And They’re Off!
One of the most voluntarily dysfunctional parliaments of all time will suspend itself on Wednesday, just weeks after it opened. Since the current Prime Minister took office, the house has briefly returned from summer recess, very briefly prorogued itself in a way which turned out to be illegal, and broke again for a semi-serious Queen’s speech shortly after.
It’s a wonder Conservative government has had the time to lose as many votes as they have in the brief intervals in which bouts of work break out between recesses. The last few months have been an intense microcosm of the past few years in British politics. By the start of 2020 we will have sat through three general elections in five years, two of them vanity projects of the then sitting prime minister.
Modern Politics Modelled On A Dark Age
We’re frequently asked to compare Brexit with the second world war. Inexplicably, it’s often its strongest supporters who ask the comparison, but it is one worth entertaining regardless. Online campaigns have been drawn up to invoke the ‘spirit of the blitz’ where people through the country persevered through bombings, rationing, and global war. That catastrophe, in this instance, is self-inflicted is a point which rarely seems to land.
There are other parts of World War Two Britain which helped people to make do and persevering through one of the countries darkest periods. A critical elements of the time was that the government acted and did so decisively, with concrete action and at massive cost.
Today’s government fails to act at all when it is at its absolute best. Prime Minister Boris Johnson favours composing speeches out of primarily bluster and manufactured anger about ‘tied hands’ and the frustrations of parliament at the hands of the opposition.
Not a word of this has any substantial truth at its core, of course. When Prime Minister B.J. is allowed to set the rhetoric of his own speeches, he enjoys the kind of scathing criticisms, withering put-downs, and decisive language he fantasized about using in parliament as a boy. The remarkable fact about the current Prime Minister is in not allowing reality to stand in the way of weakly delivered rhetoric.
A New Kind Of Game
Johnson styled himself from the start as the prime minister to ‘get things done’. Using tips and tricks—and possibly people too—from the Trump playbook, mister B.J. announced he was the sole visionary which could solve Brexit on all fronts. The typically mumbling man announced loudly and repeatedly that his was the brilliant mind needed to resolve the state of the country by October 31st. Last week. ‘Do or die’ came and then ungraciously went.
Keeping with the Prime Minister’s sense of style and the truly modern way to do politics, there has been little to no address from government’s office of a complete failure to resolve anything at all. The ‘do’ in the Prime Ministers ultimatum came in the form of an attempt to pass a new deal through parliament somehow worse than the old one.
The way in which Johnson formed an acceptable ‘new’ deal was to remove agreeable components from the old; which itself had failed three times consecutively in front of the house.
The prime minister put forward a proposal which was distinct in managing to suit absolutely nobody at all. For Johnson’s team, it seemed to be the perfect compromise, if nobody is happy and everyone is equally unhappy, we must be on suitable middle ground. Right? A billion pounds couldn’t even purchase the support of the DUP to side with the government on the new deal.
Johnson’s ‘brilliant’, ‘new’, ‘do or die’ approach to Brexit has hit the stumbling blocks hard. The PMs strategy and the only intelligent approach to modern politics is to blame everything from the system to MPs and eventually the voting public itself. The government are looking elsewhere once again, hoping a decision can be made in their own absence.
Just two years after Theresa May squandered a slim majority in her own vanity election, the current PM is returning to the polls in one of the most unique election seasons to happen in living memory. Having fired or disenfranchised the thin majority he began with, B.J. may just be starting to believing his own hype and bluster in the midst of one of the most ineffectual and disastrous governments in history.
Since assuming office in July, the little parliamentary work achieved has been focused towards Brexit with little clear goal or directive. Of the Brexit votes put before parliament, the PM has managed to lose the vast majority, tripping over almost every stumbling block Brexit has put in their way.
Despite their early confidence and bluster early in the process, despite claiming solutions to problems they didn’t yet know or begin to understand, the PMs team seem to have accomplished worse than nothing since taking office mid-summer. Their steadfast belief that the electorate is going to reward the governments woeful, at times illegal, performance speaks as much to the trust they hold in their control of the narrative as anything else.
A Proven Battle Record
One of the first faces to sign on to the Brexit campaign, Johnson’s team has proven battle-hardened experience of their abilities in modern elections. Under the lead of Dominic Cummings, Vote Leave used social media to remarkable effect, shepherding marginal votes to win a campaign which everyone, including Johnson, claimed was unwinnable.
Now senior advisor—reportedly chief puppeteer—to the PM, Cummings has brought the country to the polls once more. Where May failed in 2015 with a disaster of a campaign at every turn, we can be confident Cummings, even under the increased scrutiny recent social media revelations have brought about, will produce something altogether more slick, focused, and convincing.
The ineffectual disaster of the labour opposition was perhaps the only thing which stood between May and utter annihilation in 2015. In 2019 it could well be just the playing conditions Cummings needs to build his own empire on.
The race may well set-off from the starting gates this week, but every party has been preparing towards a December 12th election well before the Queen’s speech. Cumming’s perhaps longer than most.
In normal circumstances, a premature election under a historically ineffectual government would be more than welcome. However, These circumstances are demonstrably not normal. In the opposing benches we have an almost historically ineffective opposition too. The public are being asked to choose rank incompetence over gross negligence in the run-up to Christmas in the aftermath of the most tumultuous four years in British political living memory.
Friday The 13th
Regardless of how the results fall, the question of what happens the day after the December 12th election remains. Parliament has shown time and again they are not willing to sit during recess periods, even to solve Brexit crisis talks and repeated last-minute preparations. With Christmas recess immediately following the upcoming election it’s not clear how many days MPs are prepared to appear before the once again extended Brexit deadline is reached.
By the time MPs do return, the Brexit deadline will loom large in the foreground.
The only thing Johnson got wrong about his ‘do or die’ approach is the date. The real deadline date is not Halloween 2019 but is in fact Friday the 13th of December instead. It is then that Cummings and team have put together a calculated gamble to meet the opposition and build a parliament which will seek any exit to the EU it can find.
There’s still time to register to vote before election day on the 12th of December: