OPINION - West End Final: Tory leadership shortlist in 12 days, Shinzo Abe assassinated

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 (Evening Standard)
(Evening Standard)

There is shocking news from Japan, where the former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been killed while campaigning. The likeable and energetic Abe was making a speech when he was attacked by a gunman. It is a terrible moment and has prompted tributes from the Prime Minister down. For those who want to try and make sense of this attack, I recommend this insightful and clear piece by the LSE Academic Dr Kristin Surak, which explains how it may end up changing Japan’s constitution.

I know it seems strange to turn from that to domestic politics, but these are pivotal days for us here in Britain.

This afternoon Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner were cleared of breaking lockdown rules. So Starmer won’t resign. It caps a dream week in politics for him. The Labour leader has now called for an early general election.

Meanwhile, among the Conservatives, the spotlight is leaving Johnson (for now) and turning to the question of who will succeed him. We’ve splashed on how we could be down to a shortlist of just two in less than a fortnight. One Tory friend warns me it could get nasty.

The Spectator’s garden party couldn’t have been better timed last night and many of the hopefuls were there, pressing the flesh. Sunak went along, as did Kemi Badenoch, Tom Tugendhat and Nadhim Zahawi, flanked by two aides – which is two aides more than I remember him having last year. A rapid rise, then. But that’s true of lots of these hopefuls. For all their 12 years in government, many who are favoured by the bookies have only a few years at the frontline of politics.

There is at the moment no outstanding candidate (though for my money, Rishi Sunak looks to have the most natural star quality out of the bunch, despite his heavy stumble earlier this year). So at the beginning of the race, as we are now, it feels much more open than 2016 or 2019.

In the comment pages today, Paul Flynn reconsiders Wednesday’s high drama in light of what it really was: an almighty, nuclear-scale workplace meltdown. We’ve all had them (though maybe not while being circled by the Sky News chopper) and Paul runs through some of his own in his witty piece.

But there are other ways to look at Johnson resigning. Olexander Scherba gives us a timely and revealing perspective from Ukraine. It’s a sobering read and whatever you make of Johnson, it’s worth seeing him through Ukrainian eyes.

And finally, at least one Tory enthusiastically danced their way through yesterday. Yes of course it was Theresa May, the Dancing Queen, who had more than one reason to boogie in Henley.

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