Sunday 23 July 2017

Andrea Leadsom for Tory Leader

Oh And-re-a Lead-som. Oh And-re-a Lead-som. As a founder member of #Labour4Leadsom on Twitter, I was very pleased to see her make the headlines this week. For entirely the wrong reasons, of course. On Wednesday she did this - laugh-out-loud lols and no mistaking. And on the occasion of Jane Austen appearing on the new £10 note, Leadsom hailed her as one of our greatest living authors. Yep, thick as mince just about covers it. Nevertheless, I can't help but be beguiled by her. How someone with an obvious deficit of political nous and base intellect not only carries on in the front rank of British politics but is regarded as a contender for the Conservative Party leadership and, therefore, the office of Prime Minister is a whopper of a head scratcher. Last year Eric Pickles dubbed her an "an amateur who's already failed", and yet here she is. Leadsom is an amateur who appears to be succeeding.

I bring her up now because the storm clouds of a leadership challenge are gathering again. I'm still of the view Theresa May is going to cling on until after Brexit simply because a) it's in all the would-be challengers' interests that she be ousted, and therefore b) it's in none of the would-be challengers' interests that she be ousted. With no obvious leader-in-waiting and Brexit waiting to extract its heavy toll, it's better to have yesterday's woman carry the can for the time being. Getting rid, agreeing to an interim, such as David Davis, and then buying him a watch in time for the next general election might be sensible from the standpoint of party management, but less so if they want to go to the country again with their tired and transparent party-of-stability shtick. And let's face it, this election showed they don't have many cards to play.

Leaving that aside, Leadsom is bound to put in, even though she may face competition for the Tory fringe (read core) from funny-ha-ha Jacob Rees-Mogg. Surely neither would stand much of a chance? After all, this is the ruthlessly pragmatic Tories we're talking about here, the party that has never allowed principle to stand in the way of power lest government be used against them and the interests they represent. Yet is this a truth to be universally acknowledged for all time?

There are a few things that could favour a fringe challenge from a Leadsom or a Mogg. The first hurdle is the gate keeping process of the parliamentary party. Unlike Labour and its thresholds, in the event of an election a candidate requires only a proposer and a seconder from the Tory benches. There then follow rounds of ballots of MPs until only two remain, which then are put to the membership. As Leadsom made it to the second round before self-aborting in 2016, she stands in good stead to do so again. Why? Because of the members. In the frenzy following the Brexit vote, something interesting started happening to the Tories while the media were feasting on Labour's difficulties. That something interesting was an uptick in Tory membership. Many punters took the view that they would be able to join and get a say on who gets to run the party (and therefore be the next PM). The party however has a strict six month membership rule and once word got out this mini-surge fizzled. More important, however, was a growing social media movement among the dying grass roots. There were instances of "activists" lobbying MPs to support Leadsom or face deselection by their local association. When she retired this too fell away, but could the next leadership contest see its recrudescence?

Yes. Much to the chagrin and dread of Tory organisers, the collapse of UKIP and the polarisation of the vote has seen a return to the associations of all the horrible arseholes who upped sticks in pathetic protest against Dave's moves to equalise marriage for same-sex couples. UKIP is dead because UKIP is alive and well in the Tory party ranks. Therefore the membership base for a Leadsom challenge is wider than it was a year ago. You can expect these people to bang the drum loudly and being very annoying in pressing their MPs to back the hard right candidate. Second, looking across to the opposition benches they see that a values politician with ideas and principles, however much they may hate them, has not only taken over the leadership but has won additional votes and seats by offering clarity about where Labour stands. There are those on the right who believe offering a "principled" anti-liberal, pro-free market and, well, kipperish Toryism can win votes and elections too. All the hug-a-husky flim-flamery and caring about the poor were so much obstacles to success. As Leadsom (or Mogg) is nearest to this, we may have an occasion where twisted principle negates pragmatic concern because they think hard Toryism is a winner and she (or he) wins. If Corbyn can do it, why not Leadsom? This would entail a catastrophic misreading of the political situation, but you know what they say about interrupting enemies in the middle of making a mistake.

When it comes to dealing with the Tories it is not enough to beat them in an election. They have to be crushed and left permanently cowed. That demands they lose heavily after dropping to bits, splitting, and decomposing. And when they regroup and rebuild they are so thoroughly defanged they can never be in a position to ram through a damaging, destructive programme ever again. The scenario that best guarantees this outcome is if Leadsom is at the helm, and why Labour people should not hesitate in backing her for the next Conservative leader.

Again, after me. Oh And-re-a Lead-som. Oh And-re-a Lead-som.


Lidl_Janus said...

Any Tory could have written the same piece (in broad terms) about Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 - i.e. he couldn't possibly win, he's a rank incompetent, he's an extremist, he'll destroy Labour for decades, maybe for good. I think the last election proved that you shouldn't back the 'unelectable' candidate, because they're always electable under the right circumstances, and the right circumstances can always arise.

In which case: no, I can't back Leadsom - or, for that matter, Rees-Mogg.

Anonymous said...


Also, lots of Democrats thought at the time that Trump being selected by the Republicans was cause for jubilation, since it meant the Democrats would inevitably win.

I don't think Andrea Leadsom would be remotely competent at running the country, but she's not unelectable. Not at all.