Wednesday 4 September 2019

Is this the End of Boris Johnson?

There is one way I'd like to see Boris Johnson go down in the history books: as the UK's shortest-serving Prime Minister. And you know what? It could happen. Surveying the wreckage from the Commons' votes of the last two days, Johnson is in a position arguably worse than any Theresa May found herself in. Hold on a minute, some might say, how can you even think this when the Tories are returning handsome leads in the polls and Johnson is getting much better approval numbers than Jeremy Corbyn? I can say it thanks to how he's boxed himself in.

Since appointing Dominic Cummings as his Chief of Staff, going from the chatter among professional Westminster watchers you'd be forgiven for thinking a Nosferatu of diabolic brilliance had got hired. He was the brains behind Vote Leave after all, the strategic genius who linked the EU to a range of simmering frustrations and ontological anxieties. Not so clever clever when you remember this is the game UKIP and Nigel Farage played for the best part of two decades, and whose pitches he lifted from their Arron Banks-bankrolled Leave.EU front. Nevertheless, because the lobby hacks are pack animals and of singular mind, the legend of Cummings filtered into their stilted collective consciousness and got reproduced as if gospel. And yet, and yet.

Cummings and Johnson are of the school that browbeating and bulldozing, shouting and shafting equals political leadership. And we can see where that gets them. Pushing an entirely contrived official optimism and shuttering parliament, backed up by threats might excite the editorial offices and the no deal brigade, but not if you're trying to hold a fractious party together in the face of divisive votes. And so, as we all know, Johnson humiliatingly suffered defeat in his first Commons vote, this afternoon his second, and tonight his third and fourth - the first time ever a new Prime Minister has been voted down in their first two parliamentary outings. let alone three and four. Already, Johnson has his place in the history books. And the fall out was the removal of the whip from 22 Tory MPs, affecting the worst split in the Tories since the foundation of the modern Conservative Party in 1836. The damage has rumbled through the party all afternoon, with the 1922 Committee hearing widespread displeasure against the expulsions and a letter going to Johnson from the so-called One Nation group demanding the reinstatement of the expellees as candidates at the next election. Barely six weeks into his premiership and the bad blood is coursing feverishly through the Tory body politic.

Perhaps it wouldn't have been this bad if Johnson's approach been less capricious. Definitely not if had he not enthusiastically embraced no deal and "borrowed" Jeremy Hunt's Brexit positioning, but when you're willing to gamble other people's fates for personal glory you can't complain when the bets don't fall your way. Which is exactly what has happened. For Johnson and Cummings had wagered they could burn their bridges with the remain-inclined Tories and cow the rest with macho displays of ruthless blue Stalinism, because the old would get flushed out during a general election. An election wouldn't be plain sailing, but promising to get Brexit done - and a no deal Brexit at that - would neutralise the Brexit Party and, presumably, take seats off Labour in the north (ah yes, the myth of the conservative "northern" working class refuses to die). The opposition, meanwhile, would be split. They didn't even consider the possibility Labour would not back their move to a general election, and so their hubris brings nemesis cantering in on its heels. Thanks to the Benn bill passing tonight, Johnson's tabling of a 15th October election under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act was a dud long before the motion paper went to the printers and he received his fourth defeat out of four. It's a miscalculation so spectacular that some even think it's actually some galactic brainiac strategy.

Johnson then is in a trap of his own making. He only gets his election if he follows parliament's instruction and applies to extend Article 50, which would be a crushing embarrassment as well as the coup de grace on his premiership and the Tory party presently constituted. And as he's not going to do that, the chance of an election under what he and Cummings see as the most favourable circumstances the Tories are ever likely to get evaporate. Where now for Johnson? Where indeed. If the mega filibuster in the Lords fails and he refuses to be directed by legislation, then we're in the major constitutional crisis territory. It will involve the courts and perhaps even reach the point where the Queen is compelled to sack him. Which would be fun. Or, as is more likely, he'll try and resist its direction until parliament returns and it all kicks off then. In the event of the bill getting talked out, then nothing happens. He'll make repeated scenes about having his hands tied over conference season and try and set up his people versus parliament shtick, but the election won't happen before the next EU summit on 17th October. Either we then proceed to no deal with Johnson thoroughly owning it and scuppering the Tories over the medium to long-term much quicker than would otherwise be the case, or we get him refusing to implement the no deal legislation and, again, the possible activation of the Queen.

