What an Eton Mess of Manners, Mr Cameron

Eton College

Eton School‘s reputation is for the best education money can buy. Indeed, they have supplied more British Prime Ministers than any other institution. But what happened to “Cameron Minor” when everyone else was being told not to speak ill of people?

My mother (grammar school, northern town) always instructs me that if one can’t say something nice about somebody, say nothing at all. And life has taught me that bad-mouthing people actually reflects worse on the speaker than the target. It is the ultimate in futile, self-harming spite.

And yet, David Cameron, with all those thousands of pounds of education, and numerous examples of how interfering ex-PM’s do not look good – see Edward Heath for how not to do it, Mrs Thatcher for a good example – has chosen to come out making sharp comments about his ex-schoolmate Boris Johnson, and his ex-friend Michael Gove.

Johnson and Cameron in happier times

Two days later, I can’t even remember what he wrote about his two ex-colleagues, but I do recall the fact that David Cameron lessened himself by hitting out. And what a contrast when Boris was knifed in the back by Michael Gove: Boris, also Eton-educated, never said a word in public, though one has to wonder what he said in private! So who has shown more statesmanship?

There is just one more thing though. David Cameron has a book to sell. And the timing is great – the party conference is coming, and Brexit remains somewhat topical. Could it be that this is not the real David Cameron, but manufactured bitchiness designed to sell autobiographies? In some ways, that is even worse!

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Brave Bold Boris Boosts Britain

Boris’s First Cabinet. (Photo by Aaron Chown – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

What a great start he has made! Mr Johnson has his critics, not to mention his complex private life. But the change of mood since Wednesday has been palpable. It feels like a spring back from the doom, gloom and managed decline of the 1970’s (Mrs May’s dour attitude) to the sunlit uplands of Tony Blair’s Cool Britannia in the 1990’s. For an in-depth review of the new cabinet, we recommend the Politico website.

 

This is what we see Boris as having done well;-

  1. A wholesale new government, with everyone pulling in the same direction. This is quite a change from the try-to-appease everyone approach of the May administration.

  2. Stamping his authority on the cabinet from Day 1 by standing up to Jeremy Hunt

  3. Putting Michael Gove in charge of No Deal preparations and funding him properly. This is a sign to all that the new Government will take No Deal if a better alternative is not forthcoming.

  4. Surrounding himself by a team of advisers who are known to mean business.

  5. Announcing a raft of other policy initiatives – for example putting money into extra police, focussing on the Northern Powerhouse, and spending on defence. Suddenly, it looks like the Tories have spending plans based on conviction rather than just trying to react to Mr Corbyn’s ideas. This is signalling also that if a General Election comes, the Conservatives have a manifesto in waiting.

  6. Keeping Carrie out of the limelight to avoid distracting headlines.

  7. A bravado performance in Parliament, answering questions assuredly for more than two hours. Boris seemed positive, competent and inspiring. We can only imagine his political opponents were downcast, and several of his doubters in the Conservatives were starting to be won over. Nothing improves one’s political fortunes as much as appearing to be a winner!

  8. Making telephone calls to other World Leaders, but travelling first around the UK to ensure his interest in the provinces can be seen.

We agree with the Team Boris analysis that there can only be one of three outcomes over the next 4 months;

  1. No Deal Brexit

  2. The EU blinks and negotiates

  3. A general election.

Opening deep talks with the US at this stage shows a much more determined approach to negotiating with EU. Brussels clearly has disdain for the choice of the British people, but they will not want the UK moving from the EU’s orbit into that of the Americans. So playing off the two powers against each other is a very smart move. Suddenly, No Deal has a geo-political angle rather than just being a punishment for UK.

Summary

Boris has had a great start and now has the political momentum (with a small M!!). He could well prove unstoppable by the time Parliament reconvenes in September if he keeps this going over the summer.

Unlike most of the media, we see Boris’s start as making No Deal less probable, because his strength will more-likely make the EU re-open talks.

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Boris Cabinet Speculation

Boris – the winner

We’ve been saying since 16 May, before Mrs May finally faced the inevitable and resigned, that “Boris Your Time Has Come”. And so it has. Okay, we also said that Jeremy Hunt would come fourth, but let’s just keep quiet about that shall we?

In the first of many crucial decisions, Boris will have already decided who will be in his cabinet. With the background of Brexit stress, the usual balance between friends and enemies gains the extra dimension of leavers vs remainers.

Any new PM will be mindful that they want complete control, and so they need a majority of ministers on whom they can rely. However, there is much sense in the old adage about keeping your friends close, and your enemies closer. As our American friends might put it, ‘better to have them inside the tent, p***ing out, than outside the tent p***ing in!’

The press has been full of speculation about who will be doing which jobs by the end of the week. One has to wonder whether most of these speculative suggestions have been planted by the people themselves (or “someone close to them” as the media put it).

