I WILL be very surprised if the now inevitable general election results in any political clarity – or a clearer path to Brexit.
My suspicion is the early days of a campaign will be dominated by an unedifying ‘negotiation’ between Boris Johnson, his chief of staff Dominic Cummings and adversary Nigel Farage over any pact between the Tory and Brexit parties.
As local rows blow up around the country over the selection and de-selection of candidates, the imminent serialisation of the memoirs of former prime minister David Cameron – remember him? – will make further uncomfortable reading for Johnson.
Amid this, the main parties will be involved with a stand-off with the national broadcasters over the status and rules of engagement of major TV debates, all while Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn shun inquisitions with respected interviewers. Though their predecessors loathed such encounters, they did regard them as their democratic duty.
And then, as the opinion polls are scrutinised for any discernible patterns or trends, the choice – and it is an unedifying one – facing the country will come down to Johnson or a centre-left coalition headed, presumably, by Corbyn.
Yet here is the conundrum. I will be very surprised if the Tories win an overall majority. Look what happened in 2017 when Theresa May thought she would win Labour seats in the North which backed Brexit. The gains didn’t materialise because elections are never fought on single issues.
Even with the blessing of the aforementioned Farage, Johnson’s hardline approach on Brexit will cost the Tories seats in Scotland and London as party splits deepen. They’re also vulnerable to a Lib Dem fightback in the South West, even though this region voted to leave the EU.
But the polarisation of politics means that the best the anti-Tory parties can hope for is a grand coalition between Labour, the Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid Cymru, Greens and any Independents left standing.
And herein lies the rub. These are the same parties – and personalities – which have just rebuffed Corbyn’s cackhanded attempt to become a caretaker prime minister. What will have changed after polling day? Very little, hence why I fear the next election will be just another embarrassment that leads the country to become even more divided – and ungovernable. I hope I’m wrong.
THE 21 purged Remainer rebels include Justine Greening, the Rotherham-born former Education Secretary and regular contributor to The Yorkshire Post.
After announcing that she would not seek re-election, she hit the nail on the head over the handling of Brexit.
“Is it not ironic that in the very week the Government announce an advertising campaign called “Get ready for Brexit”, they simultaneously refuse to actually release any details about what we are meant to be getting ready for?” she posed.
She also said that there has not been any plan to deliver Brexit “in three years”. Very revealing.
IT became clear, under Theresa May, that the contents of Cabinet discussions were being leaked to the media before contentious deliberations – supposedly confidential – had been concluded.
Boris Johnson’s government appears just as ill-disciplined. On Monday, Ministers discussed the deselection of Remain-supporting former Ministers who oppose a no-deal Brexit.
Apparently Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan, a one-time Remain supporter, asked if the same principle would apply to Brexiteer ideologues who refuse to back the Government line at a later date.
Mr Johnson’s response? “Absolutely,” said the PM. I’ll believe it when it happens – if the Tory leader is still in post to prove that he is a man of his word.
THE Parliament versus the People stand-off totally overshadowed a written statement by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps that HS2 could be delayed by up to seven years and run £26bn over budget.
Coming days after the Government launched its own financial appraisal of high-speed rail which will report by December (if the Tories are still in power), it also points, in my view, to a complete failure of oversight by the Department for Transport, spending watchdogs and others when it comes to major infrastructure projects – Crossrail is another example.
Remember this when HS2 becomes a political football in the upcoming general election.
TALKING of Grant Shapps, he has still to explain – in the wake of last week’s column – what it will take for him to strip a rail operator of its franchise. The DfT promises action if firms, such as Northern, are at ‘fault’. Commuters will expect clarity before they go to the polls.
IT was said that the new occupant of 10 Downing Street was quite well-trained and responding to commands. I thought officials were referring to Boris Johnson until I saw pictures of Dilyn, the Jack Russell rescue puppy that the PM and his partner Carrie Symonds have acquired. Still it is a breed with form for running off and disappearing down holes – seemingly just like the mutt’s new master.
FINALLY, after a political week like no other, I suggests MPs have a long lie-down and enjoy the supposed calm before the storm. Oh, it’s what Jacob Rees-Mogg has been doing – the Commons leader reclining almost horizontally on the green benches of Parliament and ignoring speeches from dissenters.
I can only conclude that they no longer teach manners at Eton. It was embarrassing – a word which perfectly sums up current events.