SHAKESPEARE shows a foolish character in Twelfth Night deluding himself through excessive ambition: “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” The Bard’s irony feels uncomfortably near the bone in July 2019. Like millions of others I am very afraid of those seeking “greatness” in the Conservative Party leadership contest.

Let’s be clear what’s at stake when the two-horse coronation is settled on July 22nd. We’ll either wake up with Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (odds on favourite) or Jeremy Richard Streynsham Hunt (coming up on the outside) having the whip hand over our lives.

Theresa May’s inglorious reign as Prime Minister shows just how much damage an incompetent PM can inflict. Mrs May’s failure to tackle the inequality plaguing our nation let alone the Brexit disaster are cases in point.

Bizarrely, the very names of the candidates foisted on us by a Conservative Party with a wafer-thin majority hint at the problem. Such distinctive monikers are the natural preserve of our hereditary elite. Small surprise to learn Johnson is an Etonite, while Hunt’s alma matter was Charterhouse School. These are not men with any legitimate claim to be of the people. Nor does either politician’s record in public office suggest they are for the people.

Take multi-millionaire Jeremy Hunt. In his time as Health and Social Care Minister he oversaw more than just reckless outsourcing and privatisation. Morale in the NHS has never been lower, with a crippling shortage of 40,000 nurses and 11,000 doctors. Nor should we forget the junior doctor’s strike the government’s heavy-handed policies provoked.

On Hunt’s watch the NHS waiting list for non-urgent surgery increased by 1.4 million and the number of patients waiting more than two weeks for urgent cancer treatment more than doubled to 113,000 in 2017/18.

At the same time, the number of patients waiting more than four hours in A&E, rose from just under 60,000 to over 190,000. So bad was the winter crisis of 2017 when hundreds of patients lay neglected on trolleys in corridors, the head of the British Red Cross, Mike Adamson, described conditions in NHS hospitals as a “humanitarian crisis”. As for seeing a GP, many of us are waiting weeks for an appointment.

Personally, I tremble at the thought of such an advocate of creeping private health care conducting our post-Brexit negotiations with Trump’s USA.

Which brings us to the frontrunner, Johnson. (I refuse to use his first name ‘Boris’ as though he’s a pal or colleague: he is neither).

Passing aside serious issues about his personal integrity, Johnson’s record is derisory. As London Mayor he wasted millions on the vanity project of the Garden Bridge while simultaneously failing to deal with existential problems threatening the very quality of life for Londoners: air pollution, affordable housing for ordinary working people, declining public services. During the 2011 riots he stayed on holiday, appearing after the event for photo opportunities, pushing a broom to sweep up the broken glass.

As for his record in the Brexit debacle, I predict history will label Johnson a key player in our national humiliation on October 31st, when we are scheduled to leave the EU. Lies about straight bananas and £350M for the NHS on buses won’t be the half of it. The fact that he is willing to advocate an economy-wrecking no deal Brexit in order to appeal to hard-line Brexiteers is beyond reckless. Personally, I consider it deeply unpatriotic.

Meanwhile, we the people are given no choice who will be our next PM. That decision is gifted to 160 thousand Conservative Party members who in no way reflect the demographics, opinions or social make-up of our diverse nation in the 21st century.

On July 22nd when the media salute the winner of this “great” contest please bear in mind you were denied a vote to choose your PM. Nor is a General Election scheduled at a crucial moment in our nation’s history when we really should be given some kind of say what kind of Brexit takes place. Above all, both candidates represent the interests of an out of touch, wealthy elite, not you or your community.