Wednesday 26 June 2019

Boris campaigning against Sky News, Channel 4 and the BBC

The only knowledge of psychology that a historian needs is that all men seek power. 

It is not quite true (the eighth Duke of Devonshire turned down the premiership three times, for good reasons) but it is true enough and it applies to the media too.

British broadcasters, most of them ardent Remainers, worked very hard to get debates between candidates in the first round of the Tory leadership election, in which only Tory MPs voted. That round would have been better conducted behind closed doors but debates and interviews on television and radio let the media set the agenda, for the country as well as for the programme. 

Now in the final run-off, decided by Tory members, the media are trying to pin down Boris (hard to do, more because he is chaotic than devious, though he is both). They will limit his freedom to find a creative solution to the Gordian knot of Brexit.

TalkRADIO’s Ross Kempsell  won plaudits from other journalists for eliciting Boris Johnson’s assertion that the U.K. will leave the EU on October 31, with or without a deal, “do or die,” something Johnson said when repeating Mr. Kempsell’s question about no deal back to him. A transcript of the interview is here.

Mr Kempsell also got Boris to reveal that  he makes toy buses out of wine cases in order to
relax. Quentin Letts in the Times sets this in context, as they say, by pointing out something I didn't know, that Jeremy Corbyn collects manhole covers.

Sky News, which is out to get Boris, mocked his decision not to attend a debate they sought to organise and questioned the other candidate, one Jeremy Hunt, instead, under the hashtag #BoJoNoShow. The Huffington Post records that Mr Hunt made good jokes about Mrs May's trousers and four letter words. 

He is not as colourless as I had thought, is not Theresa May thank God, but he did vote Remain and so cannot lead the country out of the EU.

Walking around among members of the public yesterday one female passer-by told Boris “Just don’t have any more rows” to which he muttered the reply: “No more rows. No, no, no. All quiet, all quiet.”

Even more than the broadcasters, the civil service is opposed to Boris and Brexit. The former head of the civil service Lord Kerslake said in a speech yesterday: “Boris has placed at the very center of his campaign the commitment that we will leave the EU on 31 October, deal or no deal. This a complete hostage to fortune. At the same time parliament has been clear, rightly in my view, that it will not countenance leaving the EU without a deal. It is always a good maxim in politics not to enter a room unless you know that you can get out of it … Boris Johnson has not only entered the room but he has put on the straitjacket, padlocked the door and started the tap running.”

Boris's Plan A, he has been forced to say, is to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Irish Backstop. 

His Plan B is a temporary tariff free union under Article 24 of the GATT but, as the Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox was pushed by Andrew Marr of the BBC yesterday into saying, this cannot happen without an agreement between the U.K. and EU. This statement has been questioned by Robert Tombs, Jacob Rees-Mogg and others.

Presumably, as Liam Fox conceded, a temporary free trade agreement wouldn’t cover non-tariff barriers to trade. Or would it?

Plan C, of course, which now looks fairly likely, is leaving the EU without a deal, but this depends on whether Parliament can prevent it happening. Boris says he thinks it can't, Jeremy Hunt that it can. 

Both men are being disingenuous and neither knows. Boris might well be hoping that he is mistaken.

YouGov poll in the Times finds that 28% of the country want to a no-deal Brexit as their first choice,  43% want to stay in the EU, 13% want the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Mrs May  and 16% want a soft Brexit. 

I suspect that if there is a second referendum Leave will win it again.

It was clear all along that no-one could tell what would happen in the end. They still can't. 

At the start of the year I'd have bet on Mrs May's non deal passing, if I'd been forced to bet. After Brexit was delayed, it looked like it would be delayed year after year and never happen. 

Leaving the UK with no deal always looked very unlikely indeed to me, until Nigel Farage's victory in the European Parliament elections, but now Brexit looks sure to happen and very possibly with no deal.

Nigel Farage is the reason the referendum was held in 2016 and it looks like he will be the reason the result of the referendum is honoured on Hallowe'en this year or sometime afterwards. 

If so, this makes him the most important British politician since Clement Attlee's cabinet, even more important than Edward Heath or Alex Salmond. 

Boris might be not much less important. Or he might only last as Prime Minister a few months. Whatever happens he will be a blessed relief after the humourless, secretive, deceitful, cruel and excruciatingly boring Theresa May. He is also, unlike her, a Tory.


  1. I'm not a great fan of Nigel Farage but I don't have to be to appreciate the importance of his position in history at this point. Without UKIP, the Tory Party would never have had to face the reality of the European Union and, without the Brexit Party the Conservatives might well have dithered into cancelling Brexit.
    So, here's to October 31st! :)

  2. 'Nigel Farage is the reason the referendum was held in 2016 and it looks like he will be the reason the result of the referendum is honoured...'

    ...Lord Nigel...

    1. Brexit is not a party, it is one act of will - so say the polls (the following expects to disapear after the deed is done) & this is is well known about movements - that they give narrow mandates, power is somethins else (sensu Paul).

      Thinking out loud.

      Pools from @europeelects

  3. Boris is not the only man I know painting themselves an infantile mask - highly compatible with power, but he is the only prime minister...


  5. Thomas More to be patron saint of politicians

    THOMAS MORE, beheaded in 1535 for defying Henry VIII and canonised as a martyr 400 years later, is to become the patron saint of politicians.

    On Nov 5, he will be proposed by the Pope as "a model and intercessor for all those who consider their political commitment as a choice of life".

    The ceremony recognising this will be the centrepiece of a global gathering of politicians which will mark the culmination of a pilgrimage from the Holy Land to Rome. The campaign to honour him has been backed by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Alton, who has no doubts that St Thomas More is an appropriate role model. He said: "Sometimes we don't recognise the treasures that we have."

    The former Tory minister John Gummer, once a member of the Church of England Synod and now a Catholic, welcomed a patron saint for politicians. "I can't think of any section of the community that needs one more."

  6. With such an egregious line-up of the Great and the Good of the anti-democratic, referendum-denying, Remainer Establishment Elite ranged against him in ire and indignation, can Boris be all bad? The more they fulminate and plot against him, the more grows the suspicion, even in the minds of the initially sceptical, that, in spite of his flaws and drawbacks, he might be just the man for the job.

    Is it a case of ‘By their enemies shall ye know them’?

    Michael St George

  7. If the UK leaves without a deal, it will be highly contentious and during the next economic downturn the opposition will campaign (and win) on rejoining the EU. This topic is never going to go away. Probably the best option would be to find a good compromise domestically that everyone can agree to and that will end the debate - like the Swiss option, the Norway option, etc.