Dominic Cummings is often credited as being an excellent tactician when it comes to delivering campaigns. He did, after all, deliver a near-impossible victory for Leave. We can speculate endlessly about the use of social media and how this was, in my view, at least, a disgusting bending of the rules of politics which should already be illegal, and how that may have won it for them. Nevertheless, it appears, if the books and dramas are to be believed (and I don’t see why not, given their authors), that he was well aware and played a central part in the blatant deceit, wanton disregard for ethics and openly lying about the amount of money we “send” to the European Union.
Those of us who pay more attention to politics than the average voter became quite aware that when Johnson became Prime Minister, his appointment of Cummings was because they were in election mode. And, as I’d heard from an insider, the last time Boris wanted to become PM, he wanted an election. If he wanted one then, he would sure as Hell want one this time around because his majority was dwindling and there would be no way to pass any hard Brexit (or perhaps any Brexit) legislation through Parliament.
So it all made sense. Put Boris in election mode. Tell him to say things like “I’d rather die in a ditch than to ask for an extension”; make the European Union look like they were the bad guys, unable to listen to reason; use inflammatory language as he’d done in the Leave campaign to rally troops; set a maximum date; ask Corbyn to make good on his pledge that he wanted an election and see what happened; and, if all else fails, to quote Bercow, “prorogue Parliament in a blatant use of executive fiat”. All of that would make Boris look like a hard man, ready to steer the ship.
Then we move onto the even more blatant porkies. Those on the ardent side of Leave call the Act which forces Boris to do the only sensible and rational thing – request an extension – the “Surrender Act”. At the same time, ensure the PM continues to say, despite all legislation on the contrary and Parliament being restored, that we will leave the EU “do or die” on 31st October. Voters are stupid enough to swallow this, right?
Well, yes and no. Winston Churchill once said that the biggest argument against democracy was a five-minute conversation with the average voter. Many have short memories. But Parliamentarians don’t.
Boris’ first ludicrous mistake was to kick out the rebels. Liberal and one nation Tories had the Whip withdrawn, completely and utterly destroying any hope of passing legislation because many have stated their intention to stand down or stand as independents at the next election.
Those who do stand as independents will take just the amount of Tory voters at the next election to split the vote with a Brexit Party candidate and let in either a Lib Dem or a Labour candidate. Nice work, Dominic.
Those seats where someone is retiring will be interesting to watch. This is because their incumbency (Ken Clarke and West Bridgford springs to mind) might well disappear. His seat is becoming more and more a postgraduate university seat. Similarly, Soubry won’t win again in Broxtowe.
All of this means Labour in-roads with the exception of Tory heartlands, big incumbency factors, and in seats such as my own constituency of Amber Valley, a Brexiteer who is committed to seeing it through.
What Cummings and Johnson have done is manage to turn a broad church of political views – that of free-marketeers with socially liberal views, centrists, actual conservatives and some who perhaps belong in another party altogether (Mr Drax) – into one single viewpoint.
The magnificent display of this, and of course the reason why he continued to lie, was the level of applause he received at Conservative Party Conference. The make-up of the party is completely changing, with those who pursue Brexit at all costs being selected as candidates.
Moving on, Brexit is an issue which will be an issue in British politics only until one of two things happen: We leave, or a Lab/Lib coalition emerges and the red lines of the Lib Dems include either a second referendum and/or revoking A50. That will spark things up again, but not for long.
Britain wants to move on. Voters want to see a return to governing and issues that matter. I can tell that Johnson knows this by his announcements of more Police Officers and funding for the NHS, but they will lose patience with Brexit. People are experiencing Brexit fatigue, but they won’t when it comes to an election.
Ardent leavers will now switch back to BREX, and this means that Boris won’t want an election. He will instead want to avoid one. But guess who won’t? If Corbyn gets a whiff that he can win, or emerge as the largest party in Parliament, he will call a vote of no confidence. Again, bad luck, Dom.
And here’s the rub: All Corbyn will need to do is replay “I would rather die in a ditch than ask for an extension” and similarly ridiculous and now embarrassing messages as to show him up for the charlatan Boris is.
The Tories are going to regret kicking out and alienating those who have been modernising for years. They’ll miss the candidates who fought in the 2017 election who did so on a pledge NOT to support May’s Brexit efforts, such as Soubry – even if for lobby fodder.
You reap what you sow in life, and I’m afraid for the leadership of the Tory Party, it will be defeat.