Could the Tories do even less well than Theresa May as Prime Minister? The question is now being asked as mutterings over her abilities - or lack of them - cause increasing numbers of Tory MPs to experience varying degrees of discomfort. While Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street might not hurt their comfortable lifestyles, the electorate turning on them and voting them out of office certainly will.
No Oiky, it's not your turn
The problem for those looking at decreasing majorities is that Theresa May is still in post mainly because the Tory talent pool is so shallow as to give the impression of drought. Potential successors who are up to the job, like Philip Hammond, are not flavour of the month with an increasingly anti-EU and right-leaning party. Those who are in favour are not just not up to the job, they are dangerously so.
That thought is not allowed to enter by our free and fearless press when the possibility of promoting their pals is in prospect. So today, after the Murdoch Sunday Times told readers of “Tory turmoil as 40 MPs say May must go”, we got to see the chosen pretender of the press establishment. And that chosen pretender was Michael “Oiky” Gove, which begs the question of what kinds of exotic substances had been ingested first.
Despite the propaganda, Gove was not the success at Education that has been suggested by the easily led - and the easily paid off. His reign as Justice Secretary produced many fine words, but little practical action, a tradition he is maintaining at Environment. Moreover, he is the placeman of Rupert Murdoch, who has invested significant sums in Gove, sufficient to have bought his enduring loyalty.
Even the Telegraph is promoting him, with the fraudulent headline “Gove: my plan for a green Brexit revolution”, something else that won’t happen, despite Gove fetching up on The Andy Marr Show (tm) this morning and suggesting he really is a convert to green issues (he isn’t). But one paper has seen Gove coming, and is at least prepared to sound a note of caution. Hence “BORIS AND GOVE PLOT TO ‘HIJACK’ NUMBER 10”.
The Mail on Sunday claims an exclusive for “Menacing secret memo to PM dictating terms for a hard Brexit triggers Cabinet rift”. And the supporting article seems to back up the headline, telling “THERESA MAY is effectively being held to ransom over Brexit by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, a bombshell leaked letter reveals”. The MoS’ political editor Simon Walters is one of the better-informed press people in Westminster.
So is this a rekindling of the double act broken asunder after Gove knifed Bozza last year? Well, yes and no: the reason Gove threw his then pal under the bus would still disqualify London’s formerly very occasional Mayor today. Bozza is not only under pressure over the Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe affair, he still has a very full skeleton cupboard and a finite amount of money to throw at threats of legal action to silence his critics.
This is all about promoting Gove. And Gove as Prime Minister would not only be worse than Theresa May, it would also effectively be Government by Murdoch.
Whatever the question, Michael Gove is never the answer. Don’t even think about it.