At this eleventh hour in the Tory horse race, a new candidate has made a late run on the rail, putting pressure on the frontrunner Boris Johnson.
The candidate’s credentials certainly look so impressive that one has to wonder why he hasn’t figured from the start. Having witnessed his scintillating performance in the Channel 4 debates, one is even more surprised.
After all, this latecomer to the proceedings has held four high-level cabinet posts. While nitty-gritty administration wasn’t his forte, he showed leadership qualities second to none, which isn’t surprising considering that in his younger days he served with valour and distinction as army officer in the battlefield.
When in government, he used his steely resolve and impressive oratorical skills to unite the nation at a moment of crisis. He then negotiated the country’s way through the crisis, earning himself an unassailable reputation as a man Britain can rely on in her hour of need.
In purely political terms – and we do have to consider the possibility of an early general election – he alone among the Tory candidates has demonstrated a cross-party appeal. Though some detractors describe him as a right-wing ideologue, he has shown hardnosed pragmatism when needed, but without compromising his core principles.
Yet his prospects quickly wilted under the scathing attacks launched by both the press and the other candidates, who joined forces to ward off this late threat.
Michael Gove pointed out during the debate that the “honourable and other gentlemen” seem to ignore that this admittedly impressive candidate comes from a highly privileged aristocratic family.
Unlike Mr Gove, an adopted child who describes himself as “a warrior for the dispossessed”, this Johnny-come-lately could only be a warrior for the toffs – even though he might have fought for his whole country and not just its upper classes.
Sajid Javid instantly developed this theme, highlighting the new candidate’s elite educational background. Unlike Mr Javid himself, who went to a Bristol comprehensive that “wasn’t brilliant”, the latecomer was educated at exclusive public schools, including Harrow.
Yes, admittedly Mr Javid lacked the debating skills displayed by this candidate, but at least he was “genuine and honest, with experience of real life at the rough end”. And it’s not as if those debating skills bespoke nothing but a talent for articulate speech and sound argument.
No, they were acquired and honed at elite educational institutions, which means that deploying them to political ends was tantamount to… There Mr Javid stumbled, being stuck for the right word. And then it came to him: “…dishonesty!”
“We must prevent this contest from becoming an Eton-Harrow debate,” he concluded.
The press chimed in with gusto. “Where is diversity in this line-up of Tory candidates,” asked one editorial rhetorically, “especially with this late addition?” All other papers differed only in the choice of words, not in the general tenor of their comments.
The consensus reached unanimously was that the very fact of a candidate’s privileged background complete with exclusive education must disqualify him from government irrespective of any other qualities he may possess.
“We already have a full complement of Etonians standing for leadership,” commented a paper known for its Tory leanings. “At this juncture, we certainly do not also need a Harrovian contender, especially one who grew up in a palace.”
The chorus of the new candidate’s detractors grew stronger and louder. No one even bothered to talk about his experience, nor indeed about his qualities of intellect, character and popular appeal.
The final chord was sounded by another Tory newspaper: “Yes,” was the summing-up of its editorial, “he may, probably would, make a good prime minister.
“And yes, perhaps an argument can be made that he is better qualified for this office than any other candidate on offer.
“However, unless the Tories wish to reinforce their reputation for being an exclusive Pall Mall club committed only to the interests of the rich and wellborn, they must close ranks against the threat presented by this toffy-nosed aristo.”
In the face of such unanimous opposition from not only Labour but even from his own party, Sir Winston Churchill had no option but to exit the contest.