The idea that London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson might abandon the fleeting interest he has in the office he is supposed to hold, and run for the leadership of the Tory Party if Young Dave loses next year’s General Election, has received a significant setback of late. Rupert Murdoch does not like him. And in particular he does not trust him on the EU.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014
Rupe hates the EU with a passion: the kind of business regulation, insistence on nasty things like open competition and a level playing field, and consumer protection on top of all that, that comes out of Brussels does not fit well with the Murdoch way of doing things. His aspiring pundits understand this well, and none has been better at taking the hint than former MP Louise Mensch.
“The reason that Boris Johnson can never lead the Conservative Party is that a hardcore pro-EUer, as he is, cannot command Tory MPs” she declares. And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. Leaders don’t lead by command. And the last hardcore anti-EU Tory leaders (as they were at the time) were William ‘Ague and Iain Duncan Cough. Remember what happened to them.
But Ms Mensch has agreement from Nick Watt at the deeply subversive Guardian, which is suddenly a reliable source when it produces what she wants to hear: “An unlikely ally from the Guardian there, but as I told you all, I know what I’m talking about” she declares. The thought that this may be a “stopped clock” moment (or Eccles being asked what time it is, for you oldies) is not allowed to enter.
And she knows she is right, as Sonia Purnell says that Bozza is “far more [pro-EU] than he lets on publicly”. This brings “Exactly. I am right. BoJo = Europhile”. What “Europhile” means, we are not told. But that this is what Murdoch wants to hear is a rock solid certainty. So is the conceit that someone other than Bozza would be ready to take the UK out of the EU. On that, Ms Mensch is not for listening.
Even the intervention of Iain Martin – formerly of the Wall Street Journal, so he might just understand the mindsets in play here – cautions her against jumping to conclusions: “On EU referendum stuff I advise against terms like ‘not true’. Depends on things yet to come and half the participants are lying” he tells. Politicians behave like politicians no shock horror. But he makes no impression.
“But Osborne would withdraw under favourable conditions. Boris would not; he’s Clarkeite, ideological” she chirps, failing to understand that the Tories’ problem is not unlike Harold Wilson’s in 1975: more of a device to hold the party together. Martin cautions: “On [the] EU spectrum I can produce you [a] whole range of Osborne views, from young Europhile to pragmatic powerbroker. Dunno, neither do you”.
He’s right. She doesn’t know. But she knows what Murdoch wants to hear.