After Boris Johnson’s fall from grace, or whatever state you would describe his ineffective premiership as, the runners and riders for the inevitable Conservative leadership election immediately started jostling in the stalls. Almost all were well-known names in Westminster and beyond. Favorite — and extraordinarily wealthy after marrying into an Indian industrial family — Rishi Sunak had been Chancellor of the Exchequer; Priti Patel was, apparently, Home Secretary; and the weaselly Jeremy Hunt slunk around as Health Secretary. People were at least aware of Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt (but maybe not aware they were, or were supposed to be, Tories, Truss being originally a Remainer and Mordaunt tangling herself up in woke knots).
There was also Tom Tugendhat, whose main campaign pillar was that he had been in the Army. He mentioned that several times. That doesn’t have the gravitas it used to now that the armed forces have been weakened by woke. And there was Suella Braverman, who made little impression, and Savid Jabid, vaccine and lockdown champion, and hence widely disliked. Grant Shapps is very much a footnote; a career politician, if you seek a model.
And it was a very inclusive show in the paddock before the big race. Even the usual suspects couldn’t whine about a lack of diversity because half the field were women and an overrepresentative number (in terms of national demographics) were not white. One, in fact, was what my late grandmother would quaintly have termed “as black as your hat.” No one, however, had heard of her.
A few journalists must have been catching up on the career of Kemi Badenoch when she announced her candidacy, and the more cynical would have suspected her as being what used to be called “a token black,” as seen in old TV dramas of the 1970s. Basically, however, she was hardly going to make much of a race of it. Then the strange thing happened: Ms. Badenoch started talking like a conservative.
Kemi Badenoch was born in Wimbledon — could you get any more English? — to Nigerian parents. The family then returned to Lagos before Badenoch returned to the United Kingdom to go on, at various times, to flip burgers in McDonald’s, study a part-time law degree at London’s respected Birkbeck College, work at The Spectator, and read a degree in Engineering at my alma mater, The University of Sussex.
She went on to hold minor governmental posts including, ominously, a position as “Minister of State for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities.” Given her campaign message of anti-woke, however, it seems she used her time in the belly of the beast to good effect — for the rest of us, that is, not to the deep state and its minions.
However, when Badenoch emerged as a candidate for the post of Britain’s Prime Minister, shortcomings were machine-tooled by the loyalist media (not in the Northern Irish sense, you understand) both valid and frankly shoddy.
There is a perfectly good argument that ministerial inexperience before advancing to Prime Ministerial level is not the best stratagem. As Sophy Ridge of Sky News said to Lee Rowley, Kemi Badenoch’s campaign manager, Prime Minister is not an entry-level job. It certainly isn’t, but the central point is not that Kemi Badenoch talks and appears to think like a genuine British conservative, but that hardly any others in the party do the same. Quite apart from that, neither David Cameron nor Tony Blair had taken a ministerial decision worth the name before their respective reigns.
Here is the spoiler, I’m afraid. Badenoch was eliminated when there were just four contenders left (and we now know the final two). But her run of success was a cheering surprise for a few reasons.
The Conservative Party’s leadership election process may seem ponderous, but there is a sound principle at work. Each time a candidate is knocked out in a round of voting by the Party’s MPs, their share of the vote will be reallocated among the remaining contenders in the next round. Then, when the list is down to two, the Party members get to vote. It is a refined vote, not in a class way but in the sense that sand or rice is refined until what’s left is the best sand or rice.
That may seem as though around 200,000 people decide who the next PM will be — that’s because they will — but theirs is currently the party in power and this is their prerogative. But the two-tier voting process means that the final two contenders have been assessed by MPs, those with professional and ministerial experience, while the final decision gives an expression of the will of those at the grassroots level, the hoi polloi (even if some of them do live in Tunbridge Wells).
But what if the only choice available is between members of an entrenched political class? Kemi Badenoch must have given the deep state a bit of a scare when she came out of nowhere to go all the way to the last four on a ticket of classical conservative values. This, of course, is what horrified the American political class and their attendant media when Trump barged in against somewhat manipulated odds. But while Trump was a little too much like a guy boasting about his team in a bar, Badenoch nailed some of the formative cornerstones of conservatism and did so in an erudite way that suggested she was more interested in beliefs than optics.
The basic principles of conservatism are not complex or difficult to grasp: small or at least limited government, low taxation, effective law and order, a belief in moral agency (meaning that someone commits a violent crime not because they are poor or oppressed, but because they are a morally questionable person), free-market financial policies, the centrality of the family, and traditional education. There are more, I’m sure, but these form the bedrock of the Tory tradition.
There was, at one time, a moral element to being a conservative, but that is less in evidence as time goes by. What is starting to emerge — and a debt is owed to Badenoch for adding this recognition that an argument needs to be both made and had — is the realization that critical race theory, gender theory, and all the rest of the intellectual detritus pretending to be morally upstanding is potentially as good an idea for the health of the nation as hooking someone up to a sheep for a blood transfusion. But back to Tory basics.
The current government has done nothing to rationalize the bloated public sector, has increased preexisting tax-and-spend policies, neutered the police, and shown enthusiasm only when it comes to doling out contracts to their friends. Badenoch has spoken against all these practices. Now she is out of the race, what happens next will be interesting. The problem the establishment has with Badenoch is that you are supposed to be either conservative or black, but not both. Just ask Thomas Sowell, Candace Owens, or Larry Elder.
