This week, David Cameron announced his departure from the House of Commons. He’s a marketable commodity. Perhaps he’ll be in the game for some kind of big international appointment in future. For now he’ll write his book for a few million quid then quietly amass a portfolio which will put him properly in the rich league.
Meanwhile, George Osborne announced that he is in the Commons for the long haul by kicking off his new ‘Northern Powerhouse’ think tank which promises to run against the grain of the new prime minister’s infrastructure policy priorities.
Osborne’s a marketable commodity too. He became shadow Chancellor at 33 and at 44 has spent 6 years as the finance minister responsible for one of the world’s largest economies. According to people who know him and who certainly aren’t Tory supporters, Osborne is very clever. They say he has broad political vision and a firm grasp of how businesspeople and politicians can best work together in common interest. But instead of relaxing for a bit then planning a big business career, he’s chosen years of grind; the life of a backbencher devoid of power and on the losing side of the argument from a prime minister he holds in contempt.
The difference between Cameron and Osborne, of course, is that Osborne hasn’t been prime minister yet. Osborne’s fairly wealthy already it’s said and his priority – for now anyway – is not money but power. HIs thinking, and that of Boris Johnson, is that once Theresa May has crushed Labour in 2020 (or a little earlier), she’ll give up some time before the following election having seen through Brexit, had the better part of two terms and reached her late 60s. Broadly speaking, this means another long campaign for the top job, with the race heating up after the next election. Win or lose, Osborne will still be a relatively young man with plenty of career time ahead of him.
With Labour miles behind in the polls when any viable opposition should be miles ahead, and boundary changes set to make it even worse, present projections for Labour at the next election are so dire as to make a comeback at the following election nigh-on impossible. And that political orthodoxy extends to the cross-party assumption that both Tories and Labour will win virtually no seats in Scotland for years to come.
Osborne and Johnson, who both have many attractive options outside the world of politics, are supremely confident Labour’s meltdown will ensure the Tories will be in government until 2030 and perhaps even well beyond. Meanwhile, as they – and many other possible contenders – play that long game to become the first truly post-Brexit prime minister, Theresa May is following through on policies explicitly designed to win over UKIP voters. The departure of Nigel Farage, the most successful English politician of his day comes as UKIP is heamoragging members as key players line-up to confirm that Theresa May is now delivering UKIP’s election manifesto.
It’s easy to see why the Scottish Tories are the Scottish unionist champions. For Scottish Labour and Lib Dem supporters, though, continued support for unionism is becoming impossible to separate from an acceptance of irreversible right-wing English Tory priories for a generation, or maybe generations, to come.