What kind of country elects Boris Johnson as its prime minister?

by Jonathan Todd

The Italians and Berlusconi, the Israelis and Netanyahu, the Americans and Trump. Why, we wondered, did countries subject themselves to bunga bunga leadership?

It couldn’t happen here, we used to think. Now, however, we seem set to elect as prime minister, “a compulsive liar who,” according to Nick Boles, “has betrayed every single person he has ever had any dealings with: every woman who has ever loved him, every member of his family, every friend, every colleague, every employee, every constituent.”

It is civic self-abuse to return to office those responsible for this decade’s indignities: from the hostile environment to universal credit, from the bedroom tax to 320,000 homeless, from the longest pay freeze in 200 years to the tragedy of Dickensian poverty depicted by Dispatches.

The Supreme Court annulled Boris Johnson’s illegal prorogation of parliament. They can’t make him face Andrew Neil. If convenient, any convention can be bent, any truth elided.

“Will Northern Irish businesses,” asked Andrew Marr in an interview that he deigned to, “have to fulfil customs declarations to trade with the rest of the UK?” Johnson insists not – contradicting his Brexit secretary.

“Is the NHS,” Labour has asked, “for sale?” No, says Johnson. But the US, especially big pharma, one of the most influential lobbies in Washington DC, will require otherwise.

“Can he,” we should wonder, “get Brexit done?” No trade deal on the scale of that Johnson seeks with the EU has been concluded on the timescale that he imposes.

Perhaps Johnson will succeed by pulling his withdrawal deal trick: acquiesce to all EU demands and require his MPs to suck it up. If so, this will be a very different Brexit from that sold in 2016 and one – due to associated labour, environmental and consumer floors – that severely limits any US trade deal.

Not only is this the first winter general election since February 1974, it is an election in which a Tory prime minister seeks a specific mandate. Then for Ted Heath’s rule over the supposed excesses of the trade unions. Now for “getting Brexit done”.

The Talking Politics podcast discussed Heath’s central campaign pitch quickly falling apart. The unions were complying with a pay bargaining regime that Heath had introduced only two years previously. During the campaign, the Pay Board reported, with an admirable institutional independence from government, that the wage demands of the unions were reasonable.

It was less a case of the unions ruling the UK and more of Heath not knowing his backside from his elbow. “Get Brexit done,” is no more credible than anything Heath said.

Brexit won’t be done in January. The UK’s withdrawal from the EU will just herald the start of a negotiation that is unlikely to take us to anything like what was promised in 2016. Including, potentially, the calamity of no deal next year.

Nonetheless, unlike Heath, Johnson enters the final week of the campaign with his disingenuous claim still alive. Rather than being pulled apart, it looks like punching into the “red wall” of the Midlands and the north of England. The heartbreak of places that have suffered from Tory misrule rewarding this unconvincing pitch with continued Tory government.

Do these communities see anything to hope for in this election? Or only things to fear?

They deserve a glad, confident morning. They can struggle to envisage one. Instead, this election is about what they fear least: Jeremy Corbyn’s socialism or Johnson’s Brexit.

These diverging futures inspire waves of conjecture and half-truth. On a discontented sea of social media, where nothing is universally believed and everything is possible, we risk swallowing the big lie of Johnson’s Brexit.

All the bunga bunga boys were probably similarly conceived. In passionate confusion. Embraces that horrified almost as many Italians, Israelis and Americans as they delighted.

“He might be a crook, but he is our crook,” just enough of them thought. Following the advice of Tommy Robinson, rejecting that of John Major, we appear to be reaching the same conclusion.

The arc of the moral universe is long, and – pace Martin Luther King – it doesn’t always bend towards justice. We wouldn’t have Berlusconi, Netanyahu, or Trump if it did. Nations can drive themselves up cul-de-sacs and forget how to get out.

We can, though, still turn around. Most urgently, this requires voting to deny Johnson a majority. No matter how we might feel about Corbyn, Jo Swinson or tactical voting, the worst outcome is the election of prime minister Johnson.

We don’t have to be that country. We are so much better than that.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut   

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15 Responses to “What kind of country elects Boris Johnson as its prime minister?”

  1. Alf says:

    Years of Thatcher/Blair-ism have left working people in our former heartlands disillusioned. Add to that the wrecking tactics of the rump New Labourists and it comes as no surprise that blue-collar workers are voting for anti-political figures. So I think our next conference should push, once again, for mandatory reselection.

    That said, I think we’ll win on Thursday. People may hate Blair and the technocratic wonkery of the New Labour wilderness years; but they hate Johnson a whole lot more in my experience.

  2. Anne says:

    I did read a kind of explanation regarding Johnson – he speaks with a posh Etonian accent therefore what he says must be correct. Another explanation is that people have become so entrenched with their views on Brexit that they don’t want to listen to reason or truth. Regardless of why people choose to ignore his lies it is a very sad situation for our country John Major, Tony Blair, Nicola Sturgeon and Michael Heseltine are all correct – please vote tactically to stop Johnson getting a majority.

  3. Tafia says:

    The Supreme Court annulled Boris Johnson’s illegal prorogation of parliament.

    That is factually incorrect – and something that is factually incorrect is a lie. Are you a liar Johnathan? Obviously. The Supreme Court ruling has now changed our Parliamentary procedure, without Parliament’s consent, and Parliament cannot change it without the Supreme Cort making a fresh ruling. Effectively, the Supreme Court has decided it makes the laws of this country not Parliament and it can unilaterally alter any law it feels like.

