Here’s a question for you.
What’s an hour long, completely devoid of reason, aimed towards a target demographic smaller than the average amoeba and features more impotent dick swinging than a bargain basement remake of The Full Monty?
Why it’s the ITV Tory Leadership Debate of course. A prime time extravaganza of toe curling misery in which we learn our future lies in the hands of one of two men – both incredibly wealthy, both with a track record of cataclysmic incompetence and both proposing ever so slight variations on the same unworkable plan.
It was a nice future we had once, wasn’t it?
Billed as a titanic clash between two fiercely competitive men, each convinced they had the magic solution to three years of unbridled woe, proceedings quickly descended into an unedifying pissing contest. Julie Etchingham valiantly attempted to regain control and wrestle some form of coherence out of the exercise, but this ultimately was in vain as important issues became clouded by farce and the onlooking nation left bemused and soaked in figurative piss.
Basically, it was dreadful.
Despite both plans, when viewed in direct contrast, being largely indistinct exercises in boneheaded futility, the two men did at least have opposing personalities giving the watching public at least some chance of distinguishing between them.
On one hand we had Jeremy Hunt. Current Foreign Secretary, scourge of junior doctors nationwide and an entrepreneur. How do I know he’s an entrepreneur? Because he’s told us he’s an entrepreneur, with the phrase “I’m an entrepreneur” achieving such mantra like status in Jeremy’s vernacular you can’t help but feel that he’s mentioning it through fear of his very sense of identity evaporating away if it doesn’t spill from his lips once every 17.8 seconds.
He wants to turbo charge the economy – whatever that means, though he assures us that, as an entrepreneur, he’s the man to do this. He’s also prepared to fashion a no deal exit if that’s what leaving the EU comes down to despite, as an entrepreneur who’s spoken with other entrepreneurs set to go out of business in such a scenario, being fully aware of just what a disastrous move this would be.
Confused? You should be – though you’re likely not viewing proceedings through the murky prism of Tory Party self interest. When you’re attempting to kowtow to a demographic of which 54% think the serially mendacious, botched satsuma spawn known as Donald Trump would make a good Prime Minister of Great Britain, you can leave reason and rational thinking at the door. It’s simply not welcome.
Then we have the clear front-runner, Boris Johnson – a ghastly embodiment of self serving political chicanery. Lacking even a single scruple and holding the truth in the same withering regard as you’d possess for an outbreak of genital warts, this amoral societal tumour’s crowning achievement is somehow creating the charade of palatable legitimacy – largely on account of a carefully stage managed public image in which charming buffoonery has effectively acted as a Trojan horse to smuggle the malignant aspects of his nature through largely unnoticed.
For his litany of failings, Boris Johnson has always been adept at playing a crowd, and it was on full display last night – littering his pitch with grandiose declarations while making sure to throw in enough quips to divert the audience’s attention away from their painful lack of substance.
It seemingly mattered not one jot that what he was saying was either fundamentally wrong or vacuous to the point of being utterly worthless – the watching crowd lapped it up. Only a day before the Director General of the WTO had dismissed Boris Johnson’s Brexit masterplan as unworkable fiction, but did any of the whooping spectators really care? Of course not, he was making them laugh.
Easy answers, no matter how diametrically opposed to reality, are always gratefully received by the faithful when delivered with sufficient charisma – and so it came to pass.
Given today’s frankly insane political climate, the metric for determining who actually won the night has shifted. Gone are the days where being triumphant in the battle of ideas will grant you victory – it’s simply not enough anymore.
Even in a debate as fruitless as this one, in which both propositions hinge entirely on a bullshit premise that the Withdrawal Agreement is open for change, the fact that Jeremy Hunt, while still delusional, won by virtue of having one toe tentatively within the realms of sanity is of no consequence.
In a post-truth world in which narrative reigns supreme, it’s a de facto irrelevance. Jeremy Hunt may have won the debate, but Boris Johnson won the crowd.
Regrettably, such superficial victories really are the bottom line these days. A calm, collected dissemination of the brutal reality we’re facing simply won’t tantalise this zeitgeist. It was of no surprise that Boris Johnson’s boisterous demand for optimism raised the biggest cheer of the evening. With a population lost in a state of tempestuous confusion, an uproarious declaration of self assured certainty is an enticing branch to cling onto. It’s solace that wins the day – the how and why is of minimal concern.
Perhaps it was all just an unfortunate inevitability. The circus of British politics has long been on an apparently irreversible slide into outright absurdity and the bombshell of Brexit only excavated further depths to which we could plunge. Not only does nobody know where we’re headed, the resultant debris has created a path too treacherous to even acknowledge.
As shallow and specious it may be, of course people are going to reach for the comfort blanket of easy answers.
After all, that’s why we have Nigel Farage. That’s why we have the Brexit Party.
And that’s why Boris Johnson will be our next Prime Minister.Follow @grahamlithgow