July 20, 2024
If Boris Isn’t Careful, Brexit Could Disappear in a Winter Snap
Instead of reminding voters why they dislike Tories, the prime minister must show that his party has been transformed by the upheaval of the last three years.
Instead of reminding voters why they dislike Tories, the prime minister must show that his party has been transformed by the upheaval of the last three years.

British politics are seeming eerily familiar these days: Just as in 2017, the Tories, looking at favorable polls that show them crushing Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, have called for a snap election in order to give their new PM a mandate to complete an orderly Brexit. Just as in 2017, the Tories have begun projecting that they’ll win a majority of 40, 60, or maybe even more. Just as in 2017, the electorate very clearly wants to get Brexit done, and that desire is very clearly a driving force behind the Tories’ standing in the polls.

And just as in 2017, the campaign has begun with the Tories immediately changing the subject from Brexit.

Boris Johnson opened the campaign with an op-ed comparing Corbyn to Josef Stalin in a big banner headline in the Daily Telegraph. Then, as in 2017, came an unforced error that made the Tories look “out of touch.” In 2017, it was the May government’s proposal that those who needed in-home nursing care toward the end of life would see their estates sold to the government after death, and their families’ inheritances reduced to nothing more than £100,000 — the so-called dementia tax. This time, it seems, dementia struck Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Bertie Wooster character who became Leader of the House of Commons in July. In a Monday radio interview on the subject of the awful 2017 Grenfell Tower fire that killed 72 people, Rees-Mogg seemed to suggest that he and his host would have had the “common sense” to ignore the fatal instruction from the fire brigades to stay in the burning building, which may have cost over 50 Britons their lives.

Now, as in 2017, such a misstep can’t help, but it might not prove a death knell for the Conservatives. The whole Tory theory of the snap election is that the party must begin winning seats in constituencies that traditionally go to Labour but are pro-Brexit. By withdrawing the whip from members who opposed his Brexit plans, Johnson shifted the party in a more populist direction in anticipation of such a strategy. Tories will argue that if voters don’t give them a majority, a Corbyn-led coalition government of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and Scottish nationalists will inflict on the country more Brexit negotiations, another referendum on membership in the EU, and another Scottish independence referendum. It’s a good argument — Britons clearly dread the effects on their society and politics that these conflicts continue to have. But it’s also funny when you think about it: The Tories are arguing that the alternative to voting for them in 2019 is a replay of what Tory governments brought the country from 2014–2019.

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See Also:

(1) The U.K.’s ‘Boris Machiavelli’ can expect a big win

(2) ‘It’s not the golden west and dark east’: German divisions since the fall of the Berlin Wall

(3) The Court of Justice of the European Union Limits Free Speech

(4) Labour’s almighty collapse: Poll horror for Corbyn as support crumbles across the UK

(5) ‘Prepare for an EU crisis’ Economic shockwaves strike Brussels – ‘worst is still to come’

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