So with no special insights or lobbying from the hopefuls, here is what we see;

Michael Gove – aka Brains

Michael Gove – heavyweight political thinker, good record of positive change, and under-utilised at DEFRA. Strong leaver credentials were weakened by his support for the May deal. High office awaits. Will BJ be sufficiently forgiving to make him Chancellor in a recreation of the 2016 Dream-Team? We think he might.

David Davis – Good leaver credibility for resigning at Chequers. But his Brexit Secretary role wasn’t very productive. Suitable for leader of the house?

Mr Raaab –

Dominic Raab – arch-leaver, candidate for Brexit Secretary, where he did okay last time, given the hand he was dealt.

Amber Rudd – a remainer, but has a decent relationship with BoJo and could help the left of the party buy into Boris’ One-Nation Tory policies to tempt them from undermining him on Brexit. High office calls for Ms Rudd.

Matt Hancock – A recent convert to Camp-Boris, despite being a strong remainer. Starting to look like his ambition counts for more than his principles. Fodder for a junior ministry.

Penny Mordant – Strong Leaver, good street-credibility, so definitely a ministerial role, could be home-office if she gets lucky

Liz Truss – We like Ms Truss and her old-fashioned Conservative ethos of small-government, competition and low taxes. We’ve see suggestions of Treasury Secretary, which amounts to the Chancellor’s side-kick. In our opinion, Liz deserves more than that, and we’d like to see her at Heath or Education.

Sajid Javid – A great politician, but maybe not the best leadership campaign. We’ve seen ideas about Saj becoming Chancellor, which we can only assume were put about by him! After all, he was very successful in the City, which surely disqualifies him for the role? However, a senior job would work. How about leaving him at the Home Office?

What to do with My Hunt?

Jeremy Hunt – Ahhhh, the trickiest one of all. He ran a good campaign, but surely cannot win? He does need to be kept on board, but in a role where his questionable Brexit principles cannot do harm – say, how about his current job of Foreign Office, which seems to have been completely cut out of relations with EU? He certainly talked the right talk during the leadership challenge, but walking the walk could be beyond Mr Hunt. Let’s hope that his personal comments about BoJo haven’t poisoned their relationship too much!

So there you have it. Sorry if we’ve overlooked your favourite Tory (if that isn’t an oxymoron). It doesn’t even seem worth commenting about the Remainer Sabs all resigning before their inevitable sackings. No room for quizlings in the new Government!

Later this week we’ll go back to serious Brexit forecasting. Don’t miss the next exciting installment!

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Tory Blind Date Ends in Frustration

Blind Date – without the entertainment value

Did you watch the BBC’s “Heated Debate” last night? Five Candidates trying to win affection, but with fewer witticisms or clever answers than Cilla’s script-writers provided for the callow applicants on Blind Date. Here’s how we think they performed.

  1. Boris Johnson

    BoJo had everything to lose, but managed to avoid any foot-in-mouth moments. He was distinguished by being the only candidate to push for 31 October, Deal or No Deal, which will play well with the Tory Party members in a few weeks time. However, his approach to everything else was bluster and bumble. A missed opportunity for statesmanship.

  2. Jeremy Hunt

    Mr Hunt came over as less continuity-May than earlier in his campaign. However, his refusal to set 31 October in stone “if a deal is in the offing” will be taken as showing that he is back in the avoid-No-Deal, Delay-and-Faff camp. We now see Mr Hunt getting on to the ticket as the stop Boris candidate.

  3. Michael Gove

    The Govester had a snortingly(!) good evening, and in our opinion won the debate and rescued his future political career. He showed greater intellectual weight than the other candidates, which we feel guarantees him a top job in the next government. However, he too shared Mr Hunt’s openness to can-kicking Brexit. Thus we think he will not pick up many Brexiteer MPs, who will fall in behind Boris, whilst the more moderate will go to Mr Hunt.

  4. Sajid Javid

    The Saj came over as moderate and thoughtful, with the potential to be more inclusive. He was charming, and could extend the reach of the Tories to those with less-privileged backgrounds. However, he had no distinctive policy on Brexit, and came over as more of a team-player than an inspiring leader. We think Sajid will be voted out today.

  5. Rory Stewart

    Ahhhhh, Mr Stewart. Suddenly he has become Mrs May in a suit and less colourful shoes. He used the challenges of managing Parliament to advocate the weakest of Brexit approaches, and took No-Deal completely off the table. That will gain him support from the Remainers in the Tory party, but there will not be enough of them to get him on to the ticket. It does cross our mind that a few Boris supporters may back Mr Stewart, knowing that the membership will never vote for him – and so guaranteeing that Boris wins. Though that’s how Mr Corbyn got in, so we would urge great care in that game. Overall, Rory looked like a First Year Schoolboy who had somehow found himself in the Sixth Form Debating Society. Unfortunately, the rest of them looked the part as Sixth Formers.

