brexit; BB and AB. Though the process of departure will be messy and prolonged, the moment of decision was sudden, sharp and unambiguous. There is much talk of buyer’s remorse and, more plausibly, of parliamentary sabotage of a constitutional revolution that most MPs still oppose. There will be speed bumps on the road ahead, and detours galore. But the sheer democratic force of a referendum result is immensely hard to resist. The new Tory leader and (ex officio) prime minister must be suited to these new times.

And here they all come, these men and women of destiny: Liam Fox, Nicky Morgan, , Stephen Crabb and others, all “considering their positions” – code for securing first-round votes – while Cameron’s political body is still warm. Some of them will drop out before the race begins. Others will be content to survive a round or two, if only to secure a decent job in the new Brexit cabinet.

This is not true of May, who is expected to announce this week, and, like Hillary Clinton, is “in it to win it”. Her supporters believe she has what it takes to prevail in both the parliamentary rounds and the final ballot of Tory members, in which the whole party chooses from the last two candidates. Certainly, the home secretary has the cachet of long service in a great office of state and was a Rino – remainer in name only – during the campaign. She will be acceptable to many Brexiteers, especially to those with doubts about Johnson.

That said, the leadership rules might have been written to favour a candidate like the former mayor. They were devised during William Hague’s leadership to thwart Ken Clarke. If the Tory parliamentary party was ever inclined to choose the Europhile Clarke as its leader, the Eurosceptic activists could be relied upon to thwart its preference. (This is precisely what happened in 2001, when Clarke topped the ballot of MPs but was decisively beaten by Iain Duncan Smith in the members’ ballot.) Johnson, in many respects a Eurosceptic reboot of Clarke, is much loved by Tory activists and I find it hard to envisage him losing if he is one of the final two candidates.

The preliminary and greater challenge facing him is to woo the parliamentary party and to prevent the political drama of the past few weeks hardening into a treachery myth. The conviction that Margaret Thatcher was toppled by pygmies and that Gordon Brown was cheated out of the Labour leadership in 1994 poisoned their respective parties for years. Johnson needs to work fast to stop Cameron’s departure and itself being remembered as the price party and country paid for a single politician’s ambition.

In the words of one Brexiteer cabinet minister: “There is a lot of really bad blood among remain people about Boris. He has to show that this wasn’t all about him. The first question he has to answer is how he unites the party.” This is no easy task. More than ever, Johnson is respected by his party as a winner – which counts for a lot, especially in Tory politics. But trust in him has been sharply eroded by the very manner in which he won. To many observers, Vote Leave was simply a fledgling leadership campaign feeding off the nasty handiwork of Nigel Farage.

Whoever wins, he or she will need to bring the ruptured party together fast. It may be that the new prime minister will seek a snap general election to secure his or her own mandate. Thanks to the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, this is not as straightforward as it once was. Two-thirds of MPs must vote for immediate dissolution; alternatively, a regular vote of no confidence in the government may be passed, followed by a fortnight in which no alternative administration is formed. Neither procedure is easy to engineer. In the meantime, the new prime minister must make do with the majority of 12 he or she inherits.

How, then, to reassure the dismayed rump of remain Conservative MPs who see the party heading in a direction they deplore, and who did not come into politics to keep people out of Britain? The next leader of the needs to remember and to assuage the 48% who do not believe that immigration is the principal crisis facing Britain or that leaving the EU will solve the nation’s problems.

The Tory party wins elections when it campaigns as a one-nation movement, not as a gentrified version of Ukip. Finding that electoral space is immensely hard, as is governing from the centre-right. As Cameron’s successor will soon discover, the job is nothing like as easy as he made it look.