Don’t listen to them. It’s all going swimmingly for Boris. Remember that his ultimate object – whatever he may say – is a Rightist, neo-liberal revolution in Britain, with minimal state interference and protections, which is why he wants to escape from European ‘red tape’; harking back to the country’s heroic nineteenth century; and with some of that century’s romantic glow – buccaneering merchants, derring-do, patriotism, Churchill, even the old British Empire (though he can’t say that explicitly) – adding a patina of glory to it, and taking the material sting of it out for us poor deluded proles. Read his literary output, his journalism and his books (as I’ve tried to do: the sacrifices one makes!), and that becomes blindingly clear.
The only question must be: does he really think that deeply? The conventional view is that he’s superficial, a bit of a joke, solely concerned for his own career, tacking to every breeze. But that could be part of the clever plan. If not, then it merely leaves him open to manipulation by more committed ideologues; such as Dominic (or ‘Demonic’) Cummings: the reputed Machiavel who was the eminence grise behind the Brexit campaign, and is now Boris’s chief advisor. (Picture below.)
Johnson’s latest ‘deal’ with the EU is an obvious means to this neo-liberal end; with – for example – workers’ rights and environmental protections not guaranteed in it, but merely dependent on our ‘trust’ in Boris’s word (and trust in Boris is at a pretty low ebb just now), and plenty of holes in it to drive a ‘no deal’ through. This is obvious, that is, when one reads the small print, which the government’s effort last night to rush the whole thing through Parliament with virtually no time for discussion or even for MPs to read it, was clearly meant to prevent. Boris lost that one.
But there’s another side to this, which works in his favour. It’s the second layer of the ‘cunning plan’. He can now go to the country, as currently seems likely, on his favoured issue all along, the seeds of which were sown by Theresa May and of course our tabloid press: which is the proto-fascist slogan of ‘the People versus Parliament’; pandering to voters’ frustration and sheer boredom at the Government’s not having ‘got Brexit done’. Not getting it done wasn’t his fault, or the Tory ultras’, or even due to the intrinsically complicated difficulties of prising Britain out of the EU. (Actually, as someone said yesterday – it may have been Tony Blair – ‘it is rocket science’.) According to this analysis it can all be blamed on the ‘Establishment’ – MPs, judges, intellectuals and the like – conspiring to thwart ‘the people’s will’.
I really don’t know how a general election fought on these lines would turn out. (Perhaps the Tories should be warned by Ted Heath’s disastrous ‘Who rules Britain’ election in the ’70s; or May’s ‘strong and stable’ one in 2017.) But I fear the effect that a heightened present-day populism might have on it, resulting in a Right-wing (Tories plus the Brexit Party) victory; followed by not only a ‘hard Brexit’, but also a turn to the far Right in domestic and social policy.
Dominic Cummings has the reputation of being a political ‘genius’, albeit a dark and Satanic one. If even I can see through this ‘cunning plan’ of his, however, he can’t be all that bright. Unless of course my prediction turns out to be wrong. Or the plot has a third layer, invisible to me. Or someone even cleverer than him manages to checkmate him. Let’s hope so.