It is somehow fitting that there was a mass brawl on the P&O ship Britannia which occured after “patriotic” partying on deck and, allegedly, an argument over a clown.
The country itself now has its own clown in charge and the current cabinet looks so unwholesome that Open Democracy has called it the government of all the lobbyists. I think a government of all the talentless or the unprincipled would do almost as well.
Johnson and Davis were in prime Brexit spots, watching the deal being done, and then resigned when it became clear what they had presided over. Johnson voted against it twice, then voted for it the third time, mere months ago. Does he ‘own’ this vote? Does he hell. It is rarely mentioned, even though yesterday he described its contents as fundamentally “anti-democratic”. That is, of course, a completely demented view of the backstop. But if it were true, he would be unfit to be prime minister by virtue of his own actions.
It looks more and more as though everything is on an election footing. Johnson is making promises left, right and centre. He is the new broom -even though he was a member of May’s government. It is a list that is beginning to look almost attractive, because he is now starting to outline reversals to cuts he supported when in government. Of course he doesn’t own the previous administration’s budget cuts either. But he sounds hopeful and is beginning to shoot some of Labour’s foxes.
Unless Labour get their act together I fear they may find it increasingly difficult to keep up. Few parts, other than public sector pay increases (and he really inherited those) of the plan are realistically for this Parliament as they are largely big ideas. He’s offered a high speed rail line between Manchester and Leeds – but this was offered a year ago and nothing happened then – so no wonder his audience had to be asked to clap… Given that Leeds and Manchester are two urban areas divided by the Pennines that is likely to be on Crossrail’s sort of timetable and Crossrail was approved in 2007 and although construction began two years later it still has no trains. Even if Johnson managed to get legislation through the current parliament, it seems unlikely there will be much to show for it before the end of the next decade. But the idea, delivered, as it was, in the characteristically relaxed manner, which is a mixture of chaos and friendliness, does engender some hope (something notably absent under his predecessor).
When he can also say in the same speech when talking about places that have been ‘left behind’:
“The crucial point is it certainly isn’t really the fault of the places, and certainly isn’t the fault of the people growing up there. They haven’t failed. It’s we, us, the politicians, our politics has failed them.”
He is speaking no more than the truth.
These ideas are of course all ‘unfunded’ but I suspect that he and his cabinet, arch Brexiters as they all are, may well try to claim this spending as a Brexit dividend, even when everyone knows there is no such thing.
If Johnson can offer hope, he might win an election to get the Brexit that he and his disaster capitalist friends crave.
That means that Labour really have to do better and offer more hope, because I would not be at all surprised to see other Conservative big spending and reforming ideas announced with prospective Labour voters in mind.
Labour could well find any hopeful edge it had blunted by Conservative commitments especially with a still dubious Labour policy on Remaining – or is it Leave?
It is time for Labour to join the Greens and LibDems and tackle head on the disaster that Brexit would be and the catastrophe that a No Deal would inflict.
Their best bet is to remain and reform, ally for advantage and by throwing in their lot to wholehearted remain try to encourage a ‘concession’ from the EU such as (I suggest) negotiating UK withdrawal or suspension from the Stability and Growth pact, where perhaps it could put forward that the withdrawal would be an ‘experiment’, especially given that even Germany is now in either actual or near recession, so the UK could be a trial country to see if prosperity is achievable by other methods.
This could then contrast Johnson’s “I can’t think of anyone after the Crash in 2008 who stuck up as much for the bankers as me. I stuck up for them day in and day out,” with Labour sticking up, instead for the country.
They would do well to remember Aneurin Bevan:
“How can wealth persuade poverty to use its political freedom to keep wealth in power? Here lies the whole art of Conservative politics in the 20th century.”
Johnson has clarified the Conservative’s message on Brexit and is fast trying to clarify their domestic agenda. Labour has a clear message on the domestic agenda but one that is still distant and vague on Brexit.
If the Labour Party membership cannot persuade the shadow cabinet to take a clear view on Brexit then at least we must hope that the Conservatives under Johnson can.