Let’s get Brexit done

POSTED: December 13, 2019

Yesterday Britain had a general election, with several likely outcomes. One of these predicted that Boris Johnson would win with a small majority, despite the fact that he had lied repeatedly throughout the campaign, and never once apologised when he got caught out.

This outcome didn’t, in the end, happen. Instead he won by a huge majority, giving the Conservative Party their biggest win since 1970: an outcome that not even his most enthusiastic supporters had predicted. Labour lost a lot of its core seats in the north of England, and the leader of the Lib Dems lost her seat.

The results on the BBC website, at 10:10 this morning, looked like this:

Some people have already begun trying to paint this as a product of the current media atmosphere in which fake news, Facebook posts and tweets make rational argument impossible. However, I think that this counts as a proper old-fashioned political victory.

Boris Johnson had one clear slogan: get Brexit done, which he repeated at every opportunity. This slogan chimed perfectly with the mood in the current climate of division and frustration in Britain. The Labour Party, under Jeremy Corbyn, had a bizarrely convoluted approach to Brexit that tried to please everyone and, in practice, pissed everyone off. Corbyn then tried to insist that voters did not want the election to focus on Brexit, and tried to move the argument to the NHS, free broadband for everyone, and almost anything else he could think of.

Johnson lied cheerfully, making things up on the spot, and Corbyn had no answer to this as a strategy. He doggedly continued trying to “be reasonable” while getting himself twisted into knots. He made himself irrelevant because the three years since the referendum, in which MPS rendered themselves impotent, really did make many people want to “get Brexit done”.

Johnson now has no excuses, in that he has nobody to stop him doing whatever he wants to do.

I suspect that he will “get Brexit done” by his promised date of January 31, 2020, by agreeing the minimal possible deal and kicking all the hard stuff down the road. He will then construct a series of plausible lies about how only the boring technical details now remain.

He will ask for the extension that he pledged he would never ask for on the grounds that “our European neighbours” have fallen into shock at the new dynamism shown by a resurgent independent Britain, and want more time to work out how to give us exactly what we want. He will then concede as much as he needs to to get an agreement that suits business lobbies and use some fancy-sounding, made-up jargon to persuade the electorate that the fact that everything looks the same proves that everything has changed for the better.

He may even succeed in doing this because, in some games, proven liars sometimes have useful roles to play.