DESPERATE times call for desperate measures and there is no one more desperate than Jeremy Hunt.
In standard operating mode we might expect the Conservative Party to elect the richest man in the Cabinet as leader. Instead Hunt is trailing Boris Johnson who has, as far as can be discerned, the almost exclusive right in this select circle to call himself a proletarian.
Let us venture for a moment into that realm of dispute where a Marxist analysis of class locates each occupational grouping in relation to the means of production.
Johnson is a proletarian only in the sense that his income seems to be mostly derived from paid employment. Less any of our readers are inclined to forgo their monthly contribution to the Morning Star's Fighting Fund in order to crowd-fund the favourite's election bid be assured that his MP's earnings are supplemented by the kind of journalism that pays out rather more than the minimum wage, greater even than the living wage and far in excess of the rates negotiated by the National Union of Journalists.
Hunt is in the contradictory position of carrying the hopes of the substantial Remain tendency in the parliamentary Tory Party – a faction rather larger than their publicly expressed positions might suggest — while seeking the votes of Tory Party members in the country at large who hold firmly to a conception of Brexit far, far removed from the carefully nuanced positions which cloak the language of all parliamentary factions.
Hunt's tactical thinking is that a subtle message might not penetrate the fog of inner-party war and that bold measures are needed if the narrowing social base of Tory voters is to be satisfied.
Hence his latest ploy which is to decorate his close marking of Johnson over an unconditional pledge to leave the European Union this year — come what may — with a pledge of a wedge to protect small businesses, farmers, fishermen (and presumably fisherwomen).
This careful parsing of the prospective Tory electorate shows that a sensitivity to class position is not the exclusive property of we Marxists. This is a point that Labour's strategists need to bear in mind when the inevitable election takes place. The Tories are quite capable of abandoning earlier positions if they can find a wedge issue to cut loose a section of voters that Labour needs to form a government.
But, at the moment, so desperate is the off-duty Foreign Secretary that he has now made a bail-out bid to out-Corbyn the Labour leader.
“If we could do it for the bankers in the financial crisis, we can do it for our fishermen, farmers and small businesses now” he declared in language that may prove to be a hostage to fortune when our Jeremy gets a decisive say on fiscal matters.
The common understanding of both candidates is that this present parliament will block a no-deal Brexit. But there is very little prospect that a new Tory leader will have anything new to offer in the way of a negotiated withdrawal agreement that might find a Commons majority.
With a paper-thin majority already compromised by prospective Tory defectors the new premier will be obliged to go back on the promises that got them elected or get into a dog fight with parliament.
Johnson is a gambling man with an ego the size of a minor planet and a haut-bourgeois sense of entitlement that not infrequently impairs his strategic thinking. This is one reason why serious money is behind Hunt's candidacy and another reason for Labour to get its election-winning machine fired up and ready to go.
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