Thursday, 16 May 2019

Nigel Farage is not going to be Prime Minister but Boris Johnson should be

Ignore what the British papers are saying. Nigel Farage's Brexit Party is most unlikely to win more votes at the next British general election than the Tories.

If they do win a lot of votes, which they might well, they will win few or no seats because of our first-past-the-post electoral system. 

What they will probably do instead is let in a Labour Scottish Nationalist coalition.

The biggest danger in the UK leaving the EU without a deal is that Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon come to power and make a deal that leaves the UK a vassal of the EU and permits free movement of people. 

The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Theresa May avoids the second of dangers but arguably not the first.

It is not true that the only choice now is between leaving with no deal, leaving with the Withdrawal Agreement that Theresa May has agreed and staying in. There are other possibilities. 

The Withdrawal Agreement plus a permanent customs union with the EU, as Jeremy Corbyn claims to want, is the option Conservatives and Labour are discussing. Something not very far from that is likely anyway. The Swiss or Norway options are possible options too. 

The Tories probably need Boris Johnson to lead them and the country, for all his grave faults,  one of which being that he is an adulterer, because he can credibly argue for Brexit.  I am reminded of WH Auden in 1940, safe from bombs in the USA, saying  that "the old bastard" Churchill was our best hope. But he cannot persuade the House of Commons to permit the country to leave without a deal and I do not see how he would settle Britain's relationship with the EU.  He might persuade Leave voters to keep voting Tory, but he cannot persuade the House to agree to leave with no deal even did he want to. 

Can he take the country out of the EU without a deal and without a parliamentary vote? I doubt it unless the EU decides we have to leave without a deal in October, which I am sure will not happen. Can he broker a deal with Europe? Could he even persuade the country to accept the Norway option, accept free movement of people and the Single Market and forget about having an invisible border in Ireland? That would free us from the political side of the EU which would not be a very bad way of implementing a fairly slim referendum majority. 

Theresa May has destroyed the Tories' reputation for competence but I admit that Boris is not the man to rebuild it. How difficult writing opinion pieces is. 

The departure of Theresa May is not very interesting. Who her successor will be is very interesting because the Gordian knot he or she will have to try to untie is horribly interesting, though in some ways horribly boring. My brilliant history master Dr White had an expression that I often find apt. 

'It is "interesting" in inverted commas.' 

Today The Daily Telegraph provides an 'Et tu, Brute' moment when Theresa May's former Svengali Nick Timothy, who persuaded her into an early election and a disastrous campaign, tells her she must go. 

In effect she did what he and his colleague Fiona Hill told her, at the Home Office and at No 10. He doesn't blame himself but blames her for mistakes made after he was fired, when she relied on civil servants.
If the Prime Minister had delivered a meaningful Brexit, she could have kept her party largely together and retained DUP support. She could have threatened Parliament as she now threatens her own MPs: vote for this true Brexit, she could have said, or face the electorate you betrayed.
In fact, a hard Brexit was not possible after the result of an election which he advised his boss to call. On his watch she ruled out a hard border in Ireland and started the Article 50 process without any plan, so he has a nerve criticising her. But this discussion is pointless. What does he suggest the country does now?

He does not say.


  1. Politicians of the highest caliber are rushing to handle the most unsolvable and politically lethal topic of the last few years.

    1. You are being ironic and you have a point. When I think that the Labour Party who were disastrous had in their 1976 leadership election candidates like Healey, Jenkins, Shore, Crosland, Foot and Benn as well as the less distinguished Callaghan who won and the pedestrian Silkin, we see what a falling off is here. I think Gove is good but he has bought into Theresa May's deal.