There’s nobody else to lead!

The lack of an obvious successor is a poor reason for the Prime Minister to hang on, argues Jim in his latest blog. He suggests it is all a part of a lowering of standards in public and private life.

Jim Hancock

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It is a comment on the state of our politics that many Tory MPs are not calling for Boris Johnson’s resignation because there is no credible alternative.

The Prime Minister should be gone, partly for breaking Covid rules, but mainly for flagrantly misleading parliament with his assurances that there were no parties, and no rules were broken. No sophistry about blaming civil servants for not informing him will do. The rules about not misleading parliament don’t include get out of jail provisions relating to poor advice received.

Crude politics is in play. The spectacular decline in the fortunes of the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has left the Conservatives short of credible candidates to take over with Johnson’s brand of being a certain election winner.

The Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is the bookies favourite. I would back Preston’s Ben Wallace who has enhanced his reputation with his arms support for Ukraine. He is a reasonable centrist Tory but has a low national profile. Johnson’s challenger in 2019 for the Tory leadership, Jeremy Hunt, is mentioned by many commentators. He is a fairly vanilla figure and certainly lacks any claim to be an obvious vote winner. A complete outsider is Tom Tugendhat. As Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, he was calling for the West to take a much tougher stand on Ukraine before Russia’s invasion.

But all this speculation about runners and riders is otiose at the moment because Johnson is determined to carry on. If the local elections are a disaster and the cost-of-living crisis continues to mount, things might change. I was struck by a panel of experienced political commentators who this week all thought Johnson would lead the party into the next election.

FALLING STANDARDS

The Prime Minister’s ability to brush off his fine is partly linked to the public’s lowered expectation of the behaviour of those in public and private office.

We have two MPs convicted of serious offences still in the Commons. We have had a series of scandals where individuals in charge have not been made fully accountable. Hillsborough, the contaminated blood scandal, sub post masters, maternity care at Shrewsbury and Morecambe Bay and cladding. The list goes on and on.

I can recall politicians in the past who have resigned from public office when, it turned out, there was no reason for them to do so. They did it because they felt, on balance, it was the honourable thing to do.

Now all the effort is put into finding some way to wriggle off the hook, find a form of words that will do or blame other people.

It might save their miserable careers in the short term but let’s hope the public rouse themselves from cynical lethargy to ensure we are once again led by people we can respect.

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