Two down, another one coming up.
‘You’re joking. Not another one!’
Local council elections, European elections and next, an election for the new leader of the Conservative Party. But do not worry, you will have no part to play in this unless you are a member of the Conservative party and who will admit to that today.
The Conservative MPs will ballot the contenders and submit a list of two to the party members who will then vote for one of them.
Who’s in the Race?
If you are a gambler, your money will be on Boris Johnson who has the best odds with Dominic Raab next. They, with Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt and Rory Stewart make up the top five. Rory Stewart, who he? Not one noted for soundbites but he has been around for some time and has not been castigated in the press for failings, cf Failing Grayling.
With such a record of failure and messy politics, one wonders whether there is a common thread leading to a lack of leadership qualities. The Popular press is always ready to speak of privilege and an Eton College education. The early lives and education of the top ten contestants for leadership can be checked. Add Sir Graham Brady, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Matt Hancock and Liz Truss to the mix who have their names in the hat and look at their backgrounds. I believe Angela Leadson has submitted also.
Boris Johnson and Rory Stewart were both Eton educated.
Grammar schools educated Sir Graham Brady, Angela Leadson and Dominic Raab while Sajid Javid and Lis Truss were at comprehensive schools. The remaining four attended Independent Schools including Charterhouse (Jeremy Hunt).
University education was at Durham – Sir Graham Brady, Law and Arts. Angela Leadson read Political Science at Warwick while Matt Hancock and Sajid Javid both attended Exeter University and read Philosophy Politics and Economics, a course based on the PPE course at Oxford.
The other eight all went to Oxford and took the PPE degree course. So did David Cameron but not Gordon Brown (Edinburgh) before him and Tony Blair read Law at Oxford. Theresa May was at Oxford but read Geography. Margaret Thatcher, also at Oxford, read Chemistry.
Birth of a new species
Is there something about the PPE course that compels people to enter politics? Yes, it was set up in the 1920s to replace ‘The Greats’ or Literae Humaniores as it was also called, a course based on Classics which was considered by some to be out of touch with modern times. PPE is said to develop the ability to reason rigorously and logically and to facilitate ethical reflection. It has become a tradition for aspiring politicians to take this course.
However, a critic in the 1960s said PPE offered ‘no training in scholarship but refines the ability to write short dilettantish essays on the basis of very little knowledge.’ It was said to be slow to catch up with contemporary issues and to be more suitable for people who were going to run the Raj.
Perhaps one should not be too harsh, but the variety of human Homo sapiens var. Oxon/PPE is a variety one begins to recognise. One day they may even be cloned. Parliamentary advisers and assistants are also likely to be PPE graduates. Wouldn’t it be a change to see engineers, scientists, musicians and businessmen, mothers, nurses and doctors in the cabinet?
The Political Disease
It is a truism that all political careers end in failure. Harold Wilson was an exception, he retired when no one was expecting it. One of the reasons for failure is that politicians are all susceptible to hubris. David Owen, formerly a doctor, likened it to a disease and, at the time, indicated Tony Blair and George Bush as suffering severely from it. I asked David Owen whether one could recover from this disease; he told me that George Bush was recovering but in Tony Blair’s case, it was getting worse.
Who will you support?
Is there any point rooting for one candidate for leadership of the Conservative and Unionist Party above any other? Not really, unless you have a vote. However, having looked at the candidates who have declared so far, one recognises them as Homo sapiens var. Oxon PPE but there is one with other attributes. Rory Stewart has an adventurous nature and has been successful in the diplomatic field and is not afraid to let facts change his opinions. He has worked as a diplomat in several Middle Eastern trouble spots and in Montenegro during the Kosovo campaign. He has been a Fellow at Harvard University. Once he took up the seat of Penrith as its MP he doubled his majority in the last General Election when others were losing theirs.
I do not think he will be elected, he is in a class above the others; they will be afraid of him. I do not know of his deep political convictions yet, but I will be watching him.