Unionism cannot afford to adopt a ‘laissez faire’ attitude to the looming Conservative party leadership showdown as merely an internal Tory matter.
With no functioning Assembly and Unionism ideologically on the back foot electorally in Northern Ireland, Unionists urgently need the right leader to succeed Johnson, otherwise, as leading Tory ‘wet’ Lord Heseltine noted - if Boris goes, Brexit goes!
Put bluntly, what does the DUP do if the next Tory PM is a ‘Remainer’ and decides to ensure the so-called ‘Brexit Bill’ dies a political death in the House of Lords.
Indeed, worse still for the DUP, what if the power base in the Tories’ Parliamentary party shifts from the hardline pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG) back to the influential backbench 1922 Committee of MPs, and a new pro-European Union PM decides to open up talks to avoid a trade war with the EU?
And even worse still, given that most of the newly elected MLAs in the Northern Ireland Assembly are anti-Brexit, and that Northern Ireland as a region voted ‘remain’ in the 2016 EU membership referendum, could we actually see the opening shots in a fresh campaign for a referendum to rejoin the EU?
If Heseltine’s remark of ‘if Boris goes, Brexit goes’ becomes a policy, and the Northern Ireland Protocol becomes an even more permanent feature of the Irish political landscape, then there’s no way the DUP can crawl back into the Assembly.
If the DUP managed to spin an excuse for the return of a fully functioning Assembly while the Protocol still existed in its current form, would it put the entire peace process - especially the Belfast Good Friday Agreement - in jeopardy as the loyalist hard men decide it is their turn to have a crack at the Protocol?
With vital local government elections scheduled for 2023, and with the hardline Traditional Unionist Voice notching up around 65,000 votes (albeit with only one MLA to show for this!) in May’s Stormont showdown, will the DUP be looking over its shoulder again at the prospect of the TUV increasing its number of councillors across Northern Ireland if that TUV vote holds?
So who does Unionism radically need to march into 10 Downing Street to replace Boris? There’s only one clear hopeful for Unionism - current Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
She may have been a ‘remainer’ in 2016 who had a political ‘Road to Damascus’ conversion to Brexit, but she is still regarded ideologically as ‘Boris Lite’ and will push hard to ensure the Internal Market Bill clears the House of Lords.
The fact that Dublin has already expressed reservations about Liz Truss becoming PM is a good indicator that Unionism needs her to be in that ‘top two’ for the Tory showdown.
As for that battle, Unionism needs to lobby as many Tory MPs as possible to get Truss across the line and into Number 10. Unionism needs to feel the pulse of Conservatism at Westminster to decided which heartbeat is thumping the loudest - do they want a leader who will guarantee party unity?
Do they want a leader who can deliver a General Election victory on the scale of Johnson, even in the event of a so-called ‘Lib-Lab’ pact between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, given that Labour is still rife with ideological splits, and the Lib Dems seem to be a united party?
Labour boss Keir Starmer’s recent ‘Get Brexit Done’ speech was merely a knee-jerk move to shore up his party leadership given the Lard Left’s support for a trade union summer of discontented, especially on the rail network, and the social democrats who want that pact with the Lib Dems.
That speech reeked heavily of Starmer trying to resurrect the political spirit of the late Labour boss Michael Foot, who led the party between 1980-83 during the Thatcher era. Foot was a dedicated socialist on the party’s Hard Left, whilst also being a prominent eurosceptic who once branded the old European Economic Community (EEC) which the UK joined in 1973 as ‘farcical and unworkable’.
Indeed, Starmer’s Brexit speech also gave the impression he had become a political Viking, launching an ideological pillaging raid on the old UKIP and Brexit Party manifestos to camouflage his own ‘Road to Damascus’ conversion to ‘getting Brexit done!’
Bungling Boris may be on the way out of 10 Downing Street, but surely the UK electorate will not send Stumbling Starmer back to the Commons as PM?
One leader who is clearly relieved that Boris has been toppled is Russian boss Vladimir Putin. Johnson may have had a domestic disaster which led to his downfall, but on the international circuit, Johnson had established himself as a major power broker.
With France’s Emmanuel Macron suffering a humiliation in the French National Assembly election, and American President Joe Biden losing more ground to the gun and anti-abortion lobbies, Johnson cleverly used the G7 summit in Germany followed by the NATO summit in Spain to position himself as one of the world’s leading global influencers - especially with the war of attrition in Ukraine dragging on and on.
When the Tory ‘wets’ stabbed Thatcher in the back in the 1990s, they sowed the political seeds for a new era of Labour domination.
Those who celebrate the demise of Tory PM Johnson who returned to the Commons with an 80-plus majority after the last General Election may well come to curse the day they decided to plunge the political dagger into BoJo.
Perhaps before voting on their leadership choice, the Tories may well want to consider the advice of Jesus Christ in the New Testament - let he who is without sin cast the first stone!
Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter
Listen to commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online.
The election of at least a "Soft Brexiteer" would be good news for the majority of NI electors who voted Remain. When will pro-Brexit Unionists realise that perhaps the best way to secure the Union is the re-entry of the UK as a whole into the Single Market and Customs Union. There would then be no need for Irish Sea borders or Northern Ireland Protocols!ReplyDelete