I have been very cynical about Jeremy Hunt’s push to be Tory leader. I think he’s been mostly absent in the debates, looking like he’s marking time, and I figured he would mostly be BoJo’s wingman in the final two. It almost seemed partially set up for this, with rumours of Johnson’s whips amongst the parliamentary party trying to rig it so that Hunt was the man whom the former London mayor would face. Yet I have been impressed with Hunt’s campaign so far.
“This is an audition to be prime minister of the UK … If Boris is refusing to answer questions in the media, refusing to do live debates then of course people are thinking: just who are we going to get as PM?” Hunt said. This is punchier than I was imagining we’d get from the current Foreign Secretary. Whatever happens, Hunt is not there to just be a Boris stooge and that can only be a good thing.
Particularly when what Toby Young calls “Boris derangement syndrome”, only for me it means the precise opposite of what he means by the term, is in full flow. The reaction to the neighbours calling the police after hearing a fight between Johnson and his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, is unsettlingly insane. Comparisons with the Stasi have been made, with accusations of “Eastern Bloc tactics” in regard to the recording of the fight by those nearby. There are a few things say here. One, Eastern Bloc horror shows like the Stasi were run by the central state to keep an unelected bunch in power. The recording of the Johnson fight is the exact opposite of that: private citizens holding to account someone who is looking to stroll into Number 10 basically unopposed. Two, the privacy thing. Once you shout loud enough for your neighbours to hear, you have sacrificed your right to privacy. It wasn’t like the neighbours placed secret recording devices in Carrie Symonds’ flat; they have a recording of the fight because it was loud enough for them to do so. It’s like if I run into the street and start yelling horrible things at my neighbours in the night – if they chose to record such a thing, I have lost my ability to rightly complain. They have not invaded my privacy; I have sacrificed it myself.
Can Hunt’s more combative style mean he has a chance of winning the leadership contest? Never say never in this crazy time we live in, but I still really, really doubt it. Johnson has too much of a cult of personality built up around him – the fact that you have a mass of right of centre journalists willing to compare anyone who offers any resistance to his march to Downing Street as being like the Stasi tells you everything you need to know.