As Britain descends further into the dystopian nightmare that Brexit has become, the latest instalment of our journey from serious country to sick joke is the Tory leadership contest. That a country, that considers itself a democracy, can choose a new Prime Minister, based on the votes of 160,000 people who are 70% male, 97% white, and with an average age of 57, should be disturbing enough before we even get to consider the candidates who are lining up to lead the ‘death cult’ that is the current Conservative Party.
Amidst the current media frenzy, we should ask what policies these candidates are putting forward about the NHS, health and welfare, and Brexit? What follows is an attempt to piece together their positions, with the proviso that for most their positions are unclear at best, and that some appear to want to avoid any discussion at all. One common theme has been that all (except for Rory Stewart) have been prepared to countenance a ‘no deal’ Brexit on Hallowe’en, without explaining how medicines, or indeed food, would be made available in the UK.
Of the original lineup, three have already been knocked out: Andrea Leadsom (claimed to have smoked cannabis at University in a desperate attempt to appear cool); Esther McVey (destroyed by Lorraine Kelly); and Mark Harper (probably not even recognised by his own family). Matt Hancock, the current Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and darling of the Institute of (who funds them?) Economic Affairs withdrew after round one. At time of writing, this means six candidates are still in the running. So, let’s look at these in turn, going from those with least votes in round one of the leadership contest.
Stewart appears to be favoured by many people who will never vote Conservative. In a clown car race, he appears to be the most serious candidate. However, in a clown race, he is still a clown, something he appears to acknowledge when commenting on the venue for his leadership bid launch, a circus tent when he said: ‘in the competition for who is the greatest clown standing in this race there may be some competition.’ Despite being described by Diane Abbott as ‘a nice guy, and really interesting,’ he may not be the progressive hero some imagine. Stewart has in the past voted in support of the Government’s NHS reorganisation and to remove the “private patient income cap” in the NHS. He was also against the relaxation of abortion access in Northern Ireland. He has also tended to be against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability. But he has called for more spending on health in the future.
Drugs: smoked opium while at a wedding in Iran.
Brexit: rejects no deal and wants a citizen’s assembly to work out a solution to Brexit – he might support membership of the Single Market.
Known as ‘The Saj’ by absolutely no one apart from himself (even though he now denies it). Javid is currently the Home Secretary where he is desperately trying to prove that he can enact just as many borderline racist policies as Theresa May (such as declaring a ‘major’ incident because 12 desperate refugees were spotted off the coast of Kent). As Home Secretary, he did allow the exemption of visa requirements for overseas doctors and nurses but then made it clear that the measure was only temporary. As with most Tories, he voted in favour of the NHS reorganisation and against any restriction of services to private patients in the NHS.
Drugs: denies ever having taken any illegal drug.
Brexit: Would rather have no deal than no Bexit and favours fantasy ‘alternative arrangements’ to solve the Irish border issue (but would pay the Irish share of these fantasy costs).
Raab is the meninist candidate who thinks that men are getting a raw deal and thinks that feminists are ‘obnoxious bigots’. And, if the reports of his bullying of a female employee, covered by a non-disclosure agreement, are to be believed it seems that he enthusiastically practices his meninist beliefs. His other beliefs include a call for the return of workhouses for those in poverty and the full privatisation of the NHS and in the past appeared to favour the opening up the NHS to American private companies in any post-Brexit Trump trade deal (but since then has distanced himself from this position).
Drugs: Admitted to smoking cannabis as a student which was a ‘mistake’, apparently made on several occasions.
Brexit: Another believer in fantasy ‘alternative arrangements’ and prepared to leave with no deal.
Gove clung onto the discredited claim that after leaving the EU, the UK would be able to spend £350m-a-week on the NHS from the Brexit dividend, (even though there is no Brexit dividend, only costs ranging from harsh to catastrophic). He has recently praised the NHS and their kindness and professionalism after his son was badly injured. Similarly, to other candidates, he has consistently voted for Government ‘reforms’ of the NHS and against restrictions on the provision of services to private patients.
