Wednesday, 15 June 2022

The PM is more successful than many realise


Reports suggest that the expected mutiny amongst Tory MPs over the plans to unilaterally tear up an international agreement may have been over-exaggerated, as the majority of the expected rebels guard their silence. Maybe they are just biting their tongues waiting for the right moment; maybe they are basically happy with the UK government breaching international law as and when it sees fit; or maybe they have been gullible enough to believe the suggestion being put about by some Johnson supporters that it is all a gigantic bluff, designed to shock the EU into rolling over and agreeing to whatever the UK government wants.

The last of those seems the likeliest. The report tells us, for example, that “One MP said the party was trying not to criticise the government in case it jeopardised the chances of Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, returning to the negotiating table, and that they were hoping the legislation would never have to come to a vote”. There are two slight problems with that analysis, though. The first is that it’s not the first time that the PM will have got something through on the basis of a false promise that he didn’t really mean it, although that doesn’t prevent Tory MPs being gullible enough to believe him. The second is that it sort of assumes that no-one of any importance in the EU will be able to read the same reports. But then, assuming that all foreigners are stupid is what English exceptionalists do. In the real world, knowing that the UK government will struggle to get the bill through both houses of parliament, that the process is likely to take up to eighteen months, and that the shelf life of the current PM is likely to be a lot less than that, it’s just possible that those foreigners will be astute enough to conclude that they might be better off waiting to see who the successor is, and whether he or she is any more trustworthy, before agreeing to any renegotiation. Which means, of course, that this cunning ploy to speed up change is more likely to delay it. That is an entirely normal outcome for the sort of ‘cunning’ plan devised by Johnson, even if he never expects it.

It is all, however, helping the PM to achieve one of his main stated aims, that of uniting the country. He could soon become the most successful Tory PM in history in terms of uniting the monarchy, the nobility, the clergy of the established church in England (long-known as ‘the Tory Party at prayer’, the customarily Tory press, and the electorate at large, as well as the heads of government in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The only slight problem – for him at least – is that the thing which is uniting them is opposition to him and his policies. Still, I’m sure he'll find a way of describing it as a great success, and a majority of his MPs can still be relied on to parrot the message. For now.

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