The ‘Boris-girlfriend-Row’, spread gleefully across the weekend papers, has led to further ‘revelations’ from the ‘Stop Johnson at all costs’ brigade. The Hunt supporters now home in on his ‘character’, overlooking one aspect yet again which is, unsurprisingly, us voters outside the Westminster Bubble who voted Leave on today’s date three years ago.
Three columnists in the paywalled Daily Telegraph look at the forgotten aspect, implementing our vote to Leave, from different points of view and I shall quote at length from their paywalled articles.
First there’s Charles Moore. The title of his article goes to the root – or should that be grassroots? – of the matter: “The Conservative Party grass roots is the only group that can save Brexit now”. Describing his local, rural party association, he observes:
“The local treasurer volunteers that he and his wife will be voting for Boris Johnson. Their reasons are that Britain must regain self-government by implementing the result of the referendum. They would prefer a deal to no deal, but not one, like Mrs May’s, which would break up the United Kingdom. So we must make ready, they agree with Boris, for no deal. They think Jeremy Hunt is a decent man, but he was a Remainer and still supports something like Mrs May’s ill-fated effort. Second, in order of mention and of importance, the local treasurer and chairman are thinking, before they vote, about their party’s interest. They are worried by the fact that their constituency membership numbers have halved to between 500 and 600 in the past eight years, and they hope that the combination of Brexit and Boris can put that right. They see Boris as just the man to beat Jeremy Corbyn. Such thoughts are much too straightforward to interest broadcasters, but they are simple, true statements of what this contest is actually about.” (paywalled link)
Just so – and these thoughts surely will become ever more important when they and we read about the latest proposals for a Corbyn Government (here). Charles Moore continues:
“This is the context in which to consider what feels like the 47th wave of moans by Mark Carney, Philip Hammond and the CBI about the horrors of no deal; and also the context in which to view media reporting about “psychodrama”, “dark arts” and dirty tricks, and semi-demented media commentary about how Boris is a coward, a racist, a snob, a liar, “a cold-eyed scoundrel”. These scares and attacks all aim at the same thing – to sap the will of the voters. Remainers dare not directly defy the referendum by revoking Article 50 in a parliamentary vote: all their efforts therefore concentrate on making Brexit seem impossible. The Conservative Party electorate is now the only group which can uphold the 2016 result. The question is whether you want Brexit actually to happen. It is not that the deadline day of October 31 is sacred in itself. It is not even that achieving Brexit is a guarantee of victory at the next general election: it is that failing to win Brexit, deal or no deal, by that date, is a guarantee of defeat.” (paywalled link)
With a brief look at Jeremy Hunt he adds a warning for a possible Johnson Government:
“Mr Hunt’s selling point on all this is essentially that of an insider – he is saying: “I know these people: I can get it right with Angela Merkel.” He doesn’t really differ from Theresa May, except by suggesting that he is a safe pair of hands whereas she was all thumbs. This repeats the psychological error of the entire negotiation so far, which is to act as if we are dependent on them (Merkel, Macron, Barnier, “Brussels”). It is only by deciding to be independent of them that we can start from the right place. By far the biggest danger to Boris in the coming weeks is not that he will be seen as extreme, divisive or racist – though of course it is important for people to understand the truth that he is none of these things. It is that he might prove infirm of purpose. […] Perhaps, given the speed required, he needs an inner war Cabinet, of Chancellor, Foreign Secretary, trade minister and two or three others, whose sole purpose is Brexit victory. The Brexit Secretary should not be, as he was under Mrs May, a sidelined negotiator, but the peaceful equivalent of a D-Day planner. To put it at its clearest, the next Prime Minister has only 99 days in which to succeed or fail. I cannot see how Mr Hunt could. I can see how Mr Johnson just might. (paywalled link)
What Johnson needs to do now is indeed vital and Sherelle Jacobs in the paywalled DT is onto it: “Brexiteers risk a ‘Boris betrayal’ unless they play a ferocious final hand”, with a ‘ferocious’ warning to the ERG:
