It is getting dirty. The Tory leadership contest is one in which the left can have no favourite. If anyone holds to the myth — serially promoted by the authors of romantic novels — that being born into the privileged classes inevitably confers breeding and good manners the events of recent days should provide a reality check.
Boris Johnson’s team have accused Jeremy Hunt of “dirty tricks” after a leaked memo surfaced claiming he called the French “turds” over Brexit.
It seems that the Foreign Office — of which Johnson was then head — petitioned the BBC to censor a fly on-the-wall programme which recorded the quote.
Johnson, of course, confronts Hunt rather than Michael Gove, after a carefully calibrated disposition of votes reduced Johnson’s tally by precisely the margin need to put Hunt in front of the man who earlier betrayed Johnson. This preemptive dirty tricks episode erodes whatever moral superiority Johnson might claim over Hunt in a contest in which the tactics deployed by both sides get ever dirtier.
The pair of them have got into a bidding war in which each makes improbable spending plans involving simultaneous tax cuts and spending increases. This threatens the carefully constructed narrative of the Conservative Party as the sole repository of orthodox economics and alarms people in the hierarchy with a longer term perspective than either of these two.
Johnson would abandon the sugar tax and ramp up education spending — he is studiously silent on what — by nearly £5 billion. This is on top of existing pledges to spend an additional £40bn.
Hunt would splash out an extra £15bn on military spending. The Institute for Fiscal Studies rate his spending plans so far to top £65bn.
Pay no attention to this phoney war of figures but look how Hunt has dipped into even dirtier waters in making a connection between the slanders Jeremy Corbyn has to endure — from a carefully contrived campaign which smears him with totally unfounded charges of anti-semitism — with the nazi extermination campaign against Jews.
This is an episode of deep down dirty tricks that trades on a narrative that has gained traction in a media where a balanced and equitable portrayal of the Labour leader and the policies to which his party is committed is almost invisible.
Beyond the outrage in fair-minded circles that Jeremy Hunt’s sordid coupling has already engendered — over 10,000 people have so far signed a Change.org petition calling on Hunt to apologise — the Foreign Secretary stands accused of hypocrisy.
He is Foreign Secretary, in a Conservative Party administration which has shown almost complete political support for the viciously anti-semitic Hungarian government of Viktor Orban. The Conservatives are in alliance with Orban’s Fidesz party in the European Parliament.
And his immediate predecessor in office was one Boris Johnson — who is committed to exactly the same foreign policies as his successor and rival.
The Tories know they can count on the media to sedulously circulate Hunt’s slander whilst giving the Tories a free pass on the unchallenged anti semitism in their ranks, a prejudice only exceeded by a more rampant Islamophobia.
Meanwhile it is Labour’s policy, as the Chakrabarti Report specified, that warns of “the need for all members to resist Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons.”
In a sordid search for preference over the leader of the pack Jeremy Hunt has made it crystal clear that he is as unqualified to occupy the office of prime minister of our country as his opponent.
This is even if he succeeds in convincing a Tory Party membership that he is qualified to lead their party.
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