06 July 2016, The Tablet

Now is the time to come to the aid of the country


History will judge whether the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, was exaggerating when he told the European Parliament that Britain had “collapsed – politically, economically, monetarily and constitutionally” in the aftermath of the EU referendum. The central task of this country’s political leadership now is to prove him wrong. What Britain needs is a rapid return to the centre ground, the space where politics normally happens in a liberal social democracy. And the qualities needed above all are honesty, competence, and a commitment to the common good.

The Conservatives seem to have grasped that instinctively, and the unceremonious blocking of the prime ministerial ambitions of Boris Johnson was a recognition that these attributes are not really in his nature. It is part of the function of the close colleagues of contenders to political leadership to judge them not merely by their policies and public appeal but by their qualities as an administrator and team leader. That is why both major parties at Westminster have built into their method of selecting a specific influence for Members of Parliament. The party membership at large is only offered candidates that MPs have vetted for themselves. Boris Johnson did not pass the test.

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