Will Great Britain be more decisive on Brexit than its parliament was? Presumably, we will receive an answer over the next few weeks, when the result of the next General Election will be announced; on December, 13. After months of deadlock, Boris Johnson finally got, from the so-called “Zombie Parliament”, what he wanted: MPs to agree to his Christmas elections claim.
Johnson’s political gamble
On his biography on Winston Churchill, Johnson writes that: “To some extent all politicians are gamblers with events. They try to anticipate what will happen, to put themselves ‘on the right side of history’.”
“As Mr Churchill Put his shirt on a horse called anti-Nazism… and his bet came off in spectacular fashion, ‘Mr Johnson has put his shirt on a horse called Euroscepticism”, last February, the Financial Times said.
That bet has now gone further. Johnson’s call for a general election means that he is wagering that voters will trust in him and secure his position as the man to get Brexit done right after the polling. Johnson hopes that voters won’t blame him for the fact that Brexit has not been delivered yet. He’s confident that he has shifted that blame onto someone else: the deadlocked parliament, the opposition parties and the Tory MPs that betrayed him. He is betting nobody will blame him for making a pledge that was unlikely to be delivered.
He will not “die in a ditch”, as he is sure people are so impatient to “get Brexit done” that they will deliver him a majority that will enable him to pass his withdrawal agreement soon, allowing the UK to leave the EU by the end of January 2020. No more extensions needed.
Theresa May, in June 2017, gambled on a snap election hoping that it would deliver the majority that the pools were predicting (she was 20 points ahead of Labour) and which she believed she needed to get Brexit done. She failed, hopelessly.
Focusing narrowly on Brexit and basing her premiership upon her supposed strong and stable leadership, May’s campaign was “swiftly derailed by a disastrous manifesto launch,” The Times said. The Conservative majority was dramatically lost (45.6% Tories, 41.9% Labour) and she ended up in need of the support of the Democratic Unionist Party to remain in office.
A contest about many things, Brexit first
This is the most crucial vote for Britain facing the most important general elections in 40 years, since the war. Polling experts say the result is likely to be hard to gauge due to the fact that a part of the voters have switched parties in the last two elections.
Volatile voters don’t support the same party, election after election, as it used to happen in the past. That’s one of the reasons why the December 12 contest is the most unpredictable in a generation.
“Each political party will have its own manifesto – Professor Steven McCabe, Senior Fellow, Centre for Brexit Studies at Birmingham City University, explains – but the fact is that, the big question that will dominate over the others is Brexit”. What this election is going to become is a kind of referendum on Brexit because “this issue will overshadow all the rest,” he said.
Divisions between Leave and Remain voters will replace traditional Tory vs Labour ones.
Both sides are very nervous, both of the main parties are extremely worried about what may unfold; this is a huge risk for the Tories and for Labour and, at the same time, a great opportunity, in particular, for the smaller parties with huge expectations.
Such an open scenario shows that it is likely to become a four-way fight, giving inedited chances to Liberal Democrats as much as to the Brexit Party.
This election will move away from the single national campaign, focused on the domestic agenda, becoming a highly targeted one, especially in certain areas and for certain voters groups. It will not just be about stopping Brexit or getting it quickly done. In Northern Ireland the election will be about the union; in Scotland the SNP will be trying to seek every opportunity not just to stop Brexit but to look beyond it, preparing the ground to make their case for what they hope will be another push towards their independence.
It will be hard for all campaigners to make their traditional polling model work the way it did before, because things are fluid and unpredictable, now: a gamble for everyone.
The 2017 elections were a disaster for the Tories led by Theresa May. Anthony Sheldon, a well-known historian and biographer of political figures, wrote a book published by The Times revealing the inside story of May’s campaign:
The Tories have been the most divided party for a century
“Johnson has no intention of repelling voters as she did. He is more charismatic and will learn from May’s mistakes being better on the stump than she was. Even if he is considered untrustworthy, unserious and populist, he is the holder of a Brexit deal that he will use to win Labour seats on the Leave-voting areas,” He added that “He will also try to contrast and offset the certain losses created by voters in the Remain strongholds in Scotland and London. He will transform the centre-right Conservative Party into a rightwing nationalist one shaped by a single issue: “get Brexit done”.
Polling evidence suggests that support for Brexit may not be strong enough among many target voters to overcome their dislike to the Tories and the latest exodus of centrist Conservative MPs is an eloquent answer to this political hazard.
Tactical vote is likely to play a very important role in the next general elections as it did in the recent ones even if there is no guide at all of what could happen also considering that, both the main parties’ leader are natural campaigners, but they are divisive characters.
Right at the beginning of the British political campaign, President Donald Trump picked up the phone and gave unrequested advice. During a radio interview with Nigel Farage, he suggested his friend, Boris Johnson, to join forces with the leader of the Brexit Party.
