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As I See It

Johnson tainted while May is the cast-iron lady

Terry portrait with tieWe knew there could be fireworks from a Boris led government, but we didn’t expect him to light the blue touch paper, and step back.

Mr Johnson’s decision to rule himself out – or, more accurately, to accept the advice of others – of the Tory party leadership has denied his fans the opportunity of seeing someone with bit of personality and unpredictability at Number 10.

Alas, unpredictability is not necessarily a good thing. It may liven things up a bit, but it’s not good for stability and certainty. Markets and economies need to know their leader will not prove to be a joker in disguise (take note, America as you elect the next president).

More to the point, Mr Johnson has been told that he cannot unite the nation, though it would probably have been easier than uniting the Tory party.

His decision, however, has prompted outrage among those angry that he led the country out of the European Union and has now walked away “in our hour of need”.

Among those joining the torrent of criticism was actor Ewan McGregor who wrote in a robust tweet: “You lead this ludicrous campaign to leave EU, win, and now f*** off to let someone else clear up your mess.”

Former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine compared the former Mayor of London to a general who abandons his troops. He said Mr Johnson had “ripped apart” the Conservative party through the EU referendum campaign and said he must now “live with the shame of what he’s done.

“He’s like a general who leads his army to the sound of guns and at the sight of the battlefield abandoned the field. I have never seen so contemptible and irresponsible a situation.”

Mr Johnson, of course, was not the leader of the Leave campaign. It had no leader, as such. But he was its most publicly-recognised figure and therefore what he said was regarded as its “manifesto”. That there has been so much back-tracking has done the campaign and Mr Johnson no favours. No wonder his decision today has prompted such vituperative language.

Michael Gove, his former ally, also turned on him, although Mr Gove has himself done a u-turn of sorts, declaring recently that he did not see himself as Prime Minister, nor want the job. Having thrown his hat into the ring this morning, he now has to convince the party that he never really meant to say that and hopes the membership will now support him.

His decision to stand seemed to come as a surprise to the Westminster lobby although he was tipped here on this humble website on Saturday. He always came over as having a greater grasp on the case for Leaving the EU, and certainly one that was less bombastic and maverick than Mr Johnson’s.

Despite his credentials, however, he looks to be second favourite to Theresa May. The Home Secretary, also tipped to stand by Daily Business on Saturday, is not everyone’s cup of tea, having upset the police force, among others.

But she is emerging as the unifier and stabiliser – the current number one priority. She looks to be a shoo-in to give us a second female PM and add to the women in leading political roles.

She is from the right of the Tory party and supported the Remain Camp in the EU debate, but she has diplomatically embraced Brexit, saying “there is no alternative”. Now, where have we heard that phrase before?

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