In the mean time, it's not enough for us to sit and wait for constitutional Twister to play out. The barracking and protesting, the campaigning and canvassing must carry on unabated. Action mobilises, and when the election storm finally does break, which it will at a time of Labour's and not Tories' choosing, there will be a large street army primed, ready to face whatever the Tories throw at us, and determined to be the end of Boris Johnson.


Anonymous said...

And yet once again Corbyn is so stupid as to want to have an election before 31 October. If only we were talking about McDonnellism.

Dipper said...

this is the Remain conceit. Make it about Johnson.

Its not about Johnson. It's not about Rees-Mogg reclining. Its about 17 million votes.

For all the bluster and words in Parliament, Johnson has a plan, and no-one else does.

That second referendum, for instance. Anyone got any idea what, apart from Remain, would be on the paper? And if that other option was viable, why aren't they doing it now? they already have permission.

Speedy said...

"An election wouldn't be plain sailing, but promising to get Brexit done - and a no deal Brexit at that - would neutralise the Brexit Party and, presumably, take seats off Labour in the north (ah yes, the myth of the conservative "northern" working class refuses to die). The opposition, meanwhile, would be split. They didn't even consider the possibility Labour would not back their move to a general election, and so their hubris brings nemesis cantering in on its heels."

He goes to the polls in November on a 'no deal' platform and 'people thwarted by parliament'. 'No deal' is 'project fear' until it happens, then if he gets voted in he has the full term to do his worst.

With a divided opposition and Labour under JC likely to get both barrels from the media, victory seems far from certain and 'no deal' as likely as ever.

Michael Kelly said...

Good post. The point about keeping up mobilisation is one that many seem to miss.

Anonymous said...

The amount of people clamouring for a no deal would indicate that "project fear" has been rejected.

PlebJames said...

What a total fucking farce!

Johnson's toast - at least, he is currently bread that has just been placed in the toaster. It is just a matter of when it pops.

I don't have masses of trust in the British voting public, but I have enough trust in them to look at Johnson, the Tories, the mess they have made of this from beginning to end, and for enough of them to conclude Labour would be better.

How long can Corbyn put off an election before it starts to be completely counterproductive? (A genuine and open question)

PlebJames said...

By the way Dipper - it is not just about 17 million votes, it is also about the 16 million who voted to remain, and the several hundred thousand (at least) who have lost all faith in the process and / or have changed their mind.
It is also about the livelihoods of over 65 million of us, and not wanting fascists to think the whole country agrees with them.

The main person making this all about Boris Johnson is Boris Johnson.

I have no problem with a single transferable vote and three options on the ballot: 1) Remain 2) Whatever deal we can get 3) No deal.

THAT would be democratic.

Speedy said...

Dipper. "Its not about Johnson. It's not about Rees-Mogg reclining. Its about 17 million votes."

Leave did not campaign on no deal. When people 'bought' Leave many believed Johnson when he said the UK 'would have its cake and eat it'.

Johnson's only plan is 'no deal'. Literally, everything else he says is a lie. I credit you with enough intelligence to know that.

There is an alternative - a different kind of Brexit along Labour lines that minimises the damage the Tory Brexit with all its red lines entails. Unfortunately the damage done by the incompetence of May has made this an impossibility now, and only Remain is the viable alternative.

It didn't have to be this way - even May could have reached across the benches and reached some kind of national consensus about what Brexit actually 'meant'. Despite the moans of the 'ultras' I'm sure many Leave voters never even imagined it meant leaving the single market - Daniel Hannan said it himself!!!!

You're right this is not just about Johnson etc, it is also about the incompetence of May, Cameron and Toryism in general, along with the mendacity of Leave ultras. Wake up and see the world as it is, or at least stop pretending you believe any of this shit.

Boffy said...

Like the Westminster pundits and other reformist politicians and theorists you don't understand what is happening.

Labour and the opposition parties are conducting politics as usual, liberal, reformist, parliamentary politics. Johnson and Cummings are conducting, counter-revolutionary military politics. War is politics by other means, and vice versa.

