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Tory psychodrama goes on and on, but it’s not funny

by Hugo Dixon | 30.09.2017

Boris Johnson sets Brexit red lines, Ruth Davidson savages him for not being serious, Theresa May is trapped like a rabbit in headlights. Welcome to the Tory party conference.

If they weren’t playing with our future, we could laugh. But this psychodrama is a tragedy.

Johnson has found a way to have his cake and eat it. He can stay as foreign secretary but not stick to government policy because the prime minister is too weak to sack him.

Johnson got away with writing a Telegraph column that challenged May’s Brexit policy two weeks ago. He followed that up by hosting the launch of a new think-tank that wants to turn Britain into a Singapore-style tax haven – cutting across the prime minister’s promise in her recent Florence speech not to do that.

Now the foreign secretary has set four more red lines in an interview with The Sun: the transition period when we quit the EU mustn’t last a second more than two years; we mustn’t follow any new EU rules during that period; nor must we pay for access to the EU’s market or shadow its rules after the transition.

None of these positions quite contradicts government policy. May has talked of a transition lasting “around” two years and refused to say if we’d follow new EU rules during that period. But if she adopts Johnson’s red lines, the EU won’t agree to a transitional deal or give us much access to its market. That will tip the economy over a cliff.

It’s hard to see what will stop Johnson cocking a snook. He is favourite to succeed the prime minister, according to a poll of party members. If she fired him, she would be mortally wounded.

Davidson, the second most popular choice to replace May, doesn’t like what she sees. In an interview with The Times, the Scottish Tory leader implied Johnson wasn’t serious and wasn’t facing up to realities.

Meanwhile, May is looking more and more like a cardboard cut-out prime minister. It’s not just Johnson who isn’t treating her seriously. Our EU partners aren’t either. Her promise to be a  “strong and stable” leader is a joke.

The only thing preventing all-out war in the Tory Party is panic that this would let Jeremy Corbyn storm into Downing Street. But continuing with a charisma-free prime minister won’t stop that either.

It now looks increasingly possible that Britain will go through the full cycle of populism: first, the populism of the right, which is giving us a hard Brexit based on a pack of lies; then the populism of the left, which is based on Corbyn’s endless string of false, uncosted promises.

Once the populist demon is unleashed, it’s hard to stop. Thanks, Brexiters.

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Edited by Rachel Franklin

7 Responses to “Tory psychodrama goes on and on, but it’s not funny”

  • Please desist from undermining the Labour Party by posting lies. Your statement, “Corbyn’s endless string of false, uncosted promises” is typical Tory Lite mendacity and you should accept that Labour has returned to it’s democratic socialist roots and that Red Tories are no longer welcome.

  • I think the Brexiters should be deported for causing devaluation of the pound Sterling and deceiving the British people using two words SAVE and NHS. If they cannot be deported then put them on trial for treason.

  • Although I understand and agree with the point about their (the Brexiteers) attempt to turn the UK into a low-tax, low-regulation, low-standards economy, nevertheless, the comparison with Singapore fails to on several grounds – and not in ways that will bring comfort to the Brexit cause.

    For one, Singapore has – for the last 10 or so years – become very open to immigration.

    More here: http://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/top-stories/the-lesson-of-singapore-is-not-one-brexiteers-want-to-hear-1-5147478

  • How can he make such outrageous and unattainable statements? The EU has not even given us an extension at all let alone one that flies in the face of their various rules and safeguards.

    Is it that we must wait until some one of them makes a step too far over the line?

    If yes, what is that line? How can we free the country from these self serving people?

  • They should all be impeached for taking actions contrary to the health of British people. They are incompetent and first class charlatans! Brexit is the most damaging public policy ever conceived.

  • Most leaver are too emotionally involved. They do not even care if the economy falls off the cliff. All they are interested in is to have the country back and no more foreigners, no matter in what state the country would be. Like Michael Cain said:” I d rather be poor and free than rich and controlled” But the reality is that he knows he is not poor. Had he been poor he would not have made that stupid statement. The EU is not about control. Its about peace, security and working in partnership. UK would be too small to compete with the US and the EU and being an isolationist in todays world will not work.

  • Having usurped most of the powers from Parliament, it is looking increasingly likely that David Davis’s team will negotiate some miserable deal, and the Government will then put it to Parliament for a last ‘take it or leave it’ vote. The threat will be if you don’t for it, you will be voting for no deal, and you will be helping Jermey Corbyn. I really hope there are some Tories who will have the balls to stand up for what they know is right for our future as a country, and not let themselves be used as pawns by the party machine. We have heard some fine words from some of them, but you wonder why they are in Parliament if they can’t put them into action.
    Any such final vote must also have a third option. An option not to accept the negotiated deal and to remain in the EU. It defies logic to have to choose between 2 miserable options for our future, when by the time negotiations have concluded, there is so obviously a better third option.