‘What do you nut­ters think you are do­ing?’

The Sunday Telegraph - - Tories in crisis - By Boris John­son FOR­EIGN SEC­RE­TARY

There is some­thing sa­cred about watch­ing an ele­phant hav­ing break­fast in the wild. We had got up long be­fore dawn and flown from Nairobi to a place called Lewa in north-west Kenya and we stood around in rev­er­en­tial si­lence as the sun came up and not 20 yards away a huge old bull ate his way through the top of a tree – crunch­ing up leaves and branches with a noise like tear­ing linen.

We were silent be­cause we didn’t want to dis­turb him, and also, per­haps, be­cause we knew that this spec­ta­cle is in­creas­ingly rare and pre­cious.

Un­less we are more care­ful – un­less hu­man­ity changes its ways – this is a sight our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren may never see.

When I first went to Africa as a child, 40 years ago, there were still a few mil­lion of th­ese ex­tra­or­di­nary throw­backs from the Pleis­tocene. Now the best es­ti­mates put their num­bers at only 415,000, and fall­ing fast.

The Lewa project is a mas­sive suc­cess. Ele­phant num­bers are slowly com­ing back up. But all such ef­forts will be neu­tralised un­less we can stamp out the ivory trade and the bru­tal poach­ing it pro­motes.

That is why it is such fan­tas­tic news that Michael Gove, the en­vi­ron­ment sec­re­tary, has done some­thing that no Labour gov­ern­ment dared to. He has gone for a full ban.

If we can ad­dress the two is­sues at once – habi­tat loss and the ivory trade – then the world re­ally can save the ele­phant; and it is a cam­paign that Global Bri­tain is ideally placed to lead.

And if I may ad­dress the is­sue of the hour – the ele­phant in the room, I sup­pose – the peo­ple of this coun­try don’t want a gen­eral elec­tion.

For heaven’s sake: in the last three years we have had two elec­tions and a ref­er­en­dum. They cer­tainly don’t want to see a Tory lead­er­ship con­test that would in­evitably trig­ger fur­ther de­mands for an elec­tion.

What peo­ple want is for us all in gov­ern­ment to get on with de­liv­er­ing pri­or­i­ties. At the end of this con­fer­ence sea­son, it is ob­vi­ous that Tories un­der Theresa May have the bet­ter plans to take this coun­try for­ward.

What does Labour want to do? Go back in time with a bonkers and un­af­ford­able plan to spend £200bil­lion re­na­tion­al­is­ing in­dus­tries in a way that would mys­tify our friends around the world. They would sad­dle fu­ture gen­er­a­tions with debt and do noth­ing to ad­dress the real prob­lems of this coun­try.

It is we Con­ser­va­tives who will help solve the hous­ing cri­sis by tack­ling not just de­mand but sup­ply, build­ing the hun­dreds of thou­sands of new homes – mainly on brown­field land – that we need. It is we Con­ser­va­tives who will help young peo­ple with the cost of their uni­ver­sity ed­u­ca­tion – in a way that is fair and sus­tain­able.

At Manch­ester last week, I met a bunch of stu­dents who ad­mit­ted they had all voted for Jeremy Cor­byn on the strength of his prom­ise to ab­solve them of their debts. That prom­ise has of course evap­o­rated since the elec­tion – and with it their trust in Labour. We need to get that point across.

We need a strong Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment to keep the econ­omy mov­ing for­ward and to raise the rev­enue to help with all th­ese chal­lenges; and the last thing we need is the neo-Lud­dism of Cor­byn with his wacky plans for a tax on au­to­ma­tion and in­no­va­tion.

Above all, the peo­ple of this coun­try want us to get on and de­liver Brexit – and we need Theresa to do it. I have worked with her for years and I can tell you that once her mind is made up there is no one more im­pla­ca­ble and de­ter­mined in pur­su­ing what she be­lieves is right for Bri­tain.

She will ne­go­ti­ate a great and suc­cess­ful Brexit that ful­fils the prom­ise to the peo­ple – to take back con­trol of our laws, borders and cash.

As for those who have been call­ing for a change – well, it is no dis­re­spect to the African ele­phant if I bor­row again from the great­est walk­ing metaphor the an­i­mal king­dom has ever given us.

When I first be­came an MP, our num­bers had been cru­elly re­duced. The herd of Tory pachy­derms was still com­posed of some truly mag­nif­i­cent spec­i­mens – but by 1997 we were down to only 165. Slowly and care­fully un­der a suc­ces­sion of Con­ser­va­tive lead­ers our num­bers have climbed back up to roughly dou­ble that to­tal – and, never for­get, 56 more than the Labour Party in par­lia­ment.

Are we re­ally go­ing to be stam­peded my­opi­cally over the edge of the gorge, with an elec­tion that no one wants? “Quo quo sce­lesti ruitis?” as Ho­race put it at the be­gin­ning of a fresh bout of Rome’s ghastly civil wars, and which roughly trans­lates as: “What do you think you are do­ing you nut­ters?”

From what I can see the Tory herd has re­fused to be so goaded. We have sniffed the air and turned sen­si­bly away from the cliff. Let’s get on with it, get be­hind the Prime Min­is­ter, and gov­ern as dy­namic one na­tion Con­ser­va­tives in the in­ter­ests of the whole coun­try. And let’s save the ele­phant while we are at it.

Above all, the peo­ple of this coun­try want us to get on and de­liver Brexit – and we need Theresa May to do it

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