ALASTAIR CAMPBELL: Please, please, for the sake of the UK, don’t pick HIM
PUBLISHED: 13:00 11 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:54 11 July 2019
ALASTAIR CAMPBELL writes an open letter to the Tories...
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Dear Tory members,
Brexit was supposed to be about taking back control. But never have so many felt so helpless in seeing so few decide our future.
You are among the 0.25% who have a say in deciding who our prime minister should be at this vital moment in our history.
I am writing to you for the voiceless; the majority, the huge majority, the 99.75% who have no say at all, who can only watch as two middle-aged, privileged, wealthy men tour the country pitching their message not to us, but to you.
This is an appeal to your sense of responsibility; to your sense of duty; to your better nature. It is a plea to make your choice not just for yourself, or your party, but for all of us.
In calling on you to reject one of the candidates, I do not pretend that the prospect of the country being led by the other one fills me with much hope or enthusiasm, let alone confidence or joy. However, amid the damage the Brexit process has already done to our politics, 'lesser of two evils' is about as good as it is going to get.
We have long known that one of them has a troubled relationship with the truth. It has cost him jobs far less important than the one he now seeks. It has been dispiriting indeed to see the other one feel he has to play the same lying game, to pretend that difficult choices are easy, to pretend there is a new Brexit deal to be done in a few days and weeks when the years provided so far were not enough for the prime minister they hope to follow, and to pretend that if no deal is forthcoming, no-deal will be fine.
He is not saying this because it is true, as he knows from his time at the cabinet table that it is not. He is saying it because he knows you want it to be true. His opponent is saying it because the other one says it even more loudly, and has said it for longer, though he knows it to be untrue as well.
This leadership race is not driven by their views, but yours. If I read this contest correctly, neither are being judged on their capacity to understand the Brexit crisis and act upon their own assessment. It is your assessment and how closely they come to it that appears to matter.
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You may think this is OK. That this is politics. That this is the system, and your vote is the reward you get for being political, for getting involved, staying engaged, making sure you got a say when it mattered. You may think too that the Conservative Party needs a leader who best represents your desires, and nothing else should cloud your judgement about which of these two men comes closest to what you want out of the party they wish to lead.
But what are your desires? Given the name of your party, the Conservative and Unionist Party, I assume you desire to preserve the Union? Yet your desire for Brexit puts this at risk, and polling suggests you no longer care. A YouGov survey indicates 63% of you believe that losing Scotland is a price worth paying for Brexit, and 59% feel the same about losing Northern Ireland. So your desire for Brexit is greater than your desire to hold the UK together. At least be honest that this is the direction in which you are relentlessly pushing the last two men standing.
You are 'happy', if that is the right word, to see the economy weaken as the price of Brexit. Again, be aware and be honest about the consequences - fewer jobs, less tax revenue, less money for public services, fewer opportunities for young people in the future.
You are driving the biggest change to our politics, our diplomacy, our economy, our culture since the Second World War. Do you really have the right, the mandate, to do that? Do you seriously believe your vote can give a new prime minister the mandate to do the opposite of what he said three years ago when leaving the EU without a deal, we were told by both, was not an option? Can you not at least try to understand, as part of the 0.25% choosing the prime minister, why so many of the 99.75% feel this is a democratic outrage and are asking why we cannot all have a final say on any Brexit deal through a People's Vote?
I fully accept you are unlikely to be overly swayed by anything I might say on this. But I wonder if you might reflect… what would Margaret Thatcher make of it all? What would she have thought of the candidates' desperation to tell the audience what it wanted to hear, spraying uncosted spending promises with abandon? And of the favourite, what would the 'Iron Lady' have made of the fake plastic man? What would she have made of his unwillingness to face real scrutiny, of his preference for an empty chair over a proper debate?
"To leave an empty chair means you have no influence over the discussion," she once said following a European council meeting. "It is bad policy to leave an empty chair." Tory leadership candidates for the rest of time - or for however long the Tory Party survives the disaster it is about to unleash upon the country - are likely to summon Churchill and Thatcher in support of their arguments. I want you to ask yourself seriously whether either would take the course being pursued by those now seeking to follow in their midst. They believed in the dual role of fulfilling responsibility to citizens of Britain whilst fulfilling Britain's responsibility to our allies - not least for the pursuit of our own interests and power - across the world.
What does it say about a person's suitability for power if he will not embrace scrutiny head-on, or actively seek accountability? What does it say about a person's leadership qualities if they actively avoid difficulty? If you are a fire fighter, you run towards the fire. If you are a police officer, you run towards the danger. If you are a doctor, you run towards the accident or the cry for help. Yet to become prime minister, it would seem, in order to win over people like you, he runs away from challenge, he runs away from the truth. He runs away from reality in order to feed your fantasies. This is not leadership, and you should not reward it.
You are what millions of us are not. Empowered to choose our next prime minister. So, you must choose wisely and apply the dual role of leadership to yourself. Not just for the Conservative Party or for a destructive no-deal Brexit, but for our country and for our responsibility to our allies around the world. Choose anyone but him.
I realise that leaves little choice. But anything, anything at all, would be better that what you appear to be about to inflict on the country you all claim to love. Please, please, for the sake of the UK, just don't.
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