While the Tories managed to get the slippery and dishonest Iain Duncan Cough on to the paper review sofa of The Andy Marr Show (tm) this morning, telling anyone prepared to listen that there wasn’t going to be a leadership election in the Tory Party any time soon, honest, that is not what is coming out of today’s papers, where the level of briefing for and against potential successors to Theresa May is getting silly.
It is coming clear that, while Duncan Cough, now sitting on a majority of less than 2,500 votes in previously safe Chingford and Woodford Green, looks hopefully at the Tories having a peaceful and happy transition to a younger leader after Brexit has been done and dusted, there are three significant obstacles in the way. And they are the three most likely successors, only one of whom is a credible proposition.
Those three are Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, Brexit secretary David Davis - undone by his first contact with the serious business of negotiation - and, just to make up the numbers and provide a comedy turn, London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, who has inexplicably been made Foreign Secretary. And the Tory establishment is already moving against Bozza.
Oo-er chaps, my time's up!
We know this as, in the aftermath of the Spectator magazine’s summer party last week, the mag’s editor Fraser Nelson suddenly experienced a rush of candour regarding his predecessor Bozza. And despite the Sun’s alleged “Westminster Correspondent”, the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, putting up a valiant diversionary show in Friday’s Sun with “BOJO SEX SMEAR”, it is Nelson’s admission that will take centre stage.
The Murdoch goons, who clearly fancy having Bozza at Number Ten - his time as Mayor of London suggests he’s easy to manipulate - have told “BORIS Johnson is at the centre of a vicious sex smear being spread by a key ally of Tory leadership rival David Davis … Dark rumours of an election campaign fling with a former aide to Theresa May are being whipped up by a close confidante of the Brexit Secretary”.
Fraser Nelson - not an accidental leak
But Nelson’s remarks, as reported by the Mail, are the killer. “Speaking after chatting at the party to Mr Johnson, a former editor of The Spectator, Mr Nelson questioned whether the Foreign Secretary would survive a leadership contest … He may not survive questions over his ‘various romantic dealings and possible children that might have been the result’”. One has to assume that both Nelson and the MoS consulted their lawyers first.
The Speccy’s editor is also reported thus: “Mr Nelson said he heard a supporter of one Tory hopeful ‘cursing Davis with incredible ferocity, saying, “This man’s done nothing, how can he be leader of this Party?” That sort of thing was going on a lot’”. All of which points to Hammond being out in front, explaining the anonymous bile being directed at the Chancellor, who apparently just has to sit back and watch the others scrapping.
And now that Fraser Nelson has let the paternity cat out of the bag, we can expect others to pile in behind it. Zelo Street will comment no further on that, because, well, you can figure it out without the sub-titles. Safe to say it’s going to get dirtier.
Meanwhile, the Brexit clock ticks down. Strong and stable my arse.