Well, well. I woke up this morning, looked out of the window, and – surprise! – we’re still in the EU. Instead of a do-or-die Brexit, we’re going to have another general election, our third in just over four years, and this time it’ll be in December – the darkest, coldest, wettest month of the year.
Thank you, Santa Boris, it’s what I had always hoped for as an early Christmas present. What more could we ask than having to troop along to the polling station in pouring rain on a freezing winter evening? Tip: apply for a postal vote. Here’s the link.
In 2015, the Tories under David Cameron won with a 12-seat overall majority in the House of Commons. An overall majority? How very quaint.
In 2017, the Tories under Theresa May failed to win an overall majority. And I don’t need to remind you what happened next. Agony piled upon agony.
So here we go again. And this time, the choice is clearer than ever: if the Tories win with an overall majority, the UK will leave the European Union. If they don’t, it won’t. Probably.
Labour are offering a new, better withdrawal deal and then a referendum. If you like their deal, you’ll vote Yes and the UK will leave the EU. If you don’t, you’ll vote No and we’ll stay put. Jeremy Corbyn won’t express a preference.
I know better than to make any predictions, but it is quite possible that no party will win with an overall majority. The agony of a stalemated parliament might well continue. Perhaps MPs will have to start learning the art of compromise, of consensus-building, of reaching out to other parties. All the stuff that Theresa May and Boris Johnson thought was beneath them. For them, tribalism is all – you follow the leader, or you are cast out into the cold.
But here’s what is seriously weird: MPs voted to go for an early election after they had given approval in principle to Mr Johnson’s renegotiated withdrawal agreement. Why? Because the PM was determined not to allow them more than a few days to go through it, line by line. He preferred the risk of an election to the risk of proper scrutiny of the deal.
Hmm. The Financial Times hit the nail on the head in its leader column: ‘Britain’s voters should be under no illusion that the timing of the election has been set for the Conservative party’s advantage and not, as Mr Johnson claims, because parliament is blocking Brexit.’
So add it to your list of favourite Johnson lies and repeat ten times each evening before bed: parliament did not block Brexit. And then keep count of how many times you hear him trot out the same lie each day between now and election day.
And remember as you cast your vote: this was the Johnson/Cummings plan all along. Not for them the messy, gruelling business of trying to govern without a majority – go for broke, win an election and, to coin a phrase, get Brexit done.
We’ll see. The best laid plans, and all that. Frankly, I dread the next six weeks: I fear the campaign will be ugly, mendacious and far worse than anything we have seen so far. The Brexiteers’ dictionary of insults – traitors, saboteurs, betrayal – too often matched by Corbynite ultras in the Labour party, has already fed through into vicious verbal abuse of anyone not signed up to worship at the feet of the cult leader.
Add to the mix rampant misogyny and it is hardly surprising that so many MPs – in particular, so many female MPs – have decided to call it a day. In the words of my former BBC colleague Jenni Russell: ‘This narrow sectionalism, this demonisation of anyone who has a different view of a good Brexit or a good society, is disastrous not just for MPs affected but for the country. We are losing a generation of dedicated, thoughtful public servants.’
So, if you’re not a die-hard Johnsonian Brexiteer, how are you going to vote? Personally, I quite like the (admittedly self-serving) advice from the Green party MEP Alexandra Phillips. ‘Vote Green in all seats that are not marginal (more than 3k majority), and vote for the strongest non-Tory (Lab/Lib) option in marginals.’
And just in case you have forgotten, here are a few of the choicest lies from the Johnson Book of Falsehoods (thanks to The Times for having collected them):
‘We are going … to come out of the EU on October 31, no ifs or buts.’ (25 July)
‘There are no circumstances in which I shall ask Brussels to delay.’ (2 September)
‘We will be leaving on 31 October, deal or no deal.’ (3 October)
‘I will not negotiate a delay with the EU and neither does the law compel me to do so.’ (19 October)
And there will be plenty more before polling day.