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Analysis

Johnson should call for a People’s Vote on PM’s “turd”

by Hugo Dixon | 08.07.2018

The foreign secretary’s latest outburst has been to call the prime minister’s Brexit proposal a “turd”. He has finally got something right. But despite realising that the prime minister’s scheme would turn us into a “vassal state” – yesterday I described it as a “castration” Brexit – Boris Johnson is staying in the Cabinet.

He should think again. The foreign secretary’s best bet – viewed purely from what is in his self-interest – is to quit and campaign for the people to get the final say on Theresa May’s Brexit. The alternatives – “polishing” May’s turd, to use his language, from inside the Cabinet or trying to knife her – are doomed to failure. By contrast, the foreign secretary might be able to help secure Parliamentary backing for a people’s vote on the final deal.

Johnson has been briefing that he won’t resign because he is worried that the prime minister will make further concessions to the EU on top of the ones she pushed through the Cabinet at her country estate in Chequers on Friday. He wants to be at the table to stop these concessions.

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The foreign secretary is right to be worried that May will capitulate yet more in the Brexit talks. To get a deal, she’ll have to give ground on at least four more things, I predict, including paying money to the EU without a vote on how it is spent.

The snag is that, every time Johnson bottles it after threatening to rebel, he becomes weaker. He doesn’t just lack any credibility with pro-Europeans and the prime minister. He is losing credibility with Brexiters too. Andrew Bridgen, the Tory MP, described him as Neville Chamberlain, Hitler’s great appeaser, in the Mail on Sunday. For a man who likens himself to Winston Churchill, it’s hard to think of a greater insult.

The other option of trying to assassinate the prime minister is also hopeless. Johnson just doesn’t have the numbers to pull off such a coup, particularly now that Michael Gove, his sometimes partner in crime, is throwing his protective cloak around May. Brandishing the stiletto and trying to plunge it into the soft spot between her shoulder blades would be a futile gesture liable to lead to the modern equivalent of being hung drawn and quartered by the Tory high command.

Quitting the Cabinet and backing a People’s Vote on the prime minister’s turd of a deal is another matter. He wouldn’t have to call for her head on a platter – and fail. Johnson could say she should get on with her negotiations and then put the deal to the people. He could reestablish some credibility. What’s more, with Labour not ruling out a People’s Vote – as Keir Starmer its Brexit spokesperson reiterated this weekend – he might even get his way. He would then be on the winning side, something he really likes.

9 Responses to “Johnson should call for a People’s Vote on PM’s “turd””

  • Using language like this achieves nothing, except in diminishing himself that he’s got nothing better to say.
    Sure May’s brexit plan is a compromise, as it always had to be.
    Appeasing the Daily Mail readers/leave voters and safeguarding this country’s best interests had to sit on a knife edge.
    But for Johnson to rubbish it before the White Paper is published or before Barnier & Co have had a chance to consider it, is treasonable.
    Quite simply, he should be told to step down by May. But will she have the courage ….?

  • Britain’s EU criticisms are shared by other members: Too political, too federated, too contralised, too expensive, too intrusive, too bureaucratic, too big. We should join them and, indeed, lead them to reform the EU while retaining the EU’s many trading and data-sharing advantages and its scale economies. None of PM May’s contorted “solutions” is as advantageous to the UK as would be full membership of a reformed, confederate European Union.

  • So what about May using her stronger position to sack him, then? That would improve her stature and give the UK a chance to get a seriously agreeable foreign minister again.

  • Irrespective of the merits of any public statements he makes, or “accidentally” get leaked, his use of anglo-saxon and toilet terminology is anything but appropriate for his position as Foreign Minister. He probably thinks he will be able to communicate more easily with parts of the population he normally struggles to reach, but actually what he gains in communication he loses in respect.

  • Rowling, writing as Robert Galbraith describes the likes of Johnson as the turd that will not flush. So he has found a fellow turd, in the guise of an unacceptable policy, to pass the time with.

  • The same people who manipulated the last vote are getting their swords sharpened up to be ready to do it again. New players and new techniques but their efforts to thwart any freedom of choice will remain the same. The new names and faces will mean that these groups will be able to function below the radar and we will be duped again and deliver the vote that suits them.