What sickness has caused so many to fall under the spell of such an incompetent as our prime minister?by Jonathan Lis / November 4, 2019 / Leave a comment
And so a new week begins, and the sky remains unfallen-in. Despite all the government’s promises and threats, Britain did not, after all, leave the European Union last week.
This was eminently predictable. It was apparent to nearly all observers of UK and EU politics for several weeks that the government would miss its deadline. The more interesting element is what it tells us about Boris Johnson and, in particular, the coming election.
On the weekend’s evidence, almost nothing has changed. The threatened ditch did not harm either the prime minister or his poll ratings. A YouGov survey found that 63 per cent of Leave voters did not blame Johnson at all for the delay. This represents a public-relations triumph for the PM. At the time it seemed a foolish strategy to insist that we would leave on the 31st even when it was obvious we would not. Instead it now seems that the public is determined to give Johnson the benefit of the doubt. He has reframed a narrative of deluded belligerence into righteous victimhood.
Part of this is because of Johnson’s opposition. He either escapes scrutiny altogether, or his opponents are not interested in pressing the point. Labour and the Liberal Democrats will not go hard on the issue of the broken pledge because neither of them wanted to leave the EU on 31st October and actively attempted to stop it. Nigel Farage, meanwhile, seems more interested in protesting about the bad deal rather than the broken deadline—and even then seems either unwilling or unable to land a blow.
Part of it is Johnson himself. His carefully cultivated bonhomie has been disarming opponents since his days at the Oxford Union. No other PM could stake both their credibility and premiership on one single promise and emerge unscathed when it publicly fell apart. Theresa May was fatally weakened in similar circumstances. But of course Johnson has form. He has never been held to account for his false promises. His Brexit untruths of £350m for the NHS and imminent Turkish EU membership were both quickly exposed and in return he reaped only personal reward. Other alleged mayoral-era scandals such as the Garden Bridge or Jennifer Arcuri fiascos simply bounce off him. As with Donald Trump, who correctly boasted that he could…