28 February 2019
Chuka and friends.
By Robert Kilconner
“TINGE”, “TIG”, call it what you will, but the emergence of the Independent Group has enlivened the political scene and given those baffled and bored by Brexit something more tasty to speculate about. Why have they done it? Well, in some cases the answer is obvious, to try to refloat a waning political career. But Chuka, why you? A decent, successful politician by all accounts, nicely placed too if the Corbynista tide recedes and the electorate looks around for a big-tent leader. Such men do not stab their colleagues in the back without good reason. Yes, I know, there is a precedent. Brutus did it and everyone agrees that he, like you, was an honourable man; but his rationale was obvious. If you had declared yourself leader and pitched for power we could have understood it. But to reject the whip and join a loose group of independents? How does that work? They haven’t even got a leader at the moment, just a convener, whatever that is. How is it going to make a difference?
Actually that may be the key. Leaderless, rudderless perhaps, but only for a time. Is the calculation that some big beast will emerge from the jungle and seize the reins? A social democratic Napoleon or a Wet Tory Cromwell, waiting in the wings to step into the role that his scouts will have prepared for him. It has been done before, of course, in a slightly different context:
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness. Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Make his paths straight.”
Are you the Baptist, Chuka, preparing for the coming of one greater than you, or is it less certain than that? Is there someone waiting in the wings, unwilling to commit until you and your colleagues have tested the water? Or more than one, even, a group of political penguins waiting to see whether those first into the water will be eaten by the sharks before jumping in themselves?
Either way you must have someone in mind and the big question for the commentator is “who can it be?” Will Miliband major sweep back from the States, a Presidential endorsement at his back, to transform British politics in a manner not seen since 1066? No, he has been away too long for that. Or will it be Yvette, now in cahoots with Oliver Letwyn, a Thatcher/Keith Joseph team if you like, springing centre stage with refreshing new ideas? Or Starmer; he seems a good man if a little serious and tense. But still you never know. Is what we take for stress really a lean and hungry look? Does he think too much, perhaps?
Of course the new leader need not come from the ranks of Labour. There is Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary, now but freshly promoted from the Health Portfolio. A graveyard job that, rather like being Secretary of State for Northern Ireland during the troubles. But he has survived and a tough time at a difficult ministry can often lead on to greater things. Remember a certain “milk snatcher” in the 1970s? More obviously perhaps there is Michael Gove, an instinctive reformer at a time when new ideas are required. Or Boris… [no, not Boris , the u-turn required for Boris to lead a pro-Remain group would be too much even for him – editor.]
Well, I will not insist on Boris then, and readers will have their own views as to potential candidates, but the formation of the Group only makes sense if such a person exists. In the words of the song:
“Chuk, Chuk, Chuk ,Chuk, Chuka, lay a little egg for me.”
The question is “who is the egg?”.