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Phil yer Boots, Bojo!

Phil yer Boots, Bojo!

Sunset over Westminster

Desperate times, desperate measures? Chancellor Philip Hammond looks like becoming generalissimo of the forces hell-bent on blocking a no-deal Brexit. And, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, when boring old Spreadsheet Phil strips for action you know there’s trouble ahead.

Fill yer boots usually means get bladdered. But one interpretation refers to matadors getting so horribly gored even their footwear fills up with blood.

Be afraid, Boris Johnson, be very afraid?

Seems he is prepared to go to the length of shutting down parliament to get Britain out of the EU by October 31st, do or die.

And his logic’s impeccable. With a clear majority of MP’s holding up their hands in horror at the idea of crashing out with no deal, simply including them out looks like a no-brainer.

But, and this is a big but, they could just refuse to budge. Instead, stage a sit-in. A new take on the term movers and shakers. Shaking with rage and not moving at all.

Here’s the deal.

When parliament is prorogued, to use the irritating, technical word, the announcement is usually made in the House of Lords first, then by the Commons Speaker.

But Hammond believes at that point, even though the government would shove off, opposition and rebel Tory MPs could just stay put. Likewise Mr Speaker Bercow, on the grounds he’s enabling the will of the House.

It gets madder and madder. The buggers couldn’t just be locked out as The Speaker and the Serjeant at Arms, not the government, are in charge of doorkeepers and security.

Seems the only thing MP’s won’t get away with is wearing armour (or carrying swords), banned just over 700 years ago. But, short of that, pretty much anything goes.

Welcome to Brexit Britain. La la la la.

Of course it might not come to that. It’s always possible the anti no-dealers could try and chuck Boris out by the more tried and tested mechanism of the no-confidence vote.

But the timetable is tight, and stuffed full of risk.

There’s murmurings that Bojo for PM isn’t quite the done deal we’ve all been led to expect. Which is why he’s still going all out to win over any possible waverers.

And it seems he’ll have a tricky job on his hands squaring the views of the wider electorate with the preferences of the 160,000 Tory activists who’ll actually be making the choice.

A YouGov poll last week suggests a majority of them are in favour of the death penalty, think Islam poses a threat to the British way of life and believe Donald Trump would be a good prime minister.

Hmmm. Still, it’d be astonishing if Bojo isn’t in Number Ten come July 23rd.

It’d also be surprising if Jeremy Corbyn didn’t have a crack at a vote of no confidence the next day.

It’s a big if, but if it were debated and passed the day after that, which is the last day before MP’s all trot off for their summer hols, then we’d be looking at a general election in the third or fourth week of September.

In those circumstances it’s reasonable to assume the European Union would put the October 31st departure date on hold, to give us yet another chance to try and get our act together.

But, and this is another whopping great but, if Jezza doesn’t get his no confidence motion down in time for it to be debated till MP’s get back from hols in early September then stopping Brexit looks highly problematic.

Even assuming it passes, the general election wouldn’t then take place until October 24th, the very last Thursday before we’re supposed to leave.

And even that’s debateable, as the Fixed-term Parliaments Act gives the Prime Minister broad discretion about when an early general election should take place.

Meaning Bojo could, legally, go for a date after we’re out.

Another no-brainer, as far as he’s concerned. As most polls suggest he’d get a big boost if he had actually delivered Brexit.

All to play for then? And the rest.

There are arguments that say Labour doesn’t deserve to win anyway.

Quite apart from having a leader at odds with most of his members over Brexit, there’s also the question of anti-Semitism within the party. Another row that refuses to go away.

And, leaving aside the claims in the Beeb’s Panorama programme last week about seriously non-kosher attitudes, pardon the pun, there’s also the chaos at the top.

Jezza’s lot say it was a BBC stitch-up, while the deputy leader says pretty much the opposite.

Shouldn’t be possible to get a fag paper between the two top bods in a party. But it looks like you could fit the Rocky Mountains in, and still have room to spare.

Then again, the so-called government isn’t much better.

Consider the case of Our Man in Washington. His leaked telegrams suggesting The Trump is a subnormal brain-dead loony (I paraphrase, slightly) may possibly have been hacked by Russians.

But who cares if Putin put the boot in? What matters is the fallout this side of The Pond.

Doubtless with an eye to a future trade deal with the Yanks, and possibly mindful of the Blue Rinsers’ perspective on the US President, Boris Johnson refused to stand by our man.

Europe Minister Sir Alan Duncan reckoned that was throwing him under a bus, and it probably did play a part in his decision to throw in the towel.

More importantly, who gets to choose his successor?

Bojo says that’s down to him, and him alone. But Theresa May may have other ideas.

She’s gloriously demob-happy these days, cheerfully admitting her failed campaign strategy in the 2017 general election was crepuscular.

Before you reach for the dictionary, the word doesn’t mean what it sounds like. It actually refers to twilight. Which is precisely where the lady’s Maybot performances put her premiership.

Is Bojo’s headed the same way? Or is that where he’ll be dragging the rest of us? Or could he be our passport to post-Brexit paradise?

Oh brave new world that has such people in it …


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.