Jeremy Hunt’s approach is very odd. It is the first time I remember an aspirant for the top job saying: ‘Choose me: I’m frightened of a general election.’ He is obviously right that an election without Brexit accomplished would be very difficult for the Conservatives to win, but the way through that is not to narrow your possibilities in advance.
If the newly chosen leader, with the mandate that being newly chosen brings, decided that no deal were his necessary negotiating backstop (which surely it is) or, more controversially, that he wanted it without negotiating at all, he would then be in a strong position to dare his parliamentary party to vote against him, bring down him and his government and thus nullify the choice the party members would just have made. Even in these weird times, there would surely be very few who would commit political suicide by doing this. He might even succeed in calling the bluff of the opposition because, despite its repeated calls for a general election, Labour has agonising doubts about whether it can win one at present.
The Conservatives do have some chance of winning, particularly as Jeremy Corbyn seems too weak to prevail within his party and yet too strong to kick out. ‘Gouverner, c’est choisir’, but Mr Hunt seems to say there is no choice at all. ‘We shall NOT fight them on the beaches’ is not much of a slogan.
This article is an extract of Charles Moore’s Spectator Notes, available in this week’s magazine.