    There was no legal precedent up until the Supreme Court ruling – that’s why it went to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court did not rule it illegal – they ruled it unlawful at that point. And there is a massive massive difference between unlawful and illegal. At least make a half-hearted effort to get the simple stuff roughly correct.

    “Is the NHS,” Labour has asked, “for sale?” No, says Johnson. But the US, especially big pharma, one of the most influential lobbies in Washington DC, will require otherwise.

    Another blatant lie.

    “Can he,” we should wonder, “get Brexit done?” No trade deal on the scale of that Johnson seeks with the EU has been concluded on the timescale that he imposes.

    Barnier – who will be heading up the talks on the EU sode says it can be done – who is lying? Him or you.

    I cam’t be arsed with the rest of it – it beggars belief that such basic errors even get published. Utter utter rubbish from beginning to end. Todd is either thick as pig sh1t or is a practiced liar and thinks we are thick. Which is it Todd?

  4. Vern says:

    Still struggling to understand the view point of those that differ to you I see Mr Todd. Its going to be a tough time as the Deputy Ed of Labour Uncut if you dont accept the opinion of others. As suggested last time – go and have a chat with societies grafters, some of whom like Boris and Trump!

  5. John P Reid says:

    This was the view of London middle class labour the working class brexit labour vote would want a end to austerity, more than leaving the EU so labour should have remain on the ballot paper in a 2 nd referendum as the Nortgern Labour WC wouldn’t dare vote Tory as it would be against their interests to vote to have the Tories and labour could get back Libdem votes with another referendum in the manifesto


    london labour dared the working class too have to, vote Tory, to get brexit done, thinking the liberal middle class left knew best the Northern working class wouldn’t do it, as this tweet shows that the “ northern working class would have nowhere else to go”, and the Northern working class just said “we’re voting tory”
    ,how arrogant can they get, they think that they could have won liberal democrat votes back too!!!!, so silly

    It was such a insulting assumption to make to the labour leave working class

    The Northern Labour brexit working class
    Just told middle clsss remain labour London, to F@@k off

  6. anon says:

    Of course, our Jonathan omits one name in his list of villains – one Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.
    An individual who was quite matey with Mr Bunga Bunga.

    If anybody can get hold of Panorama’s documentary, entitled ‘The Price of Blood’ (not available now) they will realise how deep the Blair/Berlusconi rabbit hole went.

    Corbyn, for all his outdated Marxism, can easily be seen for what he is – and we can choose whether or not to vote for him (not, in my case)

  7. John P Reid says:

    The lesson from this election is never listen to a word the guardian and it’s posse of Zoe Williams, Dawn H Foster, Young Labour, and student Labour, plus momentum ,Owen Jones and Novara media,lee Jasper ,Ava Vidal and Paul mason , Ever say again

  8. Richard MacKinnon says:

    The question is;
    ‘What kind of country elects Boris Johnson as its prime minister?’
    It is a fair question. The answer is therefore a reasonable one, straight forward to explain and easy to understand.
    It is; ‘a country where the alternative on offer is beyond consideration’.
    This question will be at the centre of the post mortem debate.
    Johnson should not be prime minister. A half decent Labour leader standing against him should have, would have beaten him comfortably. The British Labour Party is culpable here. It is meant to offer opposition. Instead it offers chaos. If it cannot run itself it is obvious to the voter that it is incapable of running the country.
    The LP does not deserve to recover from this debacle. It has let the country down.

  9. John P Reid says:

    So dan hodges says that the guardian said “labour are anti Semitic, but it’s ok to vote for them as it’s the way to stop the Tories “
    So by that view, if I’d voted in the by elections in a Harold hill where the BNP were the only way to stop the Tories would the guardian have said it’s ok to vote for the bnp as it’s the only way to stop the Tories?

  10. steve says:

    This is most untoward!

    So much criticism of Johnson but barely a negative word about Corbyn.

    At least ex-Labour Students leader Jon Ashworth, on behalf of the PLP, did his bit to prevent a Laboour victory.

    Isn’t it about time LabourUncut stepped-in to embellish the Tory game-plan?

    Surely the disastrous Starmer-Alistair Campbell push for a vote-losing second referendum must be blamed on Corbyn?

    Where is Rob Marchant?

  11. Carol says:

    December 12th and exit poll says Boris will have majority of 86. Thanks a lot. This is not just about Brexit – this is about Corbyn. We are in for 10 years of Tory government.

  12. Vern says:

    Well Mr Todd, the early signs on tonight’s election would lead us to think that you and your opinions are about as far away from the average Joe’s as it’s possible to be. They must all be wrong eh…….

  13. ExLabour says:

    Tis the morning after the night before and the blatant untruths of Todd have come home to roost.

    My Labour friends pounded the streets and knocked on thousands of doors and the reaction was always the same….Corbyn is a [insert expletive here]. Yet not one word of this from Todd, about the anti-Semitism that Corbyn has allowed, the disastrous policies of free money for all, taxing the poorest paid and so on.

    The British public have categorically rejected Communism from Corbyn, McDonald, Milne etc and this cancer should be cut out of Labour immediately if they want to regain any public trust.

    As for Jonathan Todd, well your buffoonery should stop here. You clearly have the political acumen of a cabbage. Just stop.

  14. Mike says:

    The answer to the question is – this one!

  15. Paul says:

    Simple – one that was offered Jeremy Corbin, John McDonnell and friends

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