Sunday, September 8, 2019

Bob Edlin: In all the excitement, don’t forget that Brexit is a long game

Boris has his opponents where he wants them.  Can he now deliver a decisive blow?

In a week of see-sawing Parliamentary drama, folk are losing sight of the fact that political stability requires the UK’s European policy to be durable – that is to survive repeated popular votes.
That takes parties with an ideology that can compete for the centre ground.  In an insightful piece in the Daily Telegraph, Allister Heath details how Boris Johnson has remade his party in the space of a few months (albeit that circumstances have been much in his favour).

“The Tory party is dead; long live the Tory party. The seismic realignment that was supposed to take place in 2016 is finally upon us, and a tougher, rougher, non-deferential conservatism is making its explosive debut.
Ruthlessly focused on the public’s priorities, its ideology is complex.
In some ways, it will be more pro-capitalist and pro-freedom: especially on tax, motoring and the nanny state. It will be more conservative on law and order, defence and immigration. In yet other areas, such as health and overall public spending, it will back a larger government, as we saw in a Spending Review that increased overall expenditure…”
Not easy to rebuild while the plane is actually flying.  Boris has had to manoeuver his internal opponents into breaking with the party and fight to keep the waverers in line. There is still a risk that he might not pull it off – his own brother has just announced he is stepping down as an MP.  The destruction of credible political alternatives is his main weapon.
But of course the short term stuff matters, particularly if you want to get the long-term policy done.
Johnson will now push relentlessly for an election for which he looks better prepared. He has the option of trying to use Parliamentary tricks to shape the ground and the timing, although he may prefer to paint his opponents as the ones struggling to avoid a poll and more generally thwart the people’s will.
The opposition has power to delay – in theory it even has the numbers to keep a new government in office and Britain in the EU until 2022.
If they could somehow come up with a programme to do that, it might be their best course, as it would firm up the alternative to Boris’s policy.
More likely an election soon.  With Boris arguing that the EU has not offered an acceptable deal, that the opposition has encouraged them not to do that, and the Bank of England saying that no-deal Brexit won’t be as bad as it first thought.
It’s unclear what policies the opposition parties will be running on – but they might not be as durable.
Bob Edlin is a veteran journalist and editor for the Point of Order blog HERE.

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