When Boris Johnson was Editor of The Spectator one of his superiors gave a well-known fixer open access to the magazine’s books and operations in the hope that he could fix the chaos that Boris had left in his wake. The content on the magazine was excellent but the operational mess was no longer avoidable.
The fixer tried his best. A magazine is hardly the most challenging operation on earth to run. Not like a FTSE 100 business or a country. That same fixer later went on to reorganise the Conservative Party – with some success.
The Party survives because it always places reacting soundly to Spitzengefühl – an ability to sense what is really going on in the heartlands and on the street – above any ideology or sensibility. Boris being chosen as the leader to see through Brexit was an example of this – he was a necessary, last resort vehicle yet a construct that would inevitably eventually break down, lacking any ideological hill to die on or centre of gravity to return to when things went wrong.
The party can be brutal. Achieving and then maintaining power are its skillset. Its longevity is a testament to its ability to recognise what popularity means at any given time. Competitors pale by comparison.
The country is not a privately owned magazine. There is no discreet fixer who can appear from nowhere to fix Boris Johnson’s premiership. Boris was useful in getting Brexit across the line and that will be the mark of his premiership. But he’s no organiser, manager or governor. London was at best a marketing job. Brexit required a recognisable totem. Covid required a matron – even they would have erred and wavered under the sheer weight of contradicting science.
The word on the street is already beyond negative. Boris can’t run a bath let alone a country.
In the shires there is growing anger that will not suddenly evaporate. Boris had the faith of the countryside then brought his dreadful new wife, her batty ideas and chavvy wallpaper into play. This is a great shame – a tragedy – as the friendless loner Boris was likeable, oozed political popularity yet was unafraid to make brave decisions and, with the right assistance, could have been the world king he once play-acted.
In short, both street and shire are fed up to the back teeth with the perceived Etonian oligarchy. The Ben Elliots, the Zac Goldsmiths and other uber-privileged characters who have faced little if any resistance in their gilded existences, who seem to sit with their feet on the desks of our democracy and simply do not represent the hard-working British People.
The runners and riders are few and far between but there is no viable opposition in either the Lib Dems or the splintered Labour Party, while Reform and the ex-kippers seem unable to unite. So whoever follows Boris Johnson will be a lucky Prime Minister. They merely need to show leadership, organisational skills and managerial competence – they could be in the role for eight years at least.
Sunak? Competent and Thatcherite but perhaps tainted in Johnson’s wake by the crony/billionaire connections and any mention of Goldman Sachs. Gove – too tired and all about Gove. Raab’s hinterland seems as fictitious as Rory Stewart’s. Javid, Hunt and Tugendhat – too soon for a prominent Remoaner. Patel talks a good game but fails to act. Someone malleable from the wings – the ex-Lib Dem (also once Remainer) Truss, Mordaunt or Lewis may well snatch the loose ball from the back of the scrum and then get fashioned into competency by the Tory machine.
Either which way, Number 10 needs more than a fixer. The spads and other failed apparatchiks need sweeping out with a damn large broom. A Thatcherite successor is vital – someone who can fashion the kind of safe haven, low-tax Brexit that Lord Frost envisages, and that the world yearns for. That could have been Boris – alas, he seems beyond that now.