On a related subject, a major concern for those boosting the black brand was how bad Badenoch would make Labour’s black big guns look. The biggest black names on Labour’s benches are known not to be the sharpest tools in the woodshed — any woodshed. Diane Abbott has had so many car-crash interviews she is like a political version of NASCAR, and her mathematics notoriously borders on the purely experimental. As for David Lammy, his appearance on Britain’s famous intellectual quiz show, Mastermind, showed him post a very poor low score. Mr. Lammy, for future reference, please note that the woman who discovered radium and whose Christian name was Marie was Curie, not Antoinette (this was an actual answer Lammy gave). The appearance of a black woman in the opposition’s leadership race who was not only speaking “conservative,” but is also as sharp as a tack tends to show up Labour’s tokenistic stooges for what they are.
Britain doesn’t yet have a “squad,” the absurd nickname given to the treasonous coven comprising Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Talib, and the one whose name everyone forgets like they forget Doc when being asked to name the Seven Dwarves. And this is because the British ethnic minority wing of the political class doesn’t — yet — overtly despise the country in which their ultimate status is that of a fortunate guest. But no doubt the hothouses of British universities, the soil of grievance studies, and the gentle rain of government funding is preparing new fleurs du mal for Parliament’s future.
There is also, of course, the role that politics is expected to play in the blackening of Britain. I don’t watch television but I certainly read about it, and I don’t suppose anyone British reading this will have failed to note the fact that every other advert seems to feature black people, often in biracial couples, and every other drama looks at first glance like an off-Broadway production of Porgy and Bess. Britain hasn’t gone full Hollywood (never go full Hollywood) in its self-denigration, but is rather subtler about it outside the world of seemingly endless American awards ceremonies. Recent highlights include a black Anne Boleyn, a remake of the quintessential English movie The Railway Children apparently featuring plenty of black animus, and a comment by a BBC reporter about the English women’s football team which I suspect The Union Jackal will have much to say about here next week.
We are used to the Left’s penchant for historical revisionism. Their treatment of history must, however, pick out a careful route. On one hand they require history for evidence against white civilization. On the other they are aware of a need to reorder and reframe history so that it becomes reminiscent of Henry Ford’s famous quote concerning the Model-T motor-car: You can have it in any color as long as it’s black. But now, back to the racing.
As I write, the last round of MP voting has seen the end of Penny Mordaunt’s campaign. She received 105 votes, Liz Truss 113, and Rishi Sunak 137. The pundits before the off mostly said it would be Sunak against one or other of the two women, so they were sound, although I don’t expect they were expecting the dark horse — if you’ll pardon the expression — of Kemi Badenoch to have such a good canter.
So, the crucial thing now is which way Mordaunt’s votes will fall. I have had a gloomy feeling from the get-go that Sunak would be the next PM, but there will be furious campaigning and blitzkrieg meetings across Westminster as campaign people try to capture stray votes. As Nigel Farage says, perhaps Liz Truss was always the least worst choice.
Whoever is the eventual victor will have an immediate and vital choice to make: To call or not to call a snap General Election. The last time this could have happened of necessity, with the handover of power resulting from Labour’s famous “deal” between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in 2007, Brown famously chickened out of an election after he succeeded Blair, and therefore bet against the four-year mandate a victory would bring him. Two years later and he was gone, and the absurd co-conspiracy of David Cameron and Nick Clegg bored and impoverished the country for half a decade. Blair has come back to haunt the Right, hinting at a return to politics and remaining as greasily Machiavellian as he ever was. Brown took the route of healthily remunerative lectures and consultancies. What will Johnson do?
One concern for Tory HQ will be how Johnson feels about his defenestration and whether or not he is resentful about it. He didn’t exactly rule like Caesar, but he still had plenty of knives in his back when he fell. I note today that he has gone on record as saying that he believes there are going to be “deep state” moves to reverse Brexit under the next government. Sure, Boris, but you didn’t come across that idea in your box of breakfast cereal this morning. You would have known that for some time, and everyone knows you can be economical with the truth after the Pincher affair. There may be an element here of Johnson, like a cornered mobster in the dock, ratting out his friends.
Johnson’s final speech to the House of Commons was interesting for two reasons. Firstly, the disgraceful and petulant behavior of the Labour benches. When Tony Blair — who did a lot more damage to the UK than Johnson managed — made his final speech in 2007, both sides of the House stood and applauded. With Johnson, the Labour benches either left or sat and refused to applaud. Keir Starmer (I won’t call him “Sir” despite his Order of the British Empire, because “Sir” is what we had to call teachers at the school Starmer and I attended, and I had at least some respect for them) did his usual impression of a poodle with a flashlight being shone in its eyes, and the Labour Party as a whole should be ashamed of itself. That would, of course, presuppose that they are familiar with the concept of shame.
Everyone on the Tory benches, as you would expect, clapped and cheered, with one exception: ex-Prime Minister Theresa May. Make of that what you will.
But if there has been one original factor in the race to manage decline in the country that once had an empire on which the Sun never set (and now has one on which that same Sun has long set), it has been the emergence of Kemi Badenoch. She shows that all not all blacks in politics are diversity hires, that black conservatives disturb the British deep state and its mouthpieces every bit as much as they do in the United States, as well as that biracial couples exist outside advertising (Badenoch’s husband is white). Good luck in your new job, Kemi. It will be interesting to see what that is.
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