Johnson NEEDED to lose those votes! he needs to establish the narrative that parliament, the constitution is broken, that order has broken down, and a strong executive state must rise up above it, to restore order. That is what Bonapartism does! The seeds were sown long ago with the proposed limits on jury trials, and so on, the mobilisation of the gutter press against treasonous judges, May's government being held in contempt of parliament, as well as Cummings own conviction on that count (Rees-Mogg's reclined position simply is an intentional metaphor for their contempt of THIS parliament, and the need to sweep it away). Johnson's coup showed they can get away with it.

Labour's position has again crumpled. Where Cummings has forged a more honed weapon, by expelling the weak elements (their replacements had already been selected before they were officially sacked) Labour itself is a rabble, with the right-wingers like Kinnock, Flint, Snell etc. undermining the party as seen by the errant amendment. Trying to wrangle that herd of cats would be bad enough without trying to also accommodate vacillating Liberals. What is more Cummings has a stiletto in the form of the EDL et al, should it become necessary.

Can you imagine the Jess Phillips's and others standing up to those conditions of real politics, rather than crying in their hanky, and complaining about how harsh their opponents are?

The whole plan is going Cummings way. Come October 17th. Johnson will go to the palace and resign whatever parliament says. he will say that he has said all along that "He" will not ask for an extension, which is all that the opposition strategy is now about trying to force him to do so that he loses votes to the Brexit Party. Instead he will change the opposing rabble to form an alternative government as he refuses to "surrender". The Monarch will not be able to refuse his resignation, without a further constitutional crisis, and if she did it would have to be under conditions where he could then simply defy parliament, and refuse to ask for an extension.

As the whole thing collapses in the couple of weeks prior to October 31st. which will either pass without an extension or not, parliament will have to be dissolved one way or another. Johnson leading an homogenised hardened No Deal Brexit Tory Party will then go into an election against a divided, fractious, disoroganised and discredited opposition.

It doesn't take much to see who will come out of that on top.

Anonymous said...

Ah the 17 million votes...
I think it is safe to say that there is no majority, no in the Commons and not among the people, to crash out in a no-deal. If there was, it would have been done already.

Jim Denham said...

Boffy's too pessimistic and credits Cummings/Johnson with Machiavellian powers that they plainly do not possess. To my surprise, things seem to be going rather well for Labour and Corbyn - provided hey do not allow themselves to be goaded into going for a snap election and instead follow the good advice of insisting upon a delay that will force Johnson to either beg the EU for an extension of the 31 Oct deadline or to resign. Neither possibility will guarantee Labour victory in the inevitable election but either/both would strengthen Labour's position. Labour's biggest problem is tghat its conversion to an unambiguous pro-remain stance has been late in the day and still looks reluctant and half-hearted.

Dipper said...

@ Sppedy "Leave did not campaign on no deal."

1. The question was Remain or Leave. That was Parliament's choice. Parliament did not ask for methodology, or propose an end -state. Leave aren't responsible for that.

2. Cameron made it clear that when you trigger A50 you have 2 years to negotiate a deal and if you fail to do that in that time you are out No Deal. so it was implicitly clear.

3. Leaving without a deal is not the same as wanting No Deal. For most Leavers leaving without a deal would be a step towards getting a deal. Personally I agree with this. The 'open border' issue is a ploy to stop the UK leaving; best to leave without a deal, co-operate with the EU on implementing a functioning soft border and then negotiate a deal. The idea that we should demonstrate how the border will work to the EU to their satisfaction is simply handing a veto to people who have every interest to use it.

4. Of all the things that were not said, 'If you vote Leave then we will ask the EU under what terms they will let us leave, and if Parliament rejects those terms we won't leave', was definitely never ever said.

5. Parliament could have voted for the WA. It's a humiliating piece of crap, but I'd have voted for it to move us along. That was the chance to leave without crashing out on No Deal. Parliament didn't take it, hence No Deal.

If 17 million votes don't give legitimacy, then no government will have legitimacy. Certainly not a Corbyn one.

Boffy said...


Sorry, but you are wrong. Cummings certainly had Machiavellian powers when it came to the Brexit vote, which on any rational basis they should never have been able to win.

