Boris plan to heal country isn’t ‘serious analysis’ either

by Luke Lythgoe | 15.04.2019

Boris Johnson’s columns for the Telegraph should not be taken as “serious, empirical, in-depth analysis of hard factual matters”. At least that was the newspaper’s defence when one of Johnson’s articles was referred to the press watchdog for inaccuracy.

Johnson’s article on January 6 claimed that “of all the options suggested by pollsters” a no-deal Brexit was the one which was “by some margin preferred by the British public”.  The Telegraph argued it was “clearly comically polemical”. But the watchdog, Ipso, ruled the article included “significant inaccuracy, because it misrepresented polling information” and the Telegraph should make a correction.

Now bear in mind the lack of “serious, empirical, in-depth analysis” when you read Johnson’s Telegraph offering this week, in which he asserts that “only a proper Brexit can spare us from… toxic polarisation”.

All the evidence points to this being highly unlikely. The much better way to heal the divisions in this country is to recognise that our best deal – for our peace, prosperity, power and people – is the one we’ve already got inside the EU, and to choose to stay. The most democratically legitimate way to do that is to put the decision to the people.

Rather than acknowledging this, the former foreign secretary predicts “an outbreak of unity, and violent agreement on the way forward” among members of his own Conservative party if only we leave the EU. That’s despite this weekend several formerly proud Conservatives defecting to pro-European parties and even former Tory chancellor Ken Clarke reportedly considering leaving if Theresa May’s successor were a hardline Brexiter.

Even among those Conservatives who don’t jump ship, the immediate aftermath of passing a Brexit deal will be more infighting. The first move will be a leadership contest, reports The Times. What’s more, the Tory Brextremists of the ERG will be incandescent when they see the scale of rule-taking involved in any deal, and will blame their colleagues who backed it just as much as they blame EU officials.

Johnson insists that after Brexit the government will have “the time to focus on the real priorities of this country” such as tackling crime and housing shortages. The reality is that Brexit will still dominate everything. Leaving the EU is just stage one of Brexit. The big policy issues – our future trading relationship, security cooperation, immigration policy – will all need to be negotiated with the EU for years afterwards.

Johnson also writes about a “great pent-up tide of cash waiting to flood into this country, as soon as we have got the thing done”. But which international businesses and investors will enthusiastically put their money in the UK when they still have no idea what our relationship with the giant single market on our doorstep will be? So that’s less money for “investing in our health service and our schools”, as Johnson promises.

It’s important to point out that leaving with no deal – which one suspects is what Johnson means by doing Brexit “properly” – would be even worse. We’d still have to renegotiate our relationships with Europe and the rest of the world. But we’d be starting from scratch, having burned our previous arrangements. In the context of the economic chaos of a no-deal Brexit, there’s a high likelihood negotiations with the EU would be acrimonious. Meanwhile at home politicians would be blaming each other for the pain inflicted on the country.

We’ve now been told by Johnson’s own paper not to take his analysis seriously. His plan for ending the toxicity of Brexit should be treated no differently. The way out of this mess is to put the decision back in the hands of the people.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

7 Responses to “Boris plan to heal country isn’t ‘serious analysis’ either”

  • Why does anyone listen to Boris Johnson any more? Surely his credibility is zero but why then does the Daily Telegraph still employ him ?

  • Is that why some people refer to the former foreign secretary as B*ll*x Johnson?
    And if you just say it most people don’t notice.

  • Funny how there still are people who take Johnson’s spouts seriously. The man has no understanding of the words “reality” and “truth”, probably finds them boring anyway and therefore has no inclination to ever live up to them. Sad to see the despair among brexiteers that the Telegraph expects to increase sales from publishing that rubbish.

  • As a journalist, Boris’ articles are entertaining, colourful use of language, and not boring. I think Boris has an inner ‘angst’ of being thought of as ‘boring’.
    To spice up his articles a bit, he needs to throw in some outrageous analogies adding the odd vulgarity. Publishing boring writers’ and articles is not what newspapers are primarily in business for.

    However, such details come back to haunt you as a serious career politician. Accuracy is one of the first casualties. Boris is best suited to sticking with journalism where the damage he can do is serious, but not necessarily fatal.

  • Alex is, of course, dead right. Newspapers are in the business of selling copy, and the more outrageous the headlines the better. Viz. the Sun’s headlines on any day of the week. (I seem to remember that a few years ago, there was a.suggestion that the Sun should be reclassified as a comic). This man is a proven fraud, liar and adulterer hiding behind a thin veneer of classical education that does nothing to hide his innate stupidity. Sadly, he’s not the only one in public life.