For the past month or 2, the Brexit debate has been over-shadowed by the Conservative leadership elections. It has been a brief respite from the issue that has dominated the headlines for over 3 years – although it is true that the leadership race has revolved very much around the candidates’ position on Brexit.
As a Conservative party member, I am one of the 160,000 or so who have a vote in this election. For what it is worth, I have voted for Boris Johnson. Despite his many flaws, there are two reasons why I have given him my support.
Firstly, I believe he has a genuine intention to deliver on the result of the 2016 referendum. How this will work out I am not entirely sure (I will come to this in a minute), but I do at least feel that Boris ‘gets it’ (as far as Brexit is concerned): we need to end the uncertainty, and the only way we can do this is by setting a deadline for delivering Brexit, and by not taking any options off the table.
On the other hand, I do feel that Jeremy Hunt is the complete antithesis to Boris Johnson. Mr Hunt has all the detailed answers when Boris has few. As far as I am aware, Mr Hunt is ‘Mr Clean’ whereas Mr Johnson is clearly quite a colourful character. And Mr Hunt is a realist where Mr Johnson is unashamedly an optimist.
And this is the second reason I support Boris. His optimism. Right now, we need someone who is confident in this country’s ability to stand on its own. Someone who is optimistic about the future. Someone who believes in their ability.
We have had 3 years of the Mrs May approach to Brexit, and despite her best efforts, this approach has got us nowhere. I fear that Mr Hunt would be more of the same. And right now, we have to try something different to move things forward.
Assuming Boris is elected leader of the Conservative Party, he will also become Prime Minister. But does this mean that delivering Brexit by October 31st is certain? To be honest, I doubt it.
As optimistic as Boris might be, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome. Firstly, there is the problem of the tiny majority he would have in Parliament. Several Tory MP have already hinted they will leave the party if Boris becomes PM, and this could leave him with no majority at all.
Jeremy Corbyn keeps hinting at a vote of no confidence, and it is likely he will try to bring down the Government. The ability for a Boris-led Government to survive a no confidence vote is not certain.
Whether Boris Johnson could survive as PM until the autumn without being forced to call a General Election is not clear. If he lost a no-confidence vote he would have to. But he may also face calls from within the Conservative Party to call an election. Or he may decide to take a gamble himself and call an election to try to build a majority in Parliament (although he might want to think twice about this as the last time a sitting PM did this it didn’t work out too well … ).
The outcome of a General Election is impossible to call – it seems hard to believe that despite the mess the Conservative Party is in and the complete disaster Mrs May’s attempt to deliver Brexit has been, the Labour Party is tearing itself apart with no clear position on Brexit, and their disastrous handling of anti-semitism within the party.
Anti-Brexit MPs, with the assistance of the incredibly bias Speaker (John Bercow), seem to be trying every trick in the book to frustrate Brexit, with centuries of Parliamentary precedence being ripped up to allow anti-Brexit MPs to take power away from the Government.
And today, we hear of yet another attempt to drag Brexit back into the Courts by Gina Miller. Her latest bid would see her trying to stop a future PM asking the Queen to use Her prerogative powers to prorogue Parliament.
Whilst I am not entirely sure if I would support suspending Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit, it is no business of an un-elected individual to use their wealth to frustrate our political system. For one thing, it sets a very dangerous precedent. Do we really want the Courts interfering in politics?
As we saw a few weeks ago, another wealthy anti-Brexit campaigner tried to use the Courts to bring a private prosecution against Boris Johnson. Thankfully, the Courts did (eventually) see common sense. They accepted the veracity of the infamous ‘£350 million extra for the NHS’ claim was not as misleading as some would have you believe – their ruling essentially was that £350 million was the gross figure, and the net figure was closer to £250 million.
But more importantly, they ruled that it would be without precedent anywhere in the world for Courts to rule on claims made as part of a political campaign. It is for the electorate to judge, not the Courts.
(I am in no way condoning lies and manipulation in political campaigning – this is one of the reasons politics and politicians are seen as untrustworthy and corrupt – and I would like to see politics clean up its act. But this is not something for the Courts – it is for the electorate to judge the integrity of their representatives at the ballot box).
But I digress …
It is highly likely that in the next 10 days or so, Boris Johnson will be our new Prime Minister. He needs to bring this Brexit farce to some sort of conclusion as soon as possible. The country needs to move forward and concentrate on domestic issues that have been neglected for far too long – health, eduction and policing.
I think one thing that everyone will agree on, regardless of how they voted 3 years ago, is that leaving the EU doesn’t seem quite so important now. It needs to be sorted, and we need to get on with life.