By Daily Mail Comment
All political careers, Enoch Powell famously said, end in failure. Boris Johnson is a striking exception to that rule.
Tragically brief though his term in Downing Street has been, on every issue that truly mattered he made the right calls at the right time.
He began by delivering a Brexit deal against all odds and ended by galvanising the world against the barbarous Vladimir Putin.
In between, he guided the country through the worst pandemic in a century and facilitated a vaccine miracle that was the envy of the world.
Historians will surely judge that in a time of profound crisis, he proved a rare and resounding success.
And they will wonder at the fit of collective hysteria which caused his own MPs to reject him.
Liz Truss has the boldness, imagination and strength of conviction to tap into and build on what Boris began
Historians will surely judge that in a time of profound crisis, Boris Johnson proved a rare and resounding success
For these and many other reasons, the Mail fervently believes the current Tory leadership race is a contest that simply should not be happening. There ought to be no vacancy at the top.
We are confident Mr Johnson could have recovered from the wildly disproportionate hate campaign mounted against him over a confection of relatively trivial matters and gone on to win another election.
Sadly, his Westminster colleagues, many of whom would never have been elected had it not been for his remarkable mass appeal, forgot the meaning of loyalty.
They allowed themselves to be brainwashed by a combination of malign Twitterati, squealing Remainers, a relentlessly hostile broadcast media and a contemptible fifth column within the parliamentary Tory Party.
These people hated Mr Johnson principally because he didn’t belong to their elitist club.
He was an outsider who had circumvented their political machine and talked to voters directly. And they loved him for it, sweeping him to power with the biggest landslide in a generation.
To most grassroots Tories, he was their favourite son — prodigal sometimes, perhaps, but that was always an accepted part of the package.
Rishi Sunak might be a perfect PM for normal times – these are not normal times
Polling suggests many party members are bereft and angry in equal measure at his defenestration and we sympathise with them.
Looking at the original field for his replacement, they may well have felt, as Cleopatra did on Antony’s demise, that ‘there is nothing left remarkable beneath the visiting moon’.
But we are where we are and Mr Johnson’s best revenge now would be to live well and enjoy spending time with his wife and young children.
Given his literary skills and unique oratorical gifts, his financial future is assured. He has a story to tell which publishers will be falling over each other to commission. And he could command stratospheric sums for public speaking. Who wouldn’t want to book him?
Meanwhile, Tory members have an awesome weight on their shoulders in replacing him.
The voting forms now dropping on to their doormats will determine not just the next party leader, or even the next prime minister.
It’s no exaggeration to say they have the future of the country in their hands.
From the beginning of the electoral process, this paper has maintained that the final ballot should be between the two stand-out candidates, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak.
And, after a few ups and downs, that has proved to be the case.
But we should take a moment to consider the initial line-up. Of eight contenders, four were women and four were of ethnic minority heritage.
What a glowing testament to the inclusivity and diversity of the Conservative Party — achieved not by any quota system but purely on merit.
So what of the two finalists? Both have extensive Cabinet experience on which they can be judged, and we believe either will wipe the floor with Sir Keir Starmer (aka Captain Crasheroonie Snoozefest).
As this leadership contest has progressed, the clear blue water between Mr Sunak and Miss Truss has been growing.
Rishi was the ante-post favourite with Tory MPs, and it’s easy to see why. Intelligent and engaging (when not mansplaining), he successfully steered the economy through Covid and has a true expert’s grasp of economic theory and policy detail.
He is also an original Brexiteer with an aspirational backstory that epitomises the Tory ideal of hard work and initiative bringing their just rewards.
But there are serious caveats. As Chancellor, he took the tax burden to a 70-year high and supports swingeing increases in business levies.
He froze tax thresholds, and drove through the universally resented rise in National Insurance contributions, in breach of a solemn manifesto commitment.
His latest pledge is that he would redress the balance by slashing 4p off the basic rate of income tax — but only within seven years!
In addition, he will be forever seen by many Tory members as a Brutus figure for stabbing his friend in the back. Whoever wields the sword, they say, seldom wears the crown.
Miss Truss, by contrast, has been unfailingly loyal to her former boss. She also opposed that NI rise while in Cabinet, on the grounds that struggling families needed help now, not airy promises of jam tomorrow.
That is the key difference between the two rivals. Mr Sunak is a natural technocrat, albeit a clever one; Miss Truss an authentic standard-bearer for low-tax, small-state Conservatism. Mr Sunak might be a perfect PM for normal times. These are not normal times.
As well as a deepening fuel crisis and cost-of-living crunch, we have a country increasingly dominated by woke Left-wing orthodoxies and an arrogant Whitehall blob which actively frustrates reform.
Free speech and the rich diversity of opinion for which this country is famed are under grave threat in our schools, universities and institutions.
Boris made a start at trying to restore some sanity. The next leader must take up the torch.
Miss Truss has grown visibly in stature as this contest has progressed. From an awkward start, she has relaxed and connected with the party faithful — very much her kind of people.
She has questioned the efficacy of green levies and pledged to rout the blob — both of which will see her vilified by the wokerati. She should regard that as a badge of honour.
Mr Johnson was carried into government on a wave of voter optimism and a rejection of the sclerotic political status quo. We believe the positive can-do spirit that ushered him in lives on.
Blessed with Yorkshire grit, Miss Truss has the boldness, imagination and strength of conviction to tap into it and build on what Boris began. She’s acutely aware that business as usual is not an option.
She was forced into a U-turn yesterday over plans to bring in regional public-sector pay — a cautionary tale about the perils of making policy on the hoof. But she will learn. Most importantly, she can unite the party and end this depressing spasm of blue-on-blue warfare.
She is being dropped straight into the deep end and should be under no illusion about the enormity of her task. Profound problems need radical solutions.
Success will require iron discipline in Downing Street and a government of all available talents — hopefully including Mr Sunak.
As has already been pointed out, he could bring his intellect and drive to tackling Britain’s biggest problem area — the NHS.
It’s true that Sir Keir is an ocean-going dud, but with help from Scots Nats, Lib Dems, Greens and the rest of the deluded Left, he could conceivably cobble together a gimcrack government.
We don’t doubt that Miss Truss has the guts, gumption and guile to stop that happening. But she must not rely on Labour’s uselessness to get her through.
As her idol Mrs Thatcher said in her last conference speech before becoming PM: ‘We want to be elected because we can do better, not because we couldn’t possibly do worse.’
The Mail believes Miss Truss is able, willing and ready for the task.
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group