It's been just over a week and the UK still exists, and hasn't left the European Union. That's a matter for the next government, as David Cameron, having promised to implement the outcome of the election, decided to wimp out completely.
It was widely assumed that as Boris Johnson had led the Vote Leave campaign, he would be in pole position to become Conservative Party leader, but that fell apart last week when his closest ally, Justice Secretary Michael Gove came to the (correct) conclusion that Johnson wasn't up to it. As clever and witty and Johnson is, he isn't a man for detail and demonstrated in a column at the beginning of last week that his thinking was muddled and uncertain. It also became clear that Boris was not trustworthy. As Mayor he became addicted to vanity projects. First a cable-car across the Thames that is barely used, then bespoke buses that no bus company would buy, so he got taxpayers to buy them for the companies. He bought second-hand water cannons after the 2011 London riots that were not legal to operate in the UK, so remained idle, but maintained at taxpayers' expense. He spent millions on a proposal for a vast new airport in the Thames Estuary to replace Heathrow, even though nothing in the statutory roles and responsibility of the Mayor includes aviation, and claimed businesses were "lining up" to pay for it, which of course was utter nonsense. Finally, he embarked on a vast network of "cycling superhighways", taking away traffic lanes to accommodate cycling commutes for half the year (the other half the numbers dwindle because of the weather). This has, in part, been responsible for increasing congestion and pollution, and cutting bus patronage.
In short, Boris is a showman, an intelligent raconteur and I'd even say he has mildly libertarian instincts, but as a Prime Minister, Chairman of Cabinet and chief negotiator with the European Union? No. He avoids conflict, his main approach to critics is to try to be witty or change the subject. Expert debater, but loose with the facts. This is why Michael Gove, a quiet, principled Conservative politician, who has cared little for his own image, decided to withdraw his backing and run himself. Gove notably on BBC Question Time was questioning of the government he belonged to (as Cabinet Minister with collective responsibility) pursuing press regulation, because he was uncomfortable with government interfering with what newspapers could or could not publish.
Yet the front runner is Theresa May. Daughter of a Vicar, and the longest serving Home Secretary for decades. She campaigned rather timidly for Remain, and while she is notable for her negotiating skills, she is frightening in her disregard for liberty.
Her speech launching her campaign for leader alone should make just about anyone who doesn't have sympathies with the National Front, wonder...
"we should make clear that for the foreseeable future there is absolutely no change in Britain’s trading relationships with the EU or other markets. And until a new legal agreement is reached with the EU, which will not happen for some time, the legal status of British nationals living or working in Europe will not change – and neither will the status of EU nationals in Britain."
In other words, despite the Leave campaign making it absolutely clear that the legal status of any EU nationals living in the UK today would not change, she is putting it up for grabs. Does it mean she could envisage having the Police knocking on the doors of families who have spent years working legally and peacefully to round them up and send them home? Well an interview on ITV news/interview show Peston today made thing worse as reported by Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator:
Robert Peston: Now, there’s a lot of anxiety among migrants who’ve come here from the rest of the EU about whether they’ll be allowed to stay. There’s also quite a lot of anxiety among Brits living in the rest of Europe. What would you say to them?
May: What I’d say is that, at the moment we’re still a member of the EU, and the arrangements still continue, so there is no change to their position currently. But of course, as part of the negotiation, we will need to look at this question of people who are here in the UK from the EU, and I want to be able to ensure that we’re able to not just guarantee a position for those people, but guarantee the position for British citizens who are over in other member states, in other countries in Europe and living there.
Peston: So you would like people both… you’d like Brits abroad and migrants here to stay? Forever basically?
May: Well, nobody necessarily stays anywhere forever. But I think what’s important…
Peston: But at their choice?
May: What’s important is there will be a negotiation here as to how we deal with that issue of people who are already here and who have established a life here and Brits who’ve established a life in other countries within the European Union. And that is, their position at the moment is as it has been. There’s no change at the moment, but of course we have to factor that into the negotiations.
As Fraser Nelson, a Vote Leave supporter said:
Michael Gove and the rest of the Vote Leave leadership made this clear during the campaign: no deportations. Not even a question of deportations. Brexit was a vote to control immigration, to control the inflow: currently more than three times higher than Mrs May’s 100,000 target. But it was not a vote to boot out anybody, and to allow even the slightest doubt about that point is grossly irresponsible. Especially at a time when so many are trying to cast the Brexit vote in the worst possible light.
Britain needs these people; our NHS needs these people. We don’t keep them as a favour to Poland and nor should we ever dream of bargaining their residency in some game of diplomatic hardball. The EU may threaten deportation of Brits: it’s a corrupt and undemocratic institution which is why the 52pc of us voted to leave. But no British government should ever consider kicking out any of the two million EU nationals who are already with us..
Quite. It's deplorable.
However, no one should be surprised. May embraced the so-called "Snoopers' Charter" as she took every call from the Police, MI5 and MI6 for additional powers for surveillance as being in the public good. Her proposals mean that a list of every website everyone in the UK visits must be held for at least one year with the Police having open rights to go through all those URLs, but needing a "warrant" to check the "contents". Besides being completely draconian, it also shows an astonishing ignorance of the internet. It's like saying I have a list of all the books you have read, but unless I get permission I couldn't work out what was in them.
Former Liberal Democrat Minister, David Laws, said that between security and liberty, May always chose security, noting that former Home Security Ken Clarke often turned down requests for more powers from security services because "we would be a Police state".
Gove is a good man, but I fear his quip that economic experts warning that leaving the EU were like the Nazis organising a smear campaign against Einstein makes him unsuitable to negotiate a new trading relationship with the EU. He admits it was stupid, but for all his merits, he isn't the right man for the job. The other three, Andrea Leadsom (pro-Leave ex. financial manager), Stephen Crabb (God botherer from Wales) and Liam Fox (Google Adam Werritty) all have pluses and minuses, more minuses than pluses in my book, but all of them are better than May.
The contest is a process of attrition. Conservative MPs vote on the candidates repeatedly, with the lowest polling dropping out until there are two. I fear May will be one of them, and for now I just hope that whoever is the other can defeat her.
With the UK Labour Party led by a communist who is defying 80% of his Parliamentary party to remain leader, the country has no effective Opposition. Make no mistake, Theresa May is an enemy of individual freedom, she is no "new Thatcher" and should not become Prime Minister.