‘Banging on the Walls’: Will Johnson be the Tory’s Victor?
Johnson looks strong in his pursuit of the Tory leadership, as Theresa May’s official resignation acts as a starting pistol for the contest.
Despite the threat of a criminal trial, Boris Johnson is still the frontrunner of an unprecedented Tory leadership competition, both in a sense of candidate numbers and national importance.
If he does succeed in convincing both Conservative MPs and party members, he will be the first bookies favourite to win, as past favourites have found themselves pipped to the post by a competent candidate quietly waiting for their opportunity – like Major’s overtaking of Heseltine – or, with regards to the most recent contest, when nobody else is left standing.
Johnson has looked ever more appealing as the latest latent rise of Farage has been made ever plainer. The Brexit Party’s emphatic victory in the European elections, as well as their exceptional performance in the recent Peterborough by-election, has scared the main parties to death. Indeed, Johnson has told party members attending hustings that the Conservative party could face an ‘existential crisis’ or even ‘extinction’ if Britain does not leave the EU on 31st October.
He was reportedly greeted with ‘banging on the walls’ by fellow MPs, supposedly the harder to win over than the approximately 150,000 party voters, and may be seen as an irresistible choice for many voters. A titan taking on a titan, as the Tories may have to engage in a battle for their very existence due to an astronomical gulf between the existing government and leave voters desperately appealing for some action after their decision three years ago.
This leadership election will, in the end, represent a decision between May’s mediating and can kicking legacy or the option of the No Deal Brexit demanded by Farage’s disciples. Maybe Gove – who has suggested an smaller extension to the October deadline if an agreement is agonisingly close – against Johnson. Now wouldn’t that be a tantalising prospect after Johnson uttered ‘et tu Brute?’ in 2016?
Johnson’s affection for a ‘No Deal’ may sound appealing, this constitutional, social, political, and economic kerfuffle would be over and the country can move on, right? That would be a misinterpretation, however. The use of quotation marks around ‘No Deal’ is due to the argument that the outcome does not exist. We could, in fact, be dragged into free trade negotiations with the EU anyway, which they insist would have to start with current disagreements, such as the rights of EU citizens and the Irish border, if they have yet to be resolved.
Candidates have been asked their positions on the Brexit question over and over by many, many journalists, as they try to present themselves as Prime Ministerial material with cringeworthy promotional videos and, in Johnson’s case, more dignified hairstyles. This noticeably made an appearance as early as December last year, although he has had leadership ambitions for much longer. This may date as early as his schoolboy rivalry with Cameron. His novel ‘The Churchill Factor’ and references to the classics in his somewhat grandiose speeches suggest a destiny complex tying him to Number 10, and that may yet be realised.
Stewart’s admirable, yet most likely ineffectual, attempts to meet and debate with the public, Hancock’s appeals for mediation, and Raab’s ridiculous inkling towards a King-Charlesian prorogue of parliament – to make sure ‘No Deal’ is not blocked by the House of Commons – may fail in their attempt to topple Johnson’s reputation and, so far, beguiling silence. Leadsom has not denied that he had reached out to her regarding a cabinet post if he was to become PM, for example.
At the moment, Johnson – despite some, like Mark Francois, questioning his Brexit ‘purity’ due to his one time support of May’s withdrawal agreement – has 52 MPs who have pledged their support. Whereas, Hunt possesses 33, Gove: 32, Raab: 24, Javid: 17, and Hancock: 12.
These other candidates may have to settle for jobs in a Johnson cabinet, as fear of parties with a polarised position on the European question, Johnson’s differing personality, his referendum reputation, belief in a ‘No Deal’ remaining an option, and Brexiteer status push him over the line. However, if members and MPs deem him too risky – unable to win election after election against the Brexit Party and others – he may fall, with someone like Gove, his nemesis, or Hunt taking the helm instead.