Tory leadership contest is just mad… mutually assured destruction – Kenny MacAskill

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The Tory leadership contest could really be quite amusing, if the consequences weren’t so tragic for us all. It’s perfect for a reality TV show as the bad, the mad and the sad go on public display.

Sajid Javid, prancing about and seeking to outdo all others, stridently rejecting an independence referendum for a country that he barely knows and about which he frankly cares even less. Jeremy Hunt showing not just ignorance, but utter crassness, with a reference to Culloden. Poor Rory Stewart acting out some adult “Where’s Wally” with his hapless appearances, everywhere and anywhere, but all to no effect.

Sajid Javid has stridently rejected an independence referendum for Scotland. Picture: PA

Sajid Javid has stridently rejected an independence referendum for Scotland. Picture: PA

Some of the candidates I’ve never heard of and others were no sooner in than they were out. It really is farcical and shows not just how far the Conservatives have declined, but how diminished in stature UK politics has become. It reminds me in some ways of social media websites that I follow of Scottish Football’s Golden Days. Pictures of individuals who would walk into the national team now but never even got near being selected back then and teams that walked tall on a world stage.

That’s what it’s like with this Tory leadership contest. When Margaret Thatcher became Tory leader, not prime minister, in 1975 she had seen off Ted Heath, before defeating not just Willie Whitelaw but Geoffrey Howe. When she was deposed, it was through a challenge by Michael Heseltine and with a contest that then included Douglas Hurd, as well as John Major.

All of them had stature, intelligence and ability. Whilst I disagreed with them all, and I can’t use the word respect in conjunction with Margaret Thatcher, I did recognise their ability and very often feared them. All of them though were or would have been capable of holding the land’s highest elected office.

But it’s the sign of marked decline in British politics that it’s now proverbial political pygmies fighting for the Tory leadership and who will in due course be anointed prime minister. For with the Tories facing yet another electoral trouncing, with the Peterborough by-election today, there’s going to be no early election. Whoever’s anointed by Tory MPs will then be selected by a septuagenarian electorate, many holding extreme views on Brexit and some openly prejudiced against gays, blacks, Muslims or almost anyone for that matter; and they’ll then become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

That individual will then have to deal with the morass that is Brexit, with many continuing the delusional take that Johnny Foreigner in Europe can be brought to heel. All it takes, according to the likes of Andrea Leadsom or Dominic Raab, is bit of good old British pluck and all will be well. Who needs diplomacy when you can demand that the Irish meet you and laugh off positions already made clear by the EU? If not, then “hey ho” just off we’ll go without them and bounce miraculously into a brave new world under WTO. Who won the war shouting Esther McVey as we boldly depart? All utterly delusional but equally frightening.

The EU were holding May and her ministers in contempt for their ignorance of reality and inability to conduct “real politick”. The danger is that the Europeans’ frustration will turn to anger, when confronted by little more than ignorant bigots demanding they do as Britain says. For that’s when damaging decisions can be made, even by normally calm and rational people. Whether that’s a No Deal Brexit or something less but still damaging, who knows?

Mutually assured destruction was the phrase and indeed strategy from the Cold War. Nuke us and we’ll nuke you. Some say it worked but history also shows it damn near failed. Moreover, on the face of it with no missiles being launched the risks will seem less but the cost will still be great.

For sadly, the phrase mutually assured destruction applies in the Brexit context, as it will be highly damaging for all; but most especially for the UK. It’s also perfectly easy to see scenarios as to how it might come about. It’s not what people want but emotions overtake rationalism, as tiredness and weariness set in. Before you know it, the damage is done. No one expected the First World War to break out but positions were adopted and decisions taken that couldn’t be called back and disaster then befell all of Europe.

The Tory contest isn’t a TV celebrity show but it is a position upon which the welfare of the country and the continent depend. Perhaps whoever wins can live up to the requirements of office, but I’ll not hold my breath.