As much as I want Boris Johnson out, a general election won’t solve the problem of Brexit
A change in government or Prime Minister doesn’t resolve Brexit but a second referendum can
Boris Johnson has finally capitulated to the fact that he cannot provide Brexit by 31 October 2019. We all knew he couldn’t and that it was merely political bombast. But with his hugely misplaced hubris, perhaps he thought he could. After all, he would have been happy to see us crash out with no deal, just for bragging rights to be able to say he did what Theresa May couldn’t.
After agreeing a Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, that is generally opined as worse than May’s deal, Johnson returned to Westminster puffed up that he was close to becoming the man of the hour. To expedite this, his plan was to avoid any meaningful scrutiny in Parliament over the Withdrawal Bill with an accelerated timetable. Thankfully, Parliament rebuffed his efforts and he had no choice but to request an extension from the EU with his tail between his legs.
Like a petulant schoolboy being forced to apologise for a misdemeanor, but doing so in muttering it under his breath so as not to be seen as fully complying, Johnson decided he would refuse to sign the letter making his request to the EU. It allowed his right wing media paymasters to say he didn’t actually make the request in a pointless attempt to retain some credibility for their man. What a buffoon.
So now, it’s highly unlikely Brexit will be achieved by Johnson’s do or die date of 31 October 2019 and he has consequently paused the Bill. It’s the latest in a series of failures that have characterised his short tenure as Prime Minister.
The Number 10 and Conservative Party press offices, now evidently one in the same, have seemingly been taken over by a team with zero comms experience and obtuseness aplenty. Even in their aggressive bias, they couldn’t spin the back to back Ls Johnson has taken since he became Prime Minister. You know things must be bad when Conservative Party tweets (which now resemble those straight out of the Trump playbook) are being refuted with zingers from George Osborne. I didn’t know Gideon had it in him.
Somewhat overestimating how much control he has in the situation, Johnson has now said he’ll give MPs more time to debate the Withdrawal Bill; in exchange, he wants MPs to agree to a general election on 12 December.
I want Johnson out of office, and the end of this Conservative government, like yesterday. The Prime Minister is racist, Islamophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, sexist, colonialist and classist. He has conspired to have a journalist physically attacked. His election is a stain on British political history and he needs to go. A general election might just facilitate booting him out of office.
That’s right, might. See, while Johnson’s premiership should be a political open goal for the opposition parties. Yet unfortunately, the prejudice, the poisoned rhetoric, the demonising of opponents and minorities and the hate, all of which are central to Brand Johnson, Brand Tory and the right, have become normalised. That means a departure of Johnson from Number 10, however likely, can’t be guaranteed.
Just as experienced in Trump’s America, the right wing media have given a voice to the attitudes, charged language and utterances that were always present in British society, but suppressed. The Tories have reciprocated that same energy and message, projecting it throughout society. Surely, it’s ok to be racist or an Islamophobe when your Prime Minister is too, right? Now, those sections of British society feel so emboldened that they needn’t hide their views, even in the voting booth.
It’s akin to the Death Eaters in Harry Potter. They were still a bunch of badmind individuals once He Who Must Not Be Named had been defeated by baby Harry. It just wasn’t acceptable for them to show that as their leader was presumed dead. Once it was clear he was back, they all came out of the woodwork, brandishing their dark marks with pride. It’s no different for the prejudiced sections of society who no longer feel they need to disguise their attitudes and they shan’t do so in an election or any election campaign. In fact, I dread to think just how toxic the right will make a forthcoming election campaign. Preeti Patel is probably dusting off May’s ‘go home’ billboard vans as we speak.
This means an election, likely to have high turnout, will still attract support for the right amongst prejudiced sections of the electorate, and, admittedly, those who just want Brexit done (albeit a hugely short-sighted approach for such a momentous issue in British politics and society). The message from the Tories will be that they are the party to get Brexit done and that will gain them votes. Although overall, I expect them to face huge losses for their failures to do so when given the chance.
As for the opposition parties, Labour under Jeremy Corybn are playing a balancing act of neither being anti or pro Brexit in their official party stance. It’s the right approach to take as despite my personal views on Brexit, we cannot dismiss the views and votes of 17.4 million people who sought to leave the EU. Nevertheless, that too potentially splits the Labour vote, at least while Brexit remains unresolved and without a clear path for how it might be.
The Liberal Democrats positioning themselves as the anti-Brexit party might be all well and good but they’re ignoring a huge section of the electorate in doing so. Conversely, being unashamedly anti-Brexit will erode the vote share of the Tories and Labour for remainers that once aligned themselves with the two main parties.
If a remain elector doesn’t trust Labour’s stance is guaranteed to see us stay in the EU, the Liberal Democrats are a likely destination for their vote. And if you’re a Tory remain voter, and disillusioned with the hateful brand of politics from your party, you may still not be able to bring yourself to vote for Labour. The Yellow Tories could instead become your new political home.
Some reading this, especially Labour supporters, might argue that a general election won’t be another Brexit referendum by another name. Rather, it’ll be an election where the electorate will need to consider the merit of policies from each party. But let’s take a reality check here. Any election will be dominated by and fought on Brexit party lines. Labour have some great policies that can help shape British society into a fairer place that isn’t just for the 1% as the Conservatives have made it. And they’re all vote winners for me. Although above the white noise of Brexit, I don’t feel confident that they’ll be heard.
Which brings us to the fact that an election won’t solve the Brexit problem. We could end up with a hung parliament or a government of any party that is faced with the same impasse we are currently faced with. The balancing act of pleasing the electorate, getting consensus from Parliament and an agreement where the EU understandably shows us they’re still Billy Big Balls, is unworkable with politicians. That’s why we need a second referendum, or People’s Vote, on the deal.
I’ve always maintained that we can’t ignore the initial referendum result. Nevertheless, on a matter as technical and detailed as leaving the EU, we cannot view that referendum as anything more than a vote in principle. Now that a Withdrawal Agreement has been produced, and given the difficulty and time it has taken to get to an extremely poor deal, there isn’t sufficient consensus amongst MPs. A second referendum on the actual deal, with the option to remain in the EU as the only viable option should one not want said deal, is the only sensible course.
As much as I would lament a vote for any deal to leave the EU (I don’t believe a ‘good deal’ exists), who could argue against a referendum result where the electorate was now informed on what Brexit would look like? Providing the respective campaigns were transparent (the Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum was riddled with lies, scaremongering and propaganda), it would be a fair and democractic outcome of a problem that MPs cannot solve themselves.
This is Labour’s Brexit stance and one that I support. I just don’t think they need to be in power for it to be effected. Let Brexit be sorted beforehand so a new Labour government, should there be one, can focus on policies that will shape Britain for the better and begin the healing of the divisions that Brexit has brought about throughout the country. An election, that Johnson is gambling can be portrayed as Parliament vs the People, doesn’t solve Brexit and likely presents further cracks in British politics and society.
Johnson will not be the Prime Minister for much longer as he too has drunk from the poisoned chalice that is Brexit, and has done so with an almighty swig in his supreme arrogance. An election removing him therefore doesn’t solve Brexit. However, a referendum, that returns the final and irrefutable decision on Brexit to the electorate, can.