The call to serve

Rob Hutton – sketchy leadership for sketchy times


Our nation is at a turning point. A crossroads. A four-lane roundabout with confusing markings. And that is why I’ve decided to throw myself into the ring as the next leader of the Conservative Party, and prime minister.

That’s what leadership looks like

I’m aware some will say I’d be an unconventional choice. I am not a member of parliament, in the technical sense. But the history of the Conservative Party is one of unconventional choices paying off. The first woman prime minister. The first Asian chancellor. The first convict prime minister. Why not the first sketchwriter-leader?

And in some ways, I offer continuity. Like Boris Johnson, my “journalism” often involves making stuff up in a desperate search for attention. Like Johnson, I think hiring Dominic Cummings was a terrible mistake. And like Johnson, I am too lazy and easily distracted to be an effective prime minister.

I am head and shoulders above the other candidates. Literally. And I share key qualities with each of them. Like Rishi Sunak, I would almost always rather be in California. Like Tom Tugendhat, I can work a mention of the military into any conversation. And like Grant Shapps, the first time I made a spreadsheet I went on about it for ever.

No one should be in any doubt that voters face tough times. Fuel bills going through the roof. Our precious National Health Service at breaking point. Schools struggling to recruit teachers and cope with the impacts of lockdown. Any leader would struggle with these problems, and I certainly would. So I’m not going to be mentioning them at all in my campaign.

For six years, Conservatives have pretended that Brexit involves no trade-offs and can be delivered if only we believe in it enough. And if it will make them vote for me, I’ll be happy to let them pretend that for another six years. That’s what leadership looks like.

Somebody in this race has to have the courage to tell Conservative MPs that the things they like are good — and, what is more, that the things they don’t like are bad. If I make it through to the final two, I pledge to go out and discover what party members in the country want to hear, and then I will tell them that, as well.

Faced with difficult realities, we can’t just tell ourselves comforting fairy stories. We can hide behind the sofa, too. Our country faces real problems, and as prime minister, I won’t shrink from pointing the finger of blame at Tony Blair.

This is a random universe

We must be honest. Boris Johnson got things wrong, and that is entirely his fault and no one else’s, except maybe Rishi. Tory MPs can hardly be held responsible for electing him leader, campaigning for him to be prime minister, defending him in public and sitting behind him cheering. There was no way any of them could have known what a man so enigmatic and silent was really like. Nor were there any clues to his character in 2019, 2020, 2021 or the first six months of 2022.

This decade is a decade of new ideas for this party. New thinking about what is legal and what is not. New ways of saying we have no money but can spend more money. Money we don’t have, but will spend. And cut more taxes. On the more money being spent. So it goes further. If it exists. Which it does not.

I know people out there want an end to culture wars and division, but honestly those are the only things we can offer you that don’t cost anything. Voters are exhausted by empty promises. So I pledge to make promises that are bursting at the seams.

One of my favourite thinkers is the writer Lee Child, who said: “This is a random universe. Once in a blue moon things turn out just right.” I think we can all agree with that.

I wrote the toughest sketches of government in the toughest times. And I truly believe that if anyone can deliver sketchy leadership, it’s me.

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10

Critic magazine cover