Were there any funny moments? The closest time for any amusement was when Scottish teenager Erin asked them to commit to zero carbon emissions by 2025 rather than 2050. Clearly, all of them were struggling to avoid the obvious answer that a) such a target in just six years is cloud cuckoo land, and b) they might still be around to face the music when it doesn’t happen. However, they did all manage to bumble through, and so our entertainment was short-lived.

Conclusion

Boris will pull ahead, Jeremy will come second. Which come to think of it, is where we see the next election too!

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Fight For The Brexit Poison Chalice Begins!

Ten optimistic hopefuls have thrown their hats into the ring (a phrase which originates in boxing) to be the next PM. Over the next two weeks we will see eight of them throw in the towel (another phrase that comes from boxing).

It is kind of appropriate that we are talking about pugilism, as the winner looks certain to take a beating! How power-crazed they must be to offer themselves up for such a Poison Chalice: a long-odds challenge of pulling off a good Brexit and reinventing a directionless country.

It is becoming clear that the EU will not blink in its stubbornness over the Withdrawal Agreement, figuring that Parliament will do the dirty work in preventing a No Deal Brexit. We are not so sure, as the arithmetic is pretty close.

It has even been stated (elsewhere, in perhaps more hysterical journals) that a General Election is certain, as whichever faction in the Commons doesn’t get it’s way will support a No Confidence Vote and bring down the Government. As we have been saying since January, there are plenty of turkeys in the Conservative Party, but they will not vote for Christmas.

It is interesting that only Matt Hancock and Jeremy Hunt are suggesting that they can magically negotiate a better deal than Mrs May by being nicer to EU. The other candidates are all pitching that they will threaten No Deal, and be prepared to go through with it if the EU is that obdurate.

So we need to separate them on other policies. Boris has gone for high-earners’ taxes. Raab has gone for standard rate and business tax cuts. Gove has some kind of sales tax idea.

Mr Raab – had a faab launch

Our view (this week – well actually this day, it could be different tomorrow) is that Gove will not make it on to the paper as he is seen as awesomely clever but with suspect integrity. His low punches at Boris yesterday – about “pulling out” – did him no favours. Hunt has a great business background but looks too much like continuity May. Mr Raab has so far produced the best policy ideas for a Tory Party facing its Waterloo at the next election. Boris gets in more due to his charisma than any policy wins.

Yet it is not a done-deal. It is not a slam-dunk for Boris even if he gets on to the ticket. He needs proper policy meat, and he needs it soon.

The other challengers need to propose such wonderful, right-wing, election-winning policies that they depose Raab from the No.2 place on the ticket.

It is all to play for.

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Jeremy Hunt Rides Forth. Which Is Where He Will Finish.

Hunt for fourth

Oh dear for Mr Hunt. His leadership campaign seems to have fallen already. We instinctively like a politician with a business background – especially a successful business background. And yet he has slipped – no, jumped – into the “Continuity May” trap.  This title is so poisonous!  Not only does it reference Mrs May, but the IRA too!

Jeremy Jeremy Jeremy. Your approach didn’t work for Theresa, and it won’t work for you.

His article in the Daily Telegraph, and an interview on the Today Programme this morning, were pushing the scare tactic of saying that expressing belief in No-deal will lead to a vote of No Confidence in Parliament, followed swiftly by an election and Mr Corbyn in No 10 by Christmas.

Such scaremongering didn’t convince the general public, and surely he is not suggesting that Tory MP’s are more gullible than the average voter. Okay, fair point! But even so, it is hard to believe Tory MP’s will vote for losing their jobs this summer any more than they did in the spring. The European Elections cannot have convinced them of the sagacity of returning to the voters any time soon. Taking No-deal off the table at this stage is to tell the EU directly that he will accept whatever terms they choose to impose. And then he will surely fail to get them through – again.

So we see the talented Mr Hunt being relegated to 4th place in the list.

Dominic Raaaab – the politicians’ Tory hopeful

And the top three are likely to be Boris, Dominic Raab and Michael Gove. Boris is a proven election winner but his other policies remain vague. The danger is if he opens his mouth, he will lose support with every word.

Govey is an intelligent man and made artful changes in his briefs so far.  However, the backstabber reputation remains.  Meanwhile,  Dominic Raab seems to have the best Conservative credentials and policies. Not only does the next Tory leader have to deliver Brexit, they have to make a success of it too.  Those cuts to income tax and corporation tax will appeal to his colleagues and supporters. If the rest of his package equally inspires Blue voters and activists, he will be hard to stop, and might just drag enough MPs with him to deliver any Brexit outcome.

Boris – the public’s darling

Meanwhile, the exciting point in this race will be to see if the MP’s dare keep Boris off the final 2 person ticket. We think they won’t. Then he wins. Cripes!

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