Belfast Telegraph

Will Boris Johnson hold his nerve, unsheathe his blade and go for Theresa May's jugular?

 

By Chris Moncrieff

Can we look forward to a great Tory bust-up and thunderbolt at their conference in Birmingham this week? Or will things start to simmer down, just as the pot looks like boiling over? For once it can be said without exaggeration that this is the most critical conference the Conservatives have held for decades.

Boris Johnson, former Foreign Secretary, can scarcely intensify the already savage language he has used about the Prime Minister's Chequers proposals for Brexit without actually challenging her leadership.

Johnson and his supporters claim they are attacking the policies and not the person. But they are not that naive as not to know that such unrestrained language - like "deranged" and "preposterous" - puts them at such odds with the Prime Minister that her authority is bound to be weakened and thus make her more vulnerable.

Theresa May, to her credit, has remained firm, denouncing her critics for playing with politics to the detriment of the UK.

Johnson has gone so far with intemperate language that it is impossible for him to back off. But will he have the courage to unsheathe his dagger and go for the jugular?

I doubt whether it will happen this week, but Johnson certainly means business.

Meanwhile, Britain's Brexit negotiators have stepped up their criticism of the Brussels team.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has said there are limits to how much compromising the UK will accept, while Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned the EU not to try to back the UK into a corner.

Things are certainly hotting up in Brussels. But will the temperature go off the boil at Birmingham at the last agonising minute?

The big and unreachable electoral advantage Jeremy Corbyn possesses over the Prime Minister is that he has achieved a pop star-like adulation while she has not - and never will.

The youthful enthusiasm for Corbyn, which so alarmed the Tories at last year's unnecessary general election, has not waned at all: young and old alike chanted "Oooh! Jeremy Corbyn" at regular intervals during last week's Labour conference.

The Conservatives have good reason to be worried. They can produce the most attractive policies in the world and verbally destroy Labour's policies, but none of that will defeat the pro-Corbyn hysteria, which has swept through the party and beyond.

Labour has successfully marshalled the youth vote - something no other party has bothered to do - and is reaping the dividends, with Corbyn as its unlikely pin-up. Whoever predicted that Corbynmania would ever happen at all, never mind becoming a source of such deep concern to the Tories?

I suspect the Conservative Party will be scouring its own ranks to find a suitable pin-up to counter this threat from Corbyn.

But I fear it will search in vain.

Have you ever heard such tosh in your life? I refer to Tosh McDonald, chief of the Fire Brigades' Union, who disclosed at the Labour Party conference last week that he used to set his alarm clock an hour earlier than he needed to so he would have an extra hour each day to hate Margaret Thatcher.

Presumably, McDonald is a highly intelligent man - he would need to be to be leader of an important trade union.

So, why is he boasting about wasting his substance simply hating a fellow human being? Perhaps he knew it would go down well among conference delegates, which it did.

McDonald has a mane of blond hair that makes you think of the Muppet Miss Piggy. His face, judging by the photograph I saw of him on the podium, looked unlike that of Miss Piggy, stern and unsmiling.

Indeed, he resembled the epitome of the stereotype union leader: someone with a permanent look of outrage on his face.

Thank goodness for the Monster Raving Loony Party. While bad temper has abounded in the political world over the past week or so, the Loonies have been holding their own cheerful and wacky conference in Belper, Derbyshire.

One feature about this organisation, which is a fully registered political party, is that there is no back-stabbing, no fury and no internecine warfare. While all the others are tearing themselves apart, the Monster Raving Loony Party quietly gets on with it. Belper, which claims more pubs than any other town of its size in the country, used to be the constituency of the late George Brown, the regularly tipsy Foreign Secretary under Harold Wilson.

Among the new policy suggestions before the Loonies conference last week were these gems:

  • Mega car wash will be created by punching holes in the roof of the Channel Tunnel.
  • OAPs will qualify for a Summer Ice Lolly Allowance if temperatures exceed 70 degrees.
  • Puddles deeper than three inches will be marked by a yellow plastic duck.
  • Terrorists will be made to wear bells and horns so we know where they are.
  • Unruly teenagers will be Superglued together, as, if you can't beat them, join them.

Their manifesto, when it comes out, certainly promises to be a more enjoyable read than any of the others.

And they have remained faithful to their long-standing mantra: 'Vote for Insanity - you know it makes sense'.

Long live the Loonies!

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