If Queen of Pop Madonna was living in a material world, it is hard to shake the feeling that our prospective Kings or Queens of Westminster are living in something of a fantasy world. After almost a month of this interminable Tory leadership contest, which every day seems to somehow inspire less confidence, we are left with only the faintest outline of piecemeal policies that will break Britain out of what is most evidently a rut.
The weekend’s newspapers were full of colourful tales of a zombie Government, squabbling campaigns and a Conservative party turning its fire on each other. The first would have been avoided with a shorter election timetable (or perhaps had the Prime Minister been remotely interested in carrying on after resigning). The second is a sign of the absurdity of the Tory party yet again selecting the next Prime Minister largely on the grounds of who can say ‘Britain’s best days lie ahead’ with the greater level of conviction; this may be true, but it will require some almighty work to get there, and no doubt some unpopular decisions too. The third is a result of a political party so obsessed with winning elections that it seems to have summarily failed to think of anything to do with the power it holds so dear.
Perhaps it is optimistic to think that there was space in this contest for a wider discussion of Britain’s ills – a housing shortage chief amongst them – or of Britain’s future path outside of the European Union. If there was such space, there is now none; the next two to three weeks of this campaign will be dominated by rumours about who will get the big jobs. Who will be our next Chancellor? Frankly, we’re not sure why any of them would want the gig.
This campaign will surprise us: a political squabble might well become a bigger discussion about what sort of government Britain will have for decades to come. At the moment it is hard to imagine – and it is to Britain’s detriment that we are here yet again, for the third time in six years.