While the Tories run out of ideas, the rest of the country is running out of time 2 years ago

While the Tories run out of ideas, the rest of the country is running out of time

The next time the UK is in possession of an actual prime minister and sitting parliament it will be less than two months until Brexit

June 14 2019. Matt Hancock drops out of the Conservative party's leadership contest. Scraping through the first ballot, the health secretary had bested Esther McVey, Andrea Leadsom and Mark Harper but it wasn't enough. He withdrew and days later pledged allegiance to Boris Johnson, the bookies' favourite to be our next prime minister.

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Also June 14 2019. A silent crowd walks the streets of Ladbroke Grove, north London. Wreaths are laid and impassioned speeches made. Justice, hope, peace. It is the second anniversary of the fire at Grenfell Tower that killed 72 people.


When the UK was granted a six-month stay of execution, delaying departure from the European Union until October 31, Donald Tusk pleaded: "Please do not waste this time."

Ominous and prophetic.

I remember exactly how it felt when the president of the European council said that. Relief at the aversion of crisis and everything no deal entails - grounded planes, shortages of medicines and food, collapse of the pound - quickly washed away, like letters written in Dover sand, by the grim realisation we would be walking toward the electric chair again six months later.

We're a third of the way there now. By the time the Tory leadership circus leaves town we will have less than three months until the crunch. More than half way down the corridor.

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And yet instead of serious self-reflection and consideration, pursuit of a new direction, parliament has been rising early, so little is on its agenda. Precious hours are spent discussing the validity of proroguing parliament. Hint: there's none.

Recess looms in July. A six week break.

The next time the UK is in possession of an actual prime minister and sitting parliament it will be less than two months to exit. The most likely person to be residing at 10 Downing Street then is yet to expose their ideas to serious scrutiny. Boris Johnson has so far ducked Channel 4's leadership debate and a hustings held in private in front of Westminster journalists.

Of all the other candidates who could be bothered to turn up to these events, Rory Stewart is the only one to suggest a credible route to resolving the Brexit impasse. The other Tories' solutions go little further than close your eyes and jump.

Politics of fantasy. Guided by blind ideology and untempered by pragmatism.

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To paraphrase Theresa May, nothing will have changed.

Stewart backs a citizens' assembly that would convene members of the public, like a jury, to find an acceptable compromise. This form of deliberative democracy resolved Ireland's decades-long deadlock over its abortion policy and, crucially, is supported by Labour moderates like Alison McGovern.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson's most concrete policy proposal is a tax cut for the UK's three million highest earners - raising the top rate tax threshold from £50,000 to £80,000. He is intellectually bereft.

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One of the contest's no name entrants was recently asked who he thought would win in a fight between a lion and a bear.

This crisis is of the Tory party's making. Its exacerbation theirs too. Only one of the Conservative leadership candidates can be said to be engaging with this timeline of British politics, and he is still light years behind Boris in the race.

The Tories are running out of ideas, and the UK is running out of time.