That’s it then, we’re out. Or at least standing in the porch and locking the door. The Prime Minister’s parliamentary majority for leaving Europe was even bigger than the one voters gave him in December. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, he faces an uncertain future on many fronts.
‘Events, dear boy, events.’ If the former PM Harold Macmillan didn’t say that, when asked what can derail governments, he should have done. Because it makes more sense than most of the old tosh politicians come out with.
Witness the Middle East crisis. The Donald takes out the deputy boss of Iran, their guys accidentally shoot down a Ukrainian airliner, and the world gets the jitters.
So who’s side is Johnson on? The Yanks, with whom he’s trying to negotiate a post-Brexit trade deal? Or the Europeans, who he can’t afford to offend during our transition out of the EU?
It was a right laugh when he crushed his cojones on a zipwire back in 2012, but the tightrope he’s on now could get him in the neck.
Not that he’s anybody’s fool. When in doubt, say nowt? He’s kept amazingly shtum so far, keeping clear of parliament as much as possible.
Not that he needs the buggers these days anyway. Any more than he wants them. For a start, he’s not all that good in the chamber. And, as he showed as London mayor, he prefers to delegate.
Number Ten justifies his non-appearances at the dispatch box on the grounds that government is collective. Oh, and btw, boring is best.
Which has the charm of novelty after the ongoing psychodrama following the referendum, when ministers would just make up stuff as they went along – and stuff the PM if she/he didn’t like it.
For sure, Westminster’s weird after all we got used to. Like we’ve still got the accessories, but suddenly no frock. Liberating, if a tad unnerving.
And it’s not as if there aren’t other sideshows kicking around. Like Her Madge’s mob tearing themselves apart over Harry and Meghan’s moseying off.
Maybe Megs has in mind playing herself, in the final episode of The Crown.
Maybe she’ll need to, given the murmurings about the couple losing money they won’t be earning, in their new capacity as ex-Royals.
Shades of the Abdication Crisis of 1936 there. Winston Churchill had a lot to say back then in defence of the departing King Edward.
But about the current crop? From Bojo? Not a dickey. Though he may yet have to, at some point.
Understandable, however, that he’s doing no more than watching and waiting as the Labour party plods through its ex-Corbyn crisis.
So far it consists of the only leadership contender most people have even heard of charging ahead like he’s only runner in the race.
Question is, where will the Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir take the comrades, assuming he gets the job?
There’s a theory he’s just the man to reinvent Blairism, on the grounds that he used to be a barrister, sounds a bit posh and is considered by some a bit of a dish. Remember how pretty Tony was, back in the day? Each to their own, natch.
At this stage Sir K’s not letting on who he plans to be. Wise, as it’s not in the bag yet.
But we do know he was always Labour’s Mr Remainer, and is a dogged operator in the commons. So Bojo could do without having to face him each week at question time.
Of course, as the ditty goes, ‘birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it’. One wouldn’t wish to cast aspersions on the cleverness of the Liberal Democrats, but they are also rooting around for a new front person.
Not that that needs bother Bojo unduly, no matter who it is. Thanks to his eighty-strong majority, government governs these days, not the commons.
Not that the PM has the same poke in the House of Lords, where, in coming days, peers pore over his EU withdrawal bill.
They’ll huff and puff a lot more than the guys and gals on the green benches. But they’re unlikely to do much more than that.
So January 31st really does look like departure day, whether Big Ben chimes it in or not.
However, leaving somewhere and arriving somewhere else are two very different things. Remember, Christopher Columbus stumbled on America after setting off in the wrong direction.
That’s true. Honest. He was on a mission at the time to find a crock of gold in Asia.
But Bojo may well find a crock of something else, ahem, at Brexit journey’s end in eleven months’ time.
Last week he played host to the new European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who, incidentally, most men would judge dishier than Kier.
Johnson played to his strengths, doing his best to charm the socks off the lady, and insisting afterwards the meeting was ‘positive’.
All fine and dandy, except she’d already announced it was ‘basically impossible’ to put together a comprehensive free trade deal by the end-of year deadline Bojo insists can’t be moved.
His announcement to that effect splatted the upturn in the markets his stonking election victory had produced. Especially as he, seemingly, set in stone with a law against changing it.
Then again, now he’s in a position to put two fingers up to parliament if he feels like it. But, for sure, something is going to have to give.
British businesses, already spooked by the thought of a no-deal departure, will put the screws on him hard if it looks like actually happening.
And then there’s Northern Ireland. Tucked away in the deal that’s finally got devolved Stormont administration functioning again, there’s a promise of free access for companies in the province to the rest of the UK.
Sounds reasonable enough. But the only way that can be achieved is by going for a softer Brexit than is currently proposed.
There’s been much anxiety about a sort of border halfway across the Irish Sea. A problem that can only really be solved by the rest of Britain staying a lot closer to the EU’s customs and regulation ambit than it’s been saying so far.
Who knows? Perhaps while Carrie’s been sponging his back, Bojo’s been singing in the bath. An old song, but a thought for 2020.
‘I ought to say no, no, no sir. Mind if I move in closer? … Baby don’t hold out. Baby it’s cold outside.’
Get your winter woollies out, folks…
Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.
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