“The ERG know that nobody symbolises the seething determination and defiant patriotism of the Brexit project quite like Boris, and at a time when the public is losing the will to live, they couldn’t ask for a more powerful poster child for their mission. Leaver MPs also calculate that Boris’s strong-willed personality will be a massive asset in the next round of negotiations with Brussels. But they are jumpy nonetheless. In recent days they have vacillated between giving MPs rather desperate ankle-flashes of their “spartan” fundamentalism – tweeting that the backstop isn’t the only thing wrong with Mrs May’s deal, for example – and falling over themselves to demonstrate their unwavering devotion to Boris […]” (paywalled link)
Her warning ought to be heeded:
“But the ghastly truth is that the ERG do not trust Boris not to double-cross them, and they are going about preventing their betrayal in the worst possible way. They have concluded that the best method for ensuring that Boris takes Britain out of the EU with or without a deal by October 31 is to throw the full weight of their support behind him so that he feels beholden to them. The logic goes that, even if Boris loses his bottle when Tory Remainers inevitably resume their sabotage of Brexit, he will remember who put him in power and feel compelled to side with the Leavers. That is why the ERG must now move to make sure that it is impossible for Mr Johnson to betray them. Brexiteers should promise to unite behind the new PM and shame those in the Government who attempt to hide away in the event of no deal. But they must also make it clear that there is a new backstop in town, and it’s called the Brexit Party; if the new leader fails to negotiate a better deal with the EU, and then falls back on to the Withdrawal Agreement, there will be mass defections to Nigel Farage’s new movement.” (paywalled link)
I like her quip that The Brexit Party is the new backstop in town! Her concluding remarks underline the importance for the Johnson team of getting the Brexit ‘’pieces” into place now:
“Brexit may be a matter of principle, but it is a game of poker, too. If Boris fails to call the bluff of Brussels in the autumn and secure better terms, he must call the bluff of either the Tory Remainers or the Brexiteers. The former have attempted to show in recent days that they are a force to be reckoned with by backing wrecking ball Rory Stewart and threatening rebellion over no deal. It’s time the ERG made it equally clear that, this time, they are unwilling to blink.” (paywalled link)
From Brussels, the newly elected MEP Daniel Hannan also makes that point, writing in the paywalled DT: “No, Brexit isn’t killing Britain. It’s the refusal to deliver Brexit that’s turned politics inside out”, reminding Remainers:
“Sorry to be a bore, but one more time. Brexit. Has. Not. Happened. The mess is caused MPs being elected on a promise to deliver Brexit but then doing everything they can to block it. It takes some chutzpah to create deadlock in Parliament and then point to that deadlock as evidence that Brexit was a bad idea all along. As for the notion that the way out is to prolong and deepen our divisions through a second referendum – that is not so much self-serving as psychotic. Every one of the original Tory leadership candidates recognises that a failure to deliver Brexit will mean the certain extirpation of their party and the possible collapse of our parliamentary system.” (paywalled link)
Just as Charles Moore and Sherelle Jacobs, Daniel Hannan warns the Johnson campaign not to waste time:
“Still, given the real possibility of this outcome [deadlock in the HoC], the new PM should act immediately to anticipate it. I am not talking about technical preparations on haulage, aviation and the like: these have now largely been made. I am talking about the economic policies needed to see us through the transition […]. Even more urgently, we need to engage properly in the trade talks which, for three years, we have pursued in a desultory fashion because, whatever was said in public, our officials assumed that we were staying in some version of the EU’s customs union. Let me put this as simply as I can. Australia has offered us a trade deal. America has offered us a trade deal. China has offered us a trade deal. Brazil has offered us a trade deal. Indeed every major economy in the world is offering us a trade deal except the EU. Isn’t it time to switch partners?” (paywalled link)
Given the concerted efforts of the ‘Stop Johnson at all costs’ brigade, given the Remain antecedents of his rival Hunt and his supporters, I wonder why it is that they do not see the writings on the wall: the blatant programme to turn our country into the Venezuela of the Northern Hemisphere by Corbyn’s Labour on the one hand, the danger to the Tory Party by the ‘new backstop in town’, the Brexit Party, on the other, should they force us to Remain.
It’s as if the Westminster Remain Establishment is happily dancing on a volcano, oblivious that it is about to erupt.