Euan McColm: The Tories need someone who can stop the party’s slide even further right

Good things, the old saying goes, come to those who wait. Unfortunately, as forthcoming energy bills are about to prove, so do bad things.

Tomorrow, after a miserable two months wait, things both bad and good will arrive.

First, the good. The deplorable Boris Johnson, the law-breaking narcissist who has utterly debased the office he holds, will cease to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. That he leaves in disgrace makes the whole thing that bit more piquant.

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Once you start disliking Boris Johnson, it’s hard to know how to stop - Euan McC...
Liz Truss during a hustings event in Darlington, County Durham. Picture: Press Association
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And now the bad. The deplorable Boris Johnson will be replaced as PM by someone also distinguished by their unsuitability for the job.

Unless every poll of Tory members - that small clique which will select the next UK leader - has been wildly inaccurate, Liz Truss will easily defeat Rishi Sunak to win that prize. But, whoever wins, the rest of us lose.

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Throughout the long, slow grind of the Conservative leadership campaign, both Truss and Sunak have seized the opportunity to display their remarkable inability to understand the crisis facing families the length and breadth of the country. While the rest of us worry about mounting bills, about keeping food on the table and warmth in our children’s bedrooms, that irredeemable pair have focussed on tickling the bloated tummies of Brexit bores and Nimby dullards.

And the reason they’ve done this is, of course, because that’s what the membership of the modern Conservative Party wants. As we face the challenges of the 2020s, Tories have set the controls for the heart of 1983.

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It is traditional for a new Prime Minister to enjoy something of a lift in the polls. With Labour now leading the Conservatives by almost 20 points, that will have to be quite the bounce.

More likely, I think, is that the utterly inept Truss will struggle to stamp her authority on a parliamentary group which includes a significant number of MPs who consider her a crackpot.

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For two months, at a time of terrifying uncertainty for so many people, the UK Government has been absent. Johnson - who, so far as I can see, remained in post solely so the record would show he’d served for a longer period than his predecessor as PM, Theresa May - has swanned off on holidays and participated in the occasional photo-opportunity. When he did make a speech, last week, addressing the energy crisis, his big idea was that those struggling to pay bills should invest 20 quid in a new, more efficient, kettle in order to save a tenner a year. This was not a joke. Well, not an intentional one.

Sunak and Truss’s words of reassurance to voters have amounted to little more than the assertion that, under their leadership, the government will do something.

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Surely it is clear, now, to all but the most unthinking partisan that this Tory government has run its course. It is now longer fit for purpose,

On its list of achievements is the catastrophic act of national self-harm of the hardest possible Brexit and little else. Johnson’s lickspittles will talk of his “leadership” during the pandemic. But that supposes that another PM would simply have ignored the advice of medical experts who recommended lockdown and other protective measures.

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Johnson dragged the Tories to the right, expelling some of the party’s more liberal members along the way. From what we have seen so far, his successor has no intention of trying to row back. We face the prospect of a nasty nationalist Conservative Party for some time to come,

And so it’s surely in the country’s interests for the Tories to be ejected from office as soon as possible.

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This, I think, would be in the interests of the Conservative Party, too.

When Tony Blair’s New Labour thundered to victory in the 1997 General Election, the Conservative Party simply had no idea how to react. John Major’s replacement as leader, William Hague, was a brilliant parliamentary performer but could not bring together a Conservative Party discombobulated by defeat and split over whether the UK should remain in the EU. Defeat in the 2001 General Election saw the Toris replace Hague with Ian Duncan Smith, a fully-fledged weirdo from the party’s crank right.

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And, though his colleagues were wise enough to get rid of him as soon as possible, his replacement Michael Howard was another grim right-winger devoid of ideas or any semblance of charisma (something voters notice, don’t you know?).

The Conservatives survived a near miss when the favourite to succeed Howard after the party’s third consecutive General Election defeat, David Davis, was beaten in a leadership contest by the then relatively unknown David Cameron. Cameron has many flaws - his decision to pander to his party’s cranks and stage 2016’s EU referendum marks his forever as a man of questionable judgement - but in those early days of his leadership, he pulled his party back from the brink. He told a story of socially liberal Conservatism and he had the look of a winner about him.

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The Tories may not need a David Cameron but they do need someone who can stop the party’s slide even further right. They need someone with the vision to understand that the long-term survival of the Conservative Party depends on it not becoming a facsimile of the BNP. And if there was a moral dimension to this mission - a heartfelt belief that the far right is a dangerous place to go - then that would be better still.

The Conservatives are, right now, the callous and unthinking rabble of their opponents’ characterisation. Neither Truss nor Sunak seems inclined to try to change that.

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For the good of the country - and the Tory Party - Johnson’s successor must suffer the most humiliating defeat at the next General Election.

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