Drugs: Gove has admitted to using cocaine ‘on several occasions’. Maybe a bit of speculation here, but if someone has used cocaine ‘on several occasions’, then the chances are that they really (really!) liked it.
Brexit: He is prepared to allow a further extension of Article 50 to try and start a renegotiation with the EU (even though the EU have made clear this is not possible).
Hunt was until recently the (longest serving) Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and so was responsible for enacting many of the Governments ill-considered NHS ‘reforms’. Part of his leadership bid has been to stress that he could become ‘the first prime minister to have run our biggest public service, the NHS’. But what was his record as health secretary? In 2015 he claimed that the NHS needed 5,000 more GPs by 2020. When he left the Department of Health in mid-2018, there were just 162 more GPs. When he took over as health secretary, 94.9% of patients attending A&E were seen within four hours, six years later, after his curation of the health department, this figure had dropped to 84%. At the start of his time as health secretary, 95.4% of patients suspected of having cancer were seen within two weeks, but by the end of his period, that figure had dropped to 88.4%. So all the evidence points to the fact that Hunt’s tenure at the health department has led to an overall fall of standards in several important areas. Then, of course, there was the junior doctors strike and the development of the so-called Hunt Effect, where patients died because they were too scared to go to hospital at the weekend because of Mr Hunt’s earlier comments.
Drugs: claims to have consumed a cannabis lassi when backpacking through India.
Brexit: Not very clear that his approach to Brexit differs in any way at all from May’s but he seems to imagine that he would be able to get a new deal by Hallowe’en by sending a new negotiating team to the EU. This despite it being made clear that the EU will not reopen negotiations with anyone, and they have disbanded their negotiating team anyway.
Johnson is widely credited with being the architect of the £350 million for the NHS lie during the referendum campaign. This should not be a surprise as Johnson is on the record as an incompetent “serial liar” with a chain of policy failures and bad judgements to his name. For example, a non-exhaustive list might include: water cannons; Garden Bridge; conspiring to beat up a journalist; Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe; two newspaper columns, for and against Brexit; and a plan to build an airport in the Thames estuary (other failures of policy and personal judgement/behaviour are available). Since he started his leadership bid, he has made vague promises to spend more on public services. He has also promised to cut taxes for the rich at a cost to the public purse £10 billion every year. How, after the economic hit of Brexit, it would be possible to both fund a £10 billion-pound giveaway for those who need it least and an increase in public spending is not explained. This is probably because both claims are likely to be lies.
Drugs: Has admitted to trying cocaine and cannabis at university but in a new take on the Clinton defence claimed that they did not have any effect on him.
Brexit: Johnson has made a (worthless) ‘promise’ that the UK will leave the EU on Hallowe’en come what may and even without a deal.
So, there you have it. Our next prime minister will be one of the above, and if early indications are accurate, it will be the incompetent serial liar. But it all may be slightly irrelevant. The main issue facing the country is Brexit and the economic consequences that will follow the UK’s departure from the EU. The options come October the 31st remain the same as ever: Theresa May’s deal; no deal; or no Brexit. The Theresa May deal will not be reopened or get through Parliament. That leaves no-deal or no Brexit, either of which would bury the Conservative Party, probably forever. ‘No way out anymore. It’s check-mate for the Tories whatever happens.’ And in their own way, the Tories seem to understand this. There is a joke going around amongst Tory leadership tribes that ‘we’ll all meet again in November’. They believe whoever wins is doomed because come the 31st October Britain will not leave the EU but enter a full political crisis and general election. After which they will have a new election to pick a leader of the opposition. So silver linings and all that…
How many more Prime Ministers will Brexit destroy? Answers in comments below.
As all the candidates, apart from one, admit to using illegal drugs at some point in their lives, maybe it’s time to re-think drug, policing and criminal policies.
Whoever wins the Tory party leadership contest, do they have a mandate to govern and who are they accountable to?
Why can’t Boris Johnson be honest about something so simple as how many children he has?
What ‘promises’ will the winner have made to his followers and will he keep them? How will Johnson cope with five Chancellors of the Exchequer?
During Dominic Raab’s disastrous spell as Brexit secretary, his nickname in Brussels was ‘The Turnip’.