In his first few weeks Boris Johnson seemed to carry all before him. Opponents of No Deal were wrong footed by a Prime Minister promising a No Deal Brexit and promises to spend billions on police, the NHS and schools.
But in the last few days Johnson’s zealotry on No Deal has seen the expulsion from the Tory Party of two former Chancellors and Winston Churchill’s grandson, the revelation that the government’s claim to be seriously negotiating in Brussels is a sham and two humiliating defeats in the Commons.
I have been very critical of the failure of anti No Dealers and Remainers to get their act together sooner. As I write it is still not certain that the anti no deal legislation will pass the Lords. The parliamentary mayhem of the last few days is partly because they didn’t get their act together in the summer and, for instance, prevent the party conference recess.
It also led to a cock up which allowed Labour MP Stephen Kinnock’s amendment to revive Mrs May’s Brexit deal be included in the anti no deal bill.
Nevertheless, late in the day twenty one Conservatives had the courage to stand up against their own party. A party now heavily infiltrated by former UKIP members. There is much attention on ultra-left entryism into Labour, but it is more serious with the Tories. A party that once prided itself in supporting a One Nation concept, and even under Margaret Thatcher, embraced and enhanced our membership of the European Union is now the Brexit Party lite, and not that lite either.
Former Chancellor Philip Hammond’s angry interview on the Today programme reminded me of Geoffrey Howe’s deadly undermining of Margaret Thatcher in 1990. Both were mild mannered, previously loyal Chancellors; but when they decided to make a move, their last hurrahs were effective. Hammond exposed the fact that the government weren’t seriously negotiating in Brussels. He pointed to the hypocrisy of Boris Johnson, who regularly voted against Mrs May’s deal now expelling senior figures in the Conservative Party at the behest of Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings, who wasn’t even a Conservative.
Such is the level of distrust in Boris Johnson that Labour are quite right to refuse to support a General Election until there is no chance at all of us leaving without a deal. The Prime Minister could refuse to present the no deal bill to the Queen for Royal Assent. If a mid-October election date was agreed and parliament was prorogued, one could envisage Boris Johnson announcing that, on further consideration more time was needed to discuss the issues in the General Election. A date could be fixed after Oct 31 when we would have left automatically. The fury of parliamentarians would be countered with some tosh about doing anything it takes to implement the 2016 Referendum result.
These thoughts will be rapidly overtaken by events. I still fear we are going to leave the EU, but let’s retain the belated energy shown by no deal and Remainer opponents for the future re-entry campaign when the scales fall from people’s eyes.