STEPHEN GLOVER: Why for the sake of Britain we must pray good Boris triumphs over Bad Boris
Let’s not be apocalyptic. It’s difficult, though, to deny that Boris Johnson has lost control of his Brexit strategy over the past few days.
The horrendous consequence may be that Jeremy Corbyn will emerge from the surely inevitable General Election as leader of the largest party and that, with or without the support of the Scottish Nationalists, he will soon be Prime Minister.
How did it go wrong for Mr Johnson so quickly? And is it within his power to pluck victory from disaster, and not only see off Mr Corbyn but also bring an end to the dreadful saga of Brexit?
Boris Johnson has lost control of his Brexit strategy over the past few days and there is a possibility Jeremy Corbyn will emerge from the surely inevitable General Election as leader of the largest party
We must pray that good Boris beats bad Boris: Senior ministers, who are apparently under instructions from No 10 to boycott media interviews, were unable to explain or defend Mr Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament
Amid prevailing Tory despair, it is important to recall that ten days ago many commentators were congratulating Mr Johnson for having played a blinder during his first month in office.
After the months of drift under the May government, his oft-repeated commitment that Britain would leave the EU on October 31, Deal or No Deal, was refreshingly decisive.
During his optimistic visits to Berlin and Paris, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron seemingly agreed that the Withdrawal Agreement wasn’t set in stone, and there might be movement over the Irish backstop.
The Prime Minister’s clarity of thought appeared to be rewarded as the Conservatives pulled ahead of Labour in opinion polls, and support for the Brexit Party began to dwindle.
Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron seemingly agreed that the Withdrawal Agreement wasn’t set in stone, and there might be movement over the Irish backstop
And then the wheels started to come off.
The first setback came when Mr Johnson announced he was suspending Parliament. In itself this was far from being a terrible thing. MPs will lose five or six days of sittings. How is this the assault on democracy that has been widely alleged?
Yet somehow it was represented as such by an unfriendly BBC and cunning Opposition parties. Senior ministers, who are apparently under instructions from No 10 to boycott media interviews, were unable to explain or defend Mr Johnson’s decision.
Philip Hammond (pictured yesterday in parliament) can hardly complain about his treatment at the hands of No 10 after he sided with Opposition parties and voted against his own government in what was effectively a motion of No Confidence
Boris was wrapped up in the debate in a petulant and rather chaotic manner, rather than embodying any qualities which would be expected in a Prime Minister
So one is left wondering whether it was worth creating such a hullaballoo when the net gain, from the Prime Minister’s point of view, is that MPs will miss a few days before returning to a perfectly intact Mother of Parliaments on October 14 — unless an election intervenes.
Students of Dominic Cummings, installed in Downing Street as Mr Johnson’s chief adviser, recognised his addiction to melodrama. He is a born anarchist who doesn’t take prisoners. He seems also to have been behind the PM’s next bombshell.
As I wrote yesterday, Philip Hammond can hardly complain about his treatment at the hands of No 10 after he sided with Opposition parties and voted against his own government in what was effectively a motion of No Confidence.
Quite the spectacle: Jacob Rees-Mogg was spotted lolling presumptuously on the Government front bench as though he were Anthony Trollope’s lofty Duke Of Omnium rather than a newly-appointed 21st century Cabinet minister, yesterday
But was it really sensible to sack all 21 Tory rebels in such a brutal manner? Mightn’t it have been wiser to take away the Tory whip and suspend them for a time? Again, Mr Cumming’s well-established fondness for a scorched earth policy could be observed.
As things stand, Mr Johnson has deprived himself of the votes of 21 MPs who could conceivably have supported him in some circumstances. He also risks jeopardising the backing of Tory electors who don’t like to see previously loyal MPs being hacked to pieces. Some will vote Lib Dem.
This all comes after Mr Johnson did nothing to persuade Ruth Davidson, the charismatic Scottish Conservative leader, not to throw in the towel weeks before an expected election. The Tory Party could be wiped out north of the border.
Let me mention, in this roll-call of self-inflicted disasters, the spectacle on Tuesday of Jacob Rees-Mogg lolling presumptuously on the Government front bench as though he were Anthony Trollope’s lofty Duke Of Omnium rather than a newly-appointed 21st century Cabinet minister in the democratic age.
As for Boris Johnson, he wrapped up the debate on Tuesday evening in a petulant and rather chaotic manner, showing none of the statesmanlike qualities people expect in a prime minister.
The same was true of his first outing at Prime Minister’s Question Time yesterday. His comparison of Mr Corbyn to a chlorinated chicken was puerile and unfunny. He should not have repeated the word ‘sh**’ nor, apparently, called the Labour leader a ‘great big girl’s blouse’.
I realise such occasions are highly charged. But Boris displayed no sense of poise or inner seriousness. It seemed like a silly romp at the Oxford Union, of which he was President more than 30 years ago.
Do I go too far? If so, it is because I am suddenly struck by a terror that our charming, clever, essentially likeable Prime Minister does not fully grasp just how perilous is the predicament in which this nation finds itself.
I also fear he may have forgotten, as the nihilist Cummings relentlessly tugs his strings, that British people shy away from leaders who display thuggishness or brutality. Decisiveness, yes. Strength, you bet. But this country doesn’t like extremism.
The irony is that Mr Johnson is for the most part a soft-hearted and easy-going chap. But he has been dropped into a boiling political cauldron. He is terrified of being outflanked by the Brexit Party. And he has Mr Cummings at his back.
Dominic Cummings is pictured on placards outside parliament by anti-Brexit protesters who oppose the government’s handling of Brexit. He needs to be sent on a lengthy fact-finding trip to Outer Mongolia without the benefit of a return ticket
Cummings appears prominent in the demonstrations in Westminster yesterday
Can this most unusual of politicians rescue us from the Marxist nightmare Mr Corbyn wants to unleash, and save us from the dangers of a No Deal Brexit?
Well, he will have to get rid of Dominic Cummings for a start, or at any rate send him on a lengthy fact-finding trip to Outer Mongolia without the benefit of a return ticket.
But he will have to do much more than that. On a practical level, he must produce proposals for replacing the Irish backstop, as he told Angela Merkel he would two weeks ago.
He must convince the nation — and Brussels — that he has a viable alternative to No Deal. And he will have to learn to remain calm as votes go against him.
The ‘Bad Boris’ who sometimes drinks too much and doesn’t plan ahead and gets into rows with his girlfriend must make way for the ‘Good Boris’ who is rousing and decisive and clear thinking, and twice as clever as Jeremy Corbyn.
‘Good Boris’ is an effective campaigner, and as a communicator, far superior, to his Labour rival. He connects with people outside the Tory tribe better than any Conservative leader since Thatcher and, before her, Churchill.
I’m not asking Mr Johnson to change his character. I want him to draw on his better nature, and to listen to people who wish him and the Tory Party well, rather than restless intellectuals who might easily regard a Corbyn government as a fascinating experiment.
The ‘Good Boris’, probably the predominant one notwithstanding the past few days, is an optimistic, one-nation Tory who has promoted more spending for the NHS and education as well as extra police — popular policies unveiled by Chancellor Sajid Javid yesterday.
This version of Mr Johnson can win an election. Those tempted by despair should reflect he is the only Tory Prime Minister we’ve got, or are going to get in the foreseeable future.
It’s Boris — or bust. If he can’t save us from the economic disaster of a Corbyn government — which in my opinion dwarfs the perils of No Deal — there is no one else in this kingdom who can.
‘Good Boris’ is rousing and decisive and clear thinking, and twice as clever as Jeremy Corbyn who is pictured here at the PMQs, held in parliament yesterday
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