Why do you think that Johnson organised the coup to suspend parliament during a crucial 5 weeks? Did Labour or the opposition see that coming, despite the weeks of notice it was coming, and prepare against it? Absolutely, not, absolutely useless. Have they mobilised any effective action against it? Absolutely not, absolutely useless.

Why do you think Johnson brought forced parliament then to bring forward the vote on taking control of the order paper, so as to overcome the difficulties caused by suspending parliament? Why do you think he made it a confidence issue, knowing that large numbers of Tory MP's would vote against him? Why do you think he told them in advance they would lose the whip, which would mean he knew the consequence would be he would immediately turn his government into a Minority Government? How do you think it was possible that on the night the Tory MP's got sacked, they got text messages from their associations with pro formas telling them they couldn't stand, and there were already three potential candidates ready for selection meetings in each of their seats ready to fight their seats, if Cummings hadn't had all that planned out long in advance.

Why do you think Johnson/Cummings were so willing to sack all these MP's and make themselves into a Minority if they did not relish the prospect of parliament defeating them over the issue of implementing Brexit, and calling an election?

Meanwhile Labour now says it will figbt an election calling for brexit negotiations that it will put foreard its own Brexit proposals, negotiate its cake and eat it Brexit, but even having done so, it will call a referendum and ask people not to vote for the deal its just wasted weeks negotiating! Bizarre. Absolutely useless. And Labour rightwingers like Flint, Snell etc. undermine Labour even in parliament by putting amendments calling for support for May's failed deal!

Johnson resigning come October 17th won't be a defeat for him, but a victory, an act of defiance in preparation for the election, an election with an organised honed down Tory Party confronting a divided disorganised rabble. Its classic bonapartist territory.

Speedy said...

I think you're trying to have your cake and eat it Dipper.

Whatever the ballot paper may have said, you know what those 17 million were promised, and it was certainly not no deal.

'Leaving without a deal is not the same as wanting No Deal.' Quite right - all it does it place the UK in an even weaker position.

I don't know why you think the EU is desperate to keep us in their clutches. Why always blame 'the other'?

Anonymous said...

Johnson's political obituary has been published more than once before now, and this reader suspects that--unfortunately for us all--he has a few more gasps in him yet.

The reason? Johnson's estrangement from truth extends to his own self-perception. In his mind, he is indeed the heir to Churchill in terms of securing Britain's glorious destiny. That autobiography of WSC (sic!) was laughed off as a bit of grandiose braggadocio. He meant every word of it.

Johnson's vision of his historic role, combined with his ruthless disloyalty, means that there is no deceit or deception too outrageous if it will secure his short-term survival. And if a sufficient number of those tricks work in time, then "short-term survival" has been stretched into "medium-term survival."

After that? We shall see.

BCFG said...

Dip said,

“The question was Remain or Leave.”

Implied within leave was that leave didn’t mean leave, in that things would have to be negotiated, for example the UK paying its outstanding bills. Thing is 99% of voters didn’t understand this. Only hindsight did. Actually with a vote like this, where everything was so unknown, best of 3 seems reasonable to me. So if the remainers win the next referendum, we leave it for say 5 years and then another referendum, this made into law. The winner of that wins!

Or we leave with no deal but promise a referendum to rejoin the EU in 5 years, if the EU were to agree!

“Cameron made it clear that when you trigger A50 you have 2 years to negotiate a deal and if you fail to do that in that time you are out No Deal. so it was implicitly clear.”

Shame he didn’t make that clear before the vote!

“Of all the things that were not said, 'If you vote Leave then we will ask the EU under what terms they will let us leave, and if Parliament rejects those terms we won't leave', was definitely never ever said.”

Interesting that you said a no deal was implied but you fail to recognise that it was always implied that the EU would dictate terms! The fact that even at this stage you cannot see this tells us a lot about the hard brexiter delusions.

“If 17 million votes don't give legitimacy, then no government will have legitimacy. Certainly not a Corbyn one”

I remember the debates, they were piss poor and at the level of the lowest common denominator. The whole thing has no legitimacy. So the 17 million who voted leave and the 16 million who voted remain. No one has legitimacy! This vote was a reflection of the appalling state of politics and the media in this country. Both sides were reduced to screaming at each other on twitter. Real debate died long ago. We now live in the world of identity mania, 24 hour scrolling bullshit as advertising masquerading as political debate

This is why Corbyn seems like a throwback, he actually wants to restore legitimacy, and for this reason he is named the most dangerous man in the world by the right!

Onto the idiot,

“Johnson NEEDED to lose those votes!”

Believe it or not but on this single point I tend to agree with Boffy, well nearly agree. His Bonapartism is the ramblings of a fundamentalist, quoting Marx like ISIS quote the Koran, i.e. misleadingly, out of time and out of place. But that’s fundamentalism for you!

I can’t believe Johnson didn’t calculate this was going to happen, if he didn’t then his advisers are even worse than those two advisers who were blamed for May’s election defeat. You might remember, right up to General Election Day we were told May was the strong and stable leader who was going to take it to those EU suits, a real empowered women taking on the EU patriarchy. The minute the election result came in; turns out she was an idiot all along who couldn’t take a shit without her advisers, who we had never heard of until that moment! It does help to have the whole of the press onside!

Boffy also wants us to believe, following news story after news story telling us a no deal will mean food and medicine shortages, disaster planning by government departments, economic recession, 2 day waits at Dover etc etc, the party that promises to deliver all this will be the one to win a general election!

He also wants us to believe that what is left of the Tory party after all the recriminations will to the voter represent a united front! Rather than what’s left of the fractious, divisive in fight!

As per usual something is not adding up in Boffy’s calculations! See the bit above about advertising masquerading as political debate.

Dipper said...

@ Speedy Whatever the ballot paper may have said"

it is very clear. To leave you trigger A50. Then you agree a deal within two years, or leave without one. Parliament triggered A50, then failed to pass the deal. Hence we leave without one.

There is nothing here now that was not known or foreseeable in 2016.

This Parliament of Shame has been shown to be completely unfit. They made promises, went back on them, and are now tearing up the constitution to prevent them from facing the consequences of their actions.

We are here because Remain have spent three years refusing to implement the biggest vote in UK history.

Harry Farmer said...

@Dipper "it is very clear. To leave you trigger A50. Then you agree a deal within two years, or leave without one."

Except there are also two other options available after triggering A50, a bilatrally agreed extension to the negotiating process or the unilateral revocation of A50. MPs were certainly aware the former was an option and many of them could have guessed that the latter was too. The default after two years may be to leave but parliament showed in March and has shown again this week that it is perfectly capable of acting to avoid that default

So to suggest that by triggering A50 Mps were implicitly voting for a no-deal brexit is quite simply incorrect. There are other options available and any party that opposed no deal in their manifesto (i.e. Labour, Lib dems, SNP etc) have a perectly valid mandate to peruse them. So arguably is any tory who backed May's deal on the basis that it was good and watched Johnson and the ERG vote it down three times.

Speedy said...

"We are here because Remain have spent three years refusing to implement the biggest vote in UK history."

Remind me which way the ERG and other fanatics voted, will you? Or, for that matter, what arch-Leaver Farrage said about May's deal.

No mention, either, of the fact that Labour was perfectly entitled to vote against May's Tory Brexit that excluded it, despite not having a mandate (following the 2017 election).

Like all Tories you are adept at rewriting history, but why bother with this level of self-deception? There was a time when Tories prided themselves on 'facing the facts', now it seems they prefer to turn their back on them, and get rid of the genuine Conservatives who remind them. Pretty facile really, why not come back when you have reacquainted yourself with the truth?

Dipper said...

@ Harry Farmer.

Those extensions can only occur if the EU unanimously grant it. Call me Colonel Blimp but I'm not sure that leaving your fate in the hands of foreign governments is what most people would consider an acceptable 'sharing of sovereignty'.

The notion we could revoke A50 came about only through an appeal to the European Court and it comes with baggage.

Cameron said explicitly; trigger A50, agree a deal in two years or leave without one.

Labour was entitled to vote against the May deal, but the consequence was understood to be leaving without a deal. this was clear when A50 was triggered.

Brexit is not a party political matter. It doesn't carry its own opposition. All those MP's who voted to have a referendum carry the responsibility of implementing the result. If MPs don't like that, don't vote to have a referendum. Ken Clarke didn't vote for the referendum. Others could have done likewise.