Fine words from the Tory hopeful Rory Stewart: “We need a sense of shame. We need to feel shame. We need to begin things by saying that this is not good enough. When I see an 88 year old woman looking after a doubly incontinent 93 year old woman, it is not good enough.” And he’s right. But just wait until he finds out that he has spent the last nine years in parliament filing into the lobbies to vote for the shame he now feels. It’s a shame, all right.
Yet Stewart, for all his fine words and dreadful voting record, is one of the few grown ups who are fighting to become the new Tory leader and prime minister. Yes, he was an Old Etonian and yes he went to Oxford University but the emerging reality is that Stewart could well have the best ideas for Britain’s future. And this is why he won’t be prime minister.
Has there ever been a more pathetic line-up of candidates who want to lead the country? I can’t think of one. You might not have liked the likes of Michael Portillo or Andy Burnham, for example, but you could imagine them making a decent fist of running the country. You could certainly imagine Boris Johnson running the country, but only into the ground.
When Stewart talks about how things are “not good enough”, he is of course right. Anyone who knows anything about the state we are in knows that. However, the issues that affect the “88 year old woman looking after a doubly incontinent 93 year old woman” are mere white noise. Locally, I read that cancer and mental health services are under immediate threat. But that’s happening everywhere. Some places are much worse than Bristol. In the Tory leadership campaign, all the candidates talk about are Brexit and taking drugs.
It is as if nothing apart from Brexit matters and to the ambitious Tories, nothing does. The most ambitious seek to lead the country, the next rung of ambitious Tories want good cabinet jobs when the new leader is chosen and the rest just want to keep their seats in parliament. Doubly incontinent people are simply irrelevant.
Stewart has no chance of becoming the next PM. Boris Johnson, I would suggest, is all but certain to become the next PM. If you thought the country was divided and broken under Theresa May, just wait until Johnson walks into number ten. A lying, cheating, hypocritical, disloyal, unreliable and utterly incompetent politician, with the narcissism of Donald Trump. A man with no grasp for or interest in detail, Johnson will be the man to pour gallons of extra fuel on Britain’s fire.
I’ll take Stewart’s words on face value. Whatever went on before, he grasps the reality of the state of the nation. He observes that the care sector is in crisis and he knows that much of the infrastructure than makes our society civilised is crumbling. A blowhard like Johnson either hasn’t noticed or doesn’t care. It’s probably both.
Johnson will be the next PM because enough Tory MPs will want him to own the catastrophe Brexit will inflict on the country. They want him to own the consequences of his lies and bluster. And they want to make sure that the electorate know who to blame when Brexit turns out to be the very opposite of what the likes of Johnson promised it would be.