A week is a long time in politics, yet a full week hasn’t even passed regarding the subject of this blog post in question. I solemnly promise that this shall be a brief note, commenting on recent comments made by the Home Secretary today regarding those piece of equipment used as a means of crowd dispersal, but only in Northern Ireland.
Yes, I am referring once again to water cannon, and Ms May’s recent decision to reject an application from police in England to use water cannon purchased by the Mayor of London.
I have already aired my own thoughts on the decision, but fret not: I am refraining myself this time around. I must confess that I am still not happy with her breezy acceptance of water cannon use in Northern Ireland and her such sincere concerns for the use of same in the rest of the UK in the same breath.
But I digress.
The news today is that the Home Secretary strongly denied that her rejection of the aforementioned application and her subsequent announcement of same in Parliament was an intentional action, designed to humiliated Boris Johnson. She did not only reject the application for water cannon use, but she went further still, criticising the age of the water cannon – the three cannon are 25 years old; so in UK terms they still could not get on the housing market in London – and their technical faults, as they have no fewer than 67 faults that need to be rectified before their use.
Mr Johnson insisted at the time that the £218,205 spent on buying and refurbishing the three water cannon would not be in vain. He stated that a licence for their use would be sought and ‘would be procured’ from the Home Secretary in the event of serious disorder in London. (Personally, I can think of an easier solution: why not hire water cannon from here in Northern Ireland? Better yet, every time London borrows them, the Treasury could knock a bit off the charges levied at Stormont for its failure to implement welfare reforms in exchange. Smiles all round, and Boris can be the Water Cannon Champion yet.)
Perhaps hoping to receive some public sympathy, Johnson has since stated his belief that the statement was ‘a song and dance’ and an attempt to ‘cut [him] down to size and humiliate [him]’. Perhaps Mr Johnson should reflect on the fact that he should have sought her permission via that same application she had rejected, prior to his purchase of the water cannon in question?
Anyway, the tit-for-tat continues. On Monday morning, the Home Secretary sought to defend herself by appearing on the Today programme, and saying that she was merely acting appropriately in informing Parliament of her ‘important decision’ in person.
Boris, however, feels that such a public dismissal of the application was Ms May’s attempt to dent his bid for becoming leader of the Conservative Party. Friends of his have been recently quoted (check out the recent Mail on Sunday) as saying that this was a deliberate move by both the Home Secretary and the Chancellor, George Osborne – who are also in the running to be the next Conservative leader – to ‘humiliate’ him.
To me, the entire episode merely proves the point that politics these days is about the politicians and their desire to gain and retain power, not about the people. I mentioned in my blog post at the time that this was perhaps something that the people of Northern Ireland and the mainland had in common at least, if not for water cannon. Plus, it all stems from David Cameron’s unexpected announcement during the General Election campaign that he would not seek to see out a full second full term as Prime Minister. Consequently, the vultures are beginning to circle, but evidently they are more fixated on picking off each other than the Prime Minster. (For now, at least.)
Boris claims this episode is merely another part of a deliberate bid, apparently masterminded by Messrs Osborne and May and subtly condoned by the Prime Minister, to prevent him from winning the Tory leadership when Cameron resigns before the next General Election. (We have only saw the end of the 2015 General Election and we are already considering the outcome of the 2020 General Election. Lord save us all.)
Perhaps there is some valid foundation to Boris’ claims. He believes that Osborne is attempting to undermine him over a range of issues, most particularly including supporting a new runway at Heathrow. This would embarrass Mr Johnson, whose Uxbridge constituency is nearby. Two weeks ago during his Budget speech, Osborne appeared to mock Johnson’s ‘dilapidated campaign bunker’.
The problem is that the Tories, more specifically the new Conservative majority government, may no longer need Boris.
His popularity and role as Mayor of London was exploited during the General Election campaign, but not that the dust is settled, he is not being as pandered to as he may have expected. The ongoing woes of Labour and the extinction of the Lib Dems mean the Conservatives have breathing space and are no longer shackled in a coalition government, regardless of how slim their majority is. Boris is a member of the so-called ‘Political Cabinet’ – which only discusses Tory issues. He also has to awkwardly vacate his seat for meetings of the full Cabinet, which is when the major Government decisions are made.
No doubt annoyed at the lack of pampered treatment which he had expected and only given a minor role, Boris must be feeling vulnerable now that Osborne and May are fast becoming a double act of leadership rivals. No doubt he will seek to procure permission to use his prized water cannon as a means of drawing a political battleground. And let’s not forget, he will seek an actual position when he ceases to be Mayor of London. He merely needs to be patient, to strengthen his hand and see what he can do after his Mayoral post concludes.
All in all, who knew water cannon could become so symbolic of House of Cards-esque political bickering.
The burning question of our times remains: where exactly will those rejected water cannon be stored? What will they be used for? Boris, why not attempt to smuggle one into the Commons, and hose down the Chancellor and the Home Secretary if they should belittle you any further in the future?