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Playing the man, not the ball


WOKE neighbours recorded a domestic row and sent it to the Guardian – having called the police, photographed their number plates, noted the time and got an incident number – and stuck Boris Johnson into the public pillory.

These neighbours initially gave their motive as care for Boris’s girlfriend Carrie Symonds, but later this mutated into the need to expose Boris as a bad character. The police found nothing wrong, just a tiff.

It turns out that the complainants are bitterly hostile to Brexit and Johnson, and the American wife has penned a play against Brexit. They are part of the bitter culture wars, deeply subversive of democratic politics, now permeating society. The Mail has written up their politico-cultural background very fully. 

Now Ms Symonds is getting hate mail and is frightened to go home. The woke tribe stirs up hate and does not accept that in a democracy voters have the right to disagree legitimately; it verges on dehumanising its opponents.

The Times reports that ‘allies of Jeremy Hunt’ have joined in this woke line of attack on Johnson’s ‘character’ after his domestic row by labelling him a security risk. The remainer Tory establishment, it seems, is taking the advice of the remainer columnist Matthew Parris to ‘play the man, not the ball’: in soccer terms, that is to foul and kick the ankles not the ball. If this is the Hunt team’s strategy, it is a low one.

The contention is that Johnson’s private life opens him up to blackmail. But is there anything left not known about Boris’s private life? Is he not possibly the least blackmailable character of Tory MPs? There is no doubt that the Boris tape was politically motivated, so why are the Tory remainer establishment not rushing to the defence, in the name of democracy itself, of Johnson and his partner who are being subjected to nasty harassment in their private lives?

But no: the remainer ‘character’ has long been outed as stopping at nothing to prevent Brexit. And isn’t it this – how Mr Hunt, who has been fully loyal to May’s coercive and deceptive Brino strategy, her Chequers threats, her broken promises, accounts for himself – that should be under scrutiny?

What of their characters? How should we assess them in terms of honesty, trustworthiness and duty to the self governing nation state? Can Mr Hunt and Mr Gove so easily jump away from their own responsibility in keeping May’s remain project going to the great detriment of the country?

Meanwhile the ever so nice ‘liberal’ commentators of the Times, urging ‘play the man not the ball’, need to be careful what they support – indeed what they wish for. But come to think of it, they do not want full Parliamentary democracy but EU governance; they do not respect referenda, nor party manifesto promises. All of which raises the question of character and morality rather more significantly than does a domestic row.

If ‘play the man not the ball’ is Hunt’s strategy, not just that of his so-called allies, it is ill-advised. The football the public wants played is the football of Brexit. To date the candidates have not been made to play that game. Neither Iain Dale, nor Krishnan Guru-Murthy, nor Emily Maitlis probed what each candidate means by ‘delivering Brexit’. Is it Brexit or Brino with one or two tweaks? Can Mr Hunt please be asked directly whether he is planning to push through May’s WA? Likewise Mr Johnson: will he be ditching the WA in its entirety, as Martin Howe QC advises is the only way to prevents the UK’s permanent vassalage to the EU? Will he commit, as John Longworth advises, to a managed clean break No Deal? 

This is the scrutiny of the leadership contenders we ask for. This is the core question we need them to be asked: What do you mean by delivering Brexit? The Tory remainer establishment continue to dodge as much as the BBC and Channel Four.

It raises the question asked by Quentin Letts: why do the Tory elite so hate Boris so much?. The biggest reason for their hatred, he concludes, ‘is that they, and the EU, fear he may succeed’.

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Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw is a Theological lecturer and Anglican clergyman

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