The huge story yesterday was of course the brutal butchery of Boris Johnson. Was this a long-planned assassination by Gove, intent on seizing the Leadership of the Conservative Party? I think not. It seems that Gove became more and more concerned that Boris seemed a bit casual about quite what Brexit meant, and in particular was prepared to compromise on the immigration/free-movement question. As I said in yesterday’s debrief, he’d end up with his head on a spike if he betrayed the British people and the Brexit voters on that fundamental point. The “leak” of Mrs. Gove’s letters may or may not have been orchestrated, but I give Gove the credit of believing he acted for genuine motives — although it may not seem so to Boris.
The Times has a conspiracy theory. It claims that BoJo offered to stand down in exchange for a promise from Theresa May that she would stand down before the 2020 election. I wonder if the deal was struck at the Granita Restaurant?
The Independent and the “i” pick up a Shakespearean theme, showing an uncharacteristically subdued Boris Johnson under the headline “Et tu, Brute?”. But the Ides of March have been and gone.
The Express headlines “Gove: I’ll lead us out of the EU”. This is the same Gove who has repeatedly insisted that he lacked the qualifications to be Prime Minister, and had no aspiration for the job.
But where does that leave Gove? And indeed the campaign? Gove has a big intellect, and has fought hard in the Brexit campaign. But he’s a little short in the charisma department. To be frank, if unkind, he comes across as a bit geeky. The ideal back-room guy. A great number two. A superb adviser. But Prime Minister? He doesn’t look like that to me.
Then there’s Theresa May (said by some to be planning to change her name from “Theresa May” to “Theresa Will”). Equally lacking in charisma. Grey. Dull. Just downright boring. Did ever a long-serving Minister in one of the great offices of state manage to stay so much under the radar? She’s certainly no Margaret Thatcher.
So who? There’s Stephen Crabb (and as I asked, “Who?”). And (much more interesting) Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom. Both are sound on Brexit. As I recently Tweeted, they both “get it” on Europe. I think either would make a great Prime Minister. Andrea had a brilliant campaign – superb in the debates. I’m also struck by the fact that two people whose judgement I respect – Chris Heaton-Harris MP, and Simon Richards, Director of the Freedom Association (of which I was once Chairman) have come out for Andrea. But you can make up your own mind (although, of course, UKIPpers won’t get to vote in that election).
Well, political obituary. Max Hastings in the Mail offers us the most disgraceful hatchet job on Boris, taking a prurient delight in trashing his dirty linen on our breakfast tables. This holier-than-thou piece reflects rather more badly on Hastings than on Johnson. Enoch Powell’s dictum that “all political careers end in failure” comes to mind. But I suspect we may yet hear more of the ebullient BoJo. The Mirror quotes that egregious bad loser Michael Heseltine on Boris “You deserted the battlefield leaving the UK in ruins” . No Michael. He merely abandoned a contest which it seems he could not have won.
Six EU countries against Nicola
We’ve been following the travails of Scotland’s First Minister as she desperately tries to make mischief over the Brexit vote – and indeed, “desperate” is the word for it. A lukewarm reception in Brussels, knocks-back from France and Spain. Now the Scottish Daily Mail headlines “Now Six EU countries say No to Sturgeon” (though I believe they’re OK with caviar). Spain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Denmark have all said that it is wrong for Sturgeon to try to negotiate separately with the EU. Her initiative (says the paper) is “in tatters”.
Good news on the City
City A.M. devotes the front page to a positive story. “The Footsie bounces back” (it’s at 6500+ as I write) “and a majority of investors say that London will remain a top financial centre”. Indeed it will – any losses in the European markets will be more than compensated in global growth.
The Telegraph reports HSBC’s decision to keep its headquarters in London “for a generation” (while warning that some jobs might move to Paris, depending on terms of UK/EU trade). As HSBC had recently considered relocating to Hong Kong, this is excellent news.
Not all commentators share the same view. The New York Times (not always a friend of the UK) asks, disobligingly, “Which city will become the new London?”. Don’t hold your breath, guys.
FTSE up, Pound down
City AM reports that Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, has promised “a host of measures” to ensure stability in the post-Brexit-vote period, including a cut in interest rates. Having been outrageously partisan during the campaign, and toeing the Treasury line, Carney now seems to have got a grip, and started behaving responsibly. The Times puts a negative slant on it: “Pound slides as Carney offers fresh stimulus”. Indeed the Pound edged down slightly on Carney’s promise – but that’s how currency markets usually respond to interest rate cuts. The Telegraph offers “FTSE hits ten month high as Pound falters”.
Exit first, haggle later
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrőm has insisted that there can be no trade talks until Britain formally decides to quit the EU, and invokes Article 50, reports the BBC. I am the very last person to support a proposition from Brussels, but it’s difficult to deny she has a point. If it’s negotiate first and decide to leave based on the outcome, member-states will be queueing up to try their luck. Despite the Tory leadership election, I believe that we – Britain, the government – should get on with it.
EU/Turkey negotiations re-open
Just a week after we were assured that Turkey would not join the EU until the year 3000, the BBC reports that the EU has opened a new chapter in its accelerated Turkish accession programme.
Tell us you’re not serious, Tony!
According to the Telegraph, Tony Blair has said that EU negotiations will require statesmanship (so far so obvious), and appears to be hinting that he’s the man for the job. Preposterous, coming from the man who gave away a chunk of Maggie’s rebate in exchange for vague promises from the EU that never materialised.
Corbyn takes one foot out of his mouth – and puts the other one in
Presenting a new report on the alarming level of casual anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn struck almost the right note, generously affirming that it was wrong to compare Israel to the Nazis. Then, in a volte-face that would be almost comical if it were not so shocking, he proceeded to imply a parallel between Israel and ISIS. Words fail me