Image Credit: U.S. Embassy London
Joseph Silke - An Introduction
Theresa May will soon vacate 10 Downing Street and tender her resignation as Prime Minister to The Queen. The race to succeed her is on and soon Conservative Party members will cast their votes to decide who will take over. After an initially crowded field, the contest has been whittled down to a choice between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, with Johnson as the favourite to win. We asked two Conservatives why they think their man deserves the top job.
Jacob Groet - An argument for Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson is the best man in the Conservative Party to be the next Prime Minister. This may seem like a thoroughly silly thing to say, but that has more to do with the skewed way we as the public assess criteria for high office than it is with Mr Johnson’s own shortcomings.
You see, Boris Johnson would not be the first man of his type we’ve had as Prime Minister: Winston Churchill is a figure steeped in the kinds of misgivings the country and the media think Boris is doomed because of- misgivings which had no effect on Mr Churchill becoming our greatest Prime Minister.
Winston Churchill was standoffish, occasionally rude and said many things which are not acceptable in today’s (narrow minded) public discourse; All of these characteristics he undeniably shares with the ex-Mayor of London. However, I’d argue that these qualities have very little to do with the actual task of being Prime Minister. The task is (from an outside view, at least) to do with making decisions and keeping the party and cabinet together to toe the line. Boris, like Churchill, has proved himself a canny political operator in spite of his own commitment to verbal openness. It may have gone unnoticed but, at the beginning of the tory leadership race Johnson was cast aside for the top job. There were many claims that Johnson had the support of the membership but little support in Parliament. The reality is quite the opposite. Johnson has consistently outgunned all his opponents in terms of parliamentary support from the very start. The political genius it must have taken to achieve this, we can only guess.
The equivocation with Churchill may seem hyperbolic at best, but I think it’s an interesting way of showing how a conservative politician of expansive vocabulary, uttering the occasional ill-advised comment and having a sense of patriotic duty can go on to achieve great things, and be remembered fondly in history. I find it highly unlikely Johnson will rise to the level of Churchill, unless some new fascist empire springs up in the next few months, but the principle is the same. The history books won’t record the *offensive* things Boris has said because they’re completely irrelevant to the job of good government. The history books will record the sound conservative reforms he enacts.
What we can be very excited about in a Boris premiership is an end to the tyranny of the “Cameron Robots”. Since Cameron’s ascendancy, government has been filled with robotic ministers who talk in the same condescending cadence, talk in monotonous triplets and use the most infuriating pseudo-corporate phrases. All to the point at which the public switch off, even when they’re being told good news (Jeremy Hunt comes to mind). Boris cuts through this miasma: his ability to communicate policy away from this Cameroonian dialect will be exceedingly refreshing- we may be very surprised to hear conservative policy and Britain’s prospects being sold optimistically by government for a change.
Jeremy Hunt, on the other hand, is simply not an option we can consider. He represents a continuation of Theresa May’s contemptible reign of 50,000 shades of grey, passionless, corporate hell. He has shown his true colours over the last few days, clearly revelling in the intrusion into Boris’ private life, demanding he answer questions Boris is under no moral obligation to disclose. The state of the election campaign didn’t seem to necessitate such a moral slide, but Hunt has adopted these smarmy tactics all same, presumably because he understands his chances of winning are disastrously low.
To that I think we can breathe a sigh of relief.
Henry Townsend - An argument for Jeremy Hunt
In the wake of questioning over his personal affairs, there appears on the horizon an impassioned and scented Hunt bearing down on Johnson. Mr Johnson may be ahead amongst Tory members now, but Jeremy Hunt will chase him all the way. I, as a Conservative and Unionist member, will be voting for Jeremy Hunt to be the next party leader and our next Prime Minister. The key lies in the responsibility of the very office for which the candidates are standing, to be the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
At the heart of Hunt’s campaign is a commitment to our precious union. A recent poll has shown a 53:47 majority for Scottish independence should there be a Johnson premiership. This should deeply trouble fellow members. On the issue of Brexit, Hunt takes the pro-business approach, seeking a global Britain grounded in free-trade. To do this, he is willing to resort to no-deal. The only difference between himself and his opponent is that he is not boxing himself into a deadline. Whilst proponents of Johnson argue that deadlines spur activity, Mr Johnson risks breaking that explicit promise within weeks of becoming Prime Minister. Another broken promise will surely kill the party’s electoral prospects. That is why I trust a proven businessman to get a deal over a public servant with a questionable record.
Jeremy Hunt carries a philosophy of business into politics, pledging to lower corporation tax to the highly competitive levels of 12.5% and lower tax by £6,500 per annum for struggling high street businesses. Whereas Mr Johnson is willing to “f**k business” and his tax policies hand ammunition to the Labour Party. Hunt wants to ‘turbocharge’ the economy, creating growth, opportunity and prosperity. By lowering taxes, he hopes to further raise revenue and growth, as shown in Ireland. When it comes to business, Mr Johnson is no Lord Sugar. He wasted over £40 million on an unbuilt ‘Garden Bridge’ and took credit for Ken Livingstone’s legacy projects as Mayor of London. Mr Hunt has pedigree, confidence and ideas to boost our prosperity.
The tragedy of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a reminder of their contrasting tenures in the Great Office of State of the Foreign Secretary. Mr Johnson’s most notable contribution was misquoting a brief, with the quote being used in evidence by Iran to double her sentence. Hunt, by comparison, granted Nazanin diplomatic protection, meaning harm to her is harm to our country. It must be remembered that our next Prime Minster needs to be trusted to run a country and protect its people.
Whilst Boris Johnson’s joviality and ebullience may exude optimism in the times of political turbulence, these are not the qualities of a statesman, let alone one facing the monumental task ahead of them. Jeremy Hunt is open to debate and discourse, testing his ideas. Our outgoing leader, like Johnson, refused to debate and stand up to public scrutiny. As a vocal critic of Mrs May, why is Boris Johnson willing to make the same mistake? Our current national predicament is asking many questions, and Jeremy Hunt is willing, and best able to answer them. That is why it has to be Hunt.