Once Johnson had his deal it was all over. Moderates should have agreed to an election soonerby Jonathan Lis / December 16, 2019 / Leave a comment
It is barely three days since the election and already the official history of Labour’s calamitous defeat has become established: Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership; the party’s Brexit policy; suspicion of its manifesto; its poor communication; the splitting of the Remain vote; and of course the weak response to anti-semitism. Soul searching is also justifiably focusing on the trend of the last 15 years, now rapidly accelerated, in which Labour has cemented its popularity in affluent urban seats and lost ground in former industrial areas and working-class towns. Perhaps strangely, however, given this was the Conservatives’ best result in over 30 years, comparatively little analysis has concentrated on why the Tories actually won. Commentators have simply accepted what seems obvious: Boris Johnson was staggeringly unpopular but still preferred over Corbyn, he ran a ruthless campaign which won unwavering media support, and he pledged to end our nation’s misery by “getting Brexit done.”
While all this is true, it nonetheless misses the key ingredient in the “cakeism”: Johnson’s deal. Without it, there could have been no successful entreaty to “get Brexit done,” and the entire campaign would have focused on the disaster Brexit was about to become. Without a deal, Johnson had no deal. We have no way of knowing for sure how such an election would have panned out, except to say that Johnson could never have prevailed in the way he did last Thursday.
Put simply, Johnson won his majority not on 12th December but 17th October.
Let us cast our minds back to what life was like two and a half months ago. The only story then was how we were going to leave on 31st October, deal or no deal. Each day Downing Street was briefing a new preposterous story about how it would defy the Benn Act, which mandated a request to extend Article 50 in order to prevent no deal. Johnson was threatening the country with economic, social and political oblivion and his party lapped it up.
Then, on 10th October, Johnson met Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at a Merseyside hotel and agreed to erect a customs wall between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. One week later, the deal was signed. The EU’s key red lines would be preserved: no customs or regulatory infrastructure on…