The old adage that everyone has a public life, a private life and a secret life seethes beneath the surface as the battle to succeed Boris Johnson reaches boiling point.
We are told that ambition and personal hatred between the would-be prime ministers have ignited a campaign of dirty tricks.
Supporters of two Labor Party candidates have reportedly been secretly leaking “slushy digital dossiers” about their opponents’ personal lives.
There are already mud fights over dodgy tax deals. Given the personal wealth of some of those jockeying for positions, it’s inevitable that various tricks have been employed to keep money out of the IRS.
There is also a long tradition in the Tory party – dating back to the Profumo Affair in the 1960s and before – of MPs engaging in ‘unusual’ sexual practices, so it is not surprising that these latest dossiers allegedly contain details of ‘orgies, Bondage and Sadomasochism” included “.
There are allegations of extramarital affairs. Boris Johnson’s former Maverick adviser, Dominic Cummings, suggested some hopeful leaders “could be worse than Boris” on this front.
The big question, of course, is whether any of this material will make it to the public – complete with verifiable chapters and verses. But there’s an undertone of venom as the stakes get higher.
A timely and carefully orchestrated scandal could ruin a potential prime minister’s chances. Even a low-level whisper campaign based on truths or half-truths can do a lot of damage.
From an Irish point of view, Rishi Sunak seems to be our preferred candidate among the top candidates. The danger is that he remains an unknown quantity. But there are indications that a Dublin government could do business with him on matters such as the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Time will tell if the influence of the ideologically-fixated Brexiteers on the Tory party proves unshakable. If the party is to be weaned from Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit Little England introspection, a form-breaker is needed.
On this front, we can only be more hopeful than confident. The axis is still tilted in favor of a group of right-wing ideologues. It may take a Labor general election defeat to bring Conservative party politics back into focus. Meanwhile, the full impact of Boris Johnson’s rise and rise – and then sudden Shakespearean downfall – can only be appreciated after the event. How will his nightly sin affect him on a personal level?
While his earning power as a former – albeit tainted – British Prime Minister is guaranteed, the feeling of having squandered his ultimate life chance could be overwhelming. The fact that he had so little time at Downing Street will haunt him for the rest of his days.
A return to the world of journalism, book-writing and speech-making is the obvious option for an eventual high-earning career, but politics is his ultimate drug – he will make an unusual figure if, as suggested, he holds out as a backbench MP.
Will he finally be able to say goodbye to active politics sooner rather than later? We have seen in another firmament a certain Donald Trump who – despite his wealth – is still hungry for the adrenaline that only politics can provide. Johnson’s predecessors had an uneasy relationship with retiring from politics.
Most notably, Margaret Thatcher “never had a happy moment” after leaving Downing Street. Since her departure, Theresa May has struggled and raged as a backbencher. Her joy at Johnson’s fall – given all the difficulties he caused her as Prime Minister – was palpable. Wearing a signature bright red dress, she was spotted “dancing the night away” just hours after he was released.
Another ex-Prime Minister, John Major, has maintained a relentless verbal attack on Johnson and all he stands for up to this week. He even objects to staying on as prime minister until his successor is elected. But whoever follows Johnson faces significant and immediate problems – chief among them a deepening cost-of-living crisis and runaway inflation.
Meanwhile, threats from the so-called dark arts lurk in the background. Hands remain outstretched for the glittering prize. There’s no telling at this point who will catch on — or how shabby and dirty things might get along the way.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/things-could-get-dirty-in-the-battle-to-succeed-boris-johnson-as-tory-leader-41841042.html Things could get dirty in the battle to succeed Boris Johnson as Tory leader