The PM is genuinely banking on last minute concessions from Europe. But he has made a grave miscalculationby Jonathan Lis / August 14, 2019 / Leave a comment
If you are wondering whether you are living through some kind of fever dream this summer, you are not alone. The normally calm and quiet August days are currently filled with newspaper articles about voluntary airlifts to deliver food and medicine in less than 12 weeks’ time, while pundits are debating what happens if the prime minister loses the confidence of MPs but refuses to resign. Government-supporting newspapers are reporting this unique self-inflicted catastrophe not as a manifestation of collective breakdown but as a celebration of national sovereignty. What on earth is going on?
Consider the prime minister himself. The most important thing to remember about Boris Johnson is that he is exclusively devoted to his own advancement. The second most important thing is that while we may consider him solipsistic and zealously uninterested in anyone else’s viewpoint, he is not stupid.
It is safe to assume that Johnson knows what no deal involves. Does he worry about a future of insulin shortages, the pound collapsing and supermarkets running out of food? Perhaps that’s the wrong way to frame it. Does he think he will be blamed for the disaster and will it cost him support? This is the better question, and if he is not a fool then he will know that the answer must be yes. There are many people who currently feel they could never vote for Jeremy Corbyn, but would still prefer a Corbyn government to a Johnson one which imposed medicine shortages on the grounds of defending national sovereignty.
The PM must know that no deal will destroy his premiership just months after it has begun. In other words, he does not want no deal. Why, then, does he appear to be leading us inexorably towards it?
There is plenty of speculation about what Johnson is up to. Some theories are better than others, though we cannot be certain of any of them. It may be that not even he knows what he thinks he is doing. But let’s assume he is engineering some kind of strategy.
Theory one is that Johnson is indeed pursuing no deal, but thinks he will escape the blame. Does he think the public will instead hold the EU responsible for the catastrophe? It is just about credible that the PM believes he can charm (or gaslight) the British people with his alleged charisma, but he should have the political sense…