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The UK Gets a New PM on Wednesday: It’s All Over… Bar the Pouting

The UK Gets a New PM on Wednesday: It’s All Over… Bar the Pouting

Downing Street road sign

And the rest! Boris Johnson is all set to become our new PM and king of the castle. Complete with crumbling battlements. Consolation being the enemy’s too busy fighting itself to mount an effective siege. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer writes, that leaves the fate of the nation pretty much to the whim of chance.

Easy to forget, with all the excitement (excitement? Discuss) of the Tory leadership campaign, and Labour’s anti-Semitism uncivil war, that there’s a key date just over the horizon.

October 31st. That’s when, the legal default position is, Britain exits the European Union. Deal or no deal.

With a clear majority of MP’s bitterly opposed to chaotically crashing out, our new PM wanted to keep open the option of shutting up shop until the deed is done. Certainly would shut them up.

But not so fast, they’re screaming. A crunch vote last week showed top-ranking Tory pouters are definitely getting more snarly, numerous and organised.

The government – and, for government, read Boris Johnson – was defeated by forty-one votes. That’s huge. The motion under discussion was some weird parliamentary nicety, but its effect is to all but shut off the shutting down option.

The Tories only have a wafer-thin majority in the commons. And with a whole bunch of top folk like Chancellor Philip Hammond about to be outside the tent pissing in, to quote a former US president, a general election could be sprung on us any time.

Bojo could only be poleaxed, however, if Labour marshalled its forces effectively. And that at present is a whopping great if.

To say Jeremy Corbyn looks in danger of drowning under a tide of anti-anti-Semitism is barely an exaggeration. Senior Labour folk in the House of Lords are chucking tsunamis at him for his failure to act decisively against perceived anti-Semites in the party.

And that’s feeding into the wave of discontent about his unwillingness to go all-out for a second Brexit referendum. He’s sort of saying at last it may not be a bad idea, but everyone knows his heart’s not in it.

Funny that. The man who’s always campaigned against top-down party leadership is now at odds with most of his members.

And certainly, the government’s official financial watchdog warned last week, they have good reason to fear a no deal.

It would mean, says the Office for Budget Responsibility, the economy would be plunged into recession, public borrowing would double and the fall in tax revenue would be miles bigger than what we save by no longer paying our EU membership fee.

(Remember the £350 million we’d claw back every week, splashed all over the Brexit battle bus? Hmmm.)

But surely it won’t necessarily turn out like that? Indeed not, says the independent forecasting body, it may be much worse.

Oh no it won’t, says leading Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, who reckons the analysis is ‘silliness’ and no-deal could actually boost the economy.

Oh yes it will, counters Philip Hammond, who adds it’s ‘terrifying’ to think people as deluded as Rees-Mogg could shortly be part of the government.

And there are other terrifying predictions kicking around just now, concerning food and medicine shortages, border queues and crime and security issues. Suggesting that far from a no-deal letting us move on, it’ll actually make it harder.

All open to dispute of course, bar one thing. The so-called Northern Ireland backstop.

This was put together, it’s worth remembering, at the request of the British negotiating team, and only reluctantly agreed to by Brussels.

An irony, that it was that bit that really stuck in the craw of so many MP’s back at Westminster. And another, that Boris Johnson’s now saying it’s got to go, period, while it’s the EU insisting it says put.

It was conceived to prevent the erection of physical infrastructure at the hundreds of border crossings with the Republic of Ireland, which could risk reigniting the fighting that oppressed the north for so long.

‘The Troubles’. Polite euphemism. Like describing a brain haemorrhage as a bit of a headache.

But no deal says no dice to anything other than the dreaded hard border. The technology to render it obsolete has yet to be invented.

Trouble ahead? Hold on to your hats, guys.

Of course it’s always possible that Prime Minister Johnson will head off to Brussels, get all manner of sexy little tweaks to Theresa May’s withdrawal deal, and the commons will say yippee! Sorted!

Then again, it’s always possible the earth is flat.

What’s certainly true is that Boris’s ploy of sucking up to The Donald, in the hope of seducing parliament with a big, juicy transatlantic trade deal, has been blown off course by Trump’s egregiously hateful rants against American-born Democratic Senators.

They are people of colour and they don’t like him. But his response, that they can leave, and leave right now, has made doing business with him a whole lot trickier.

Still, at least his pay-off line, ‘I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!’ proves he has a sense of humour. If you like that sort of thing.

Whatever, it’s handy ammunition for Bojo’s many enemies in the British press, who regard him as a traitor to the profession because of his slippy-slidey approach to factual accuracy during his years as a hack.

They say he hasn’t changed, he’s just like Trump, and gleefully point out that what with his mop and all he has at times in the past been mistaken for the man. The blond leading the blond?

As it happens, same as Trump, Boris was born in New York. So he’s one of the few Brits who’d understand the Yankee slang word boondoggle. It means an unnecessary, wasteful, or fraudulent project.

Which neatly sums up how remainers would describe Brexit. The Tory membership might think it’s a brilliant idea, deal or no deal, but polls indicate the wider public’s having its doubts.

Not that it has a say in the matter.

In the past, party leaders were chosen by their fellow elected MP’s, accountable at least to their constituents.

But Bojo’s the first Prime Minister to get in without any of that nonsense. The backing of eighty thousand overwhelmingly white, southern, old and wealthy Tory party members was all that was needed.

Another fine mess? You could say that…


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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