“I know that you and him will end up doing something that could be terrific if you and he get together as, you know, an unstoppable force,” Mr Trump said.
He also criticized the PM’s Brexit deal overshadowing BoJo’s efforts to use it as a first, strong point in his manifesto.
During the radio interview, Trump claimed Johnson’s deal could limit or even prevent the UK from trading with the US, undermining every effort of selling the deal agreed with the EU as a key point to BoJo’s campaign to win Leavers’ vote.
Another important detail is represented by the loss of fortune affecting Farage’s party since the latest European elections. Last May the Brexit Party reached its highest peak, but after having enjoyed ratings of 20% in the early summer polls, it has gradually lost grounds to the Tories, falling to the current 10%, so far. Nevertheless, the Brexit Party could weaken the PM’s ambitions of winning by taking a large slice of Leave votes in many constituencies, this will inflict real damage on him.
Farage will be remembered for being responsible for giving the 2016 Referendum a chance to exist, whereas he will be always be considered responsible for the bitter division the referendum ultimately created in the country.
His latest decision is not to stand as a candidate, but just to support his party’s 600 candidates. “I don’t want to be in politics for the rest of my life,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
He also called Boris Johnson to ask him to drop his deal and create a “Leave Alliance”. “I always thought that to win an election, get a big majority so we can get a proper Brexit, a coming-together would be the objective.” Hopeless, he concluded: “I still hope and pray it happens but it doesn’t look like it will.”
Farage is considered to be a champion of a cause but, as politics is desperately trying to compromise in order to find a solution to the Brexit saga, will he be able to do it?
Labour’s cahiers de doléances
A political campaign focused on Brexit represents Jeremy Corbyn’s worst outcome. Labour’s manifesto is being drawn up and a key adviser warned Corbyn to stay neutral on this issue in order to avoid wrecking his campaign.
During his leadership, his negative personal ratings have broken all polling record. This explains the party’s reluctancy about going into another election and the deep nervousness of many Labour MPs to back it. Some of them think that Corbyn is unfit for Downing Street, others faithful expect his performance to come alive during the political campaign.
The Momentum army will give a huge support, but will also push him towards the hard-Left Socialism.
Corbyn describes himself as an alternative to austerity, inequality and claims a hard fight against the elites. As an immediate consequence, “The super-rich should prepare to leave the UK ‘within minutes’ if Labour wins the election,” The Guardian said, adding that “the wealthy see potential taxes imposed by Jeremy Corbyn as a bigger threat than Brexit”.
Corbyn’s Britain and Johnson’s Britain are hugely different countries, few MPs expect poll to solve the economic and the political problems created by the 2016 referendum outcome and to the uncertainty that came as a consequence to that result.
Lib Dems’ great chance
Liberal Democrats leaflet proclaims that Jo Swinson will be Britain’s next Prime Minister. She has claimed, at the general election, her party could take a lot of seats capitalizing the frustration of the Remain voters over “Labour’s willingness to enable Brexit”.
The leader of the Lib Dems backed the election after conceding that there was not enough support in parliament to secure a second referendum (on Brexit). That’s how a general election turned into her best way forward.
The Lib Dems’ official election policy is to stop Brexit and revoke Art 50, if they will win. Otherwise, they have a plan B.
The party has dashed predictions of a widespread Remain alliance and assured they will go on campaigning for a second referendum.
Jo Swinson’s biggest challenge is likely to come in the event of a hung Parliament. If the Lib Dems don’t win a majority, which is unlikely (even if they run allied with the SNP), with a significant number of seats, they could be involved in putting together a government. Another referendum is their price for agreeing to support one of the other parties.
The final outcome
And what about Brexit? If Boris Johnson wins his gamble, a Conservative majority will let the UK being able to leave the EU, even earlier than predicted. Likely, at the beginning of January 2020. This would be possible if BoJo will be able to get his deal through the parliament right after the general election, just before Christmas.
If Boris Johnson doesn’t win a comfortable majority, he will not have many allies. The Lib Dems and the SNP want to revoke Article 50, or at least hold a second Brexit referendum that’s why they will never back his deal, whereas the DUP will never back it if it is not changed.
If Jeremy Corbyn wins a majority in the Commons and enters Downing Street, he has to renegotiate Boris Johnson’s deal with the EU and call a second referendum and, then, if voters will back Leave again, negotiate a new deal. If Labour fails to win a majority, it is also possible for Corbyn to ask the support of both Lib Dems, the SNP and even Plaid Cymru in order to form the so-called “rainbow coalition” which will be able to work and solve the Brexit issue and, after that, go back to another election.
Will Boris Johnson’s Christmas Brexit gamble pay off?