Boris Johnson is a genius at only one factor. He’ll all the time get this one query proper: what’s greatest for me? That’s why it takes no psychoanalyst, telepathist or cup of tea leaves to learn his easy thoughts over his nice deal-or-no-deal dilemma. It must be a deal.
Look again at his quick evening of the unbelievable soul, when he emerged to inform the world that after an unlikely “enormous quantity of heartache”, he would be part of the leavers. In fact he would: it was the one path to get the Tory social gathering membership to pick out him as chief. To again stay would have forged him on the sidelines with Michael Heseltine, one of many many who “may have been a contender”.
With Wayne Sleep choreography, with a pantomime macho show and songs of Brexit defiance to appease his backbenchers, the ego-pilot is skilfully steering HMS Boris safely to port with a commerce deal on board. The ever-patient EU seems on, unamused however keen to “go the additional mile” so he can proclaim a last-minute victory towards the tyrants of Brussels.
It was sure to occur, as soon as the no-details prime minister was compelled to take a cursory look at precise information. The Sunday Occasions is the bellwether he watches with care: Murdoch strikes when change is inevitable. This week’s version was designed to frighten the residing daylights out of its readers, provoke a stampede of panic-buying and terrify Brexit MPs right into a deal. “Ministers warn supermarkets to stockpile meals,” it splashed. “Emergency planners predict that no deal would spark panic-buying”, whereas “well being ministers have informed suppliers of medicines to stockpile”. No deal makes “borders susceptible to individuals smugglers and legal gangs”.
If that doesn’t shiver the timbers, the paper’s economics editor explodes Johnson’s “we are going to prosper mightily” shtick. He writes, “I really feel sorry for these with the job of attracting new overseas capital to this nation,” exposing the post-referendum collapse in funding and productiveness, lengthy earlier than Covid. The chief reads, “This looming disaster isn’t the Brexit the PM promised.”
In its personal inimitable fruitcake vogue, the Telegraph studies that ministers are promising “billions in no-deal assist for farmers and factories”. Mega-compensation for no-deal tariffs for all within the fishing, farming, chemical compounds and automobiles sectors? Actually? If true, we’re leaving the EU’s “appalling” widespread agricultural coverage, as a result of it spends a fortune propping up unprofitable farming, as a way to subsidise in perpetuity not simply our farming, however nearly all the pieces. At a stroke that reverses each Thatcherite “lame-duck” taunt that killed off mining, metal and shipbuilding.
However look, lo, on the pantomime stage see a gleam on the finish of the tunnel. Now the Brexit press sees “Mounting hypothesis Brussels is getting ready to climb down” (Telegraph); “EU chiefs seem like buckling” (Categorical). We are able to all write the remainder of the script. Johnson tried “deal” and “no deal” in entrance of his mirror to see which greatest saves his political pores and skin. There can be a deal in these final days: a awful, rotten, flea-bitten factor, however infinitely higher than nothing.
Now all Johnson has to do is face down the pantomime villains on his backbenches – a mere handful of true diehards corresponding to Iain Duncan Smith, who nonetheless bellows, “Surrendering to the outlandish calls for of Brussels is just not an possibility”. Oh sure it’s.
The prime minister solely needed to look on the polls. Britain Thinks finds fewer diehard Brexiters, fallen since February from 35% to 25%. They nonetheless help Brexit, however with much less confidence. Opinium finds extra disillusioned Brexiters turning away from the Tories. One other ballot finds just one in six again no deal.
There might not be many Bregretters: altering one’s thoughts on one thing so identity-defining is uncommon. However now Britain has left the EU, right here’s what’s going to matter: YouGov finds a big majority say the federal government is dealing with Brexit badly, by 64% to 23%. Blame lies with Johnson alone; his genius for self-interest received the referendum and the election, however his outrageously false guarantees are actually flapping house to roost. Now he owns each consequence.
The concept that remainers share any duty is preposterous. Devious class framing tries to forged all 48% stay voters as an out-of-touch metropolitan elite, whereas all of the 52% Brexiters had been left-behind hard-done-by purple wallers. Youth versus age is a greater match. Brexit was swung by well-heeled aged Tories of shires and suburbs with much less to lose. They had been led by Etonian Johnson and Nigel Farage the commodities dealer, bankrolled by the likes of the billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, who has simply decamped his automobile manufacturing unit to the EU.
They had been mistaken, and day by day that passes will show it. However that class framing is intelligent politics: the left is so good at absorbing social guilt. Remainers have to get off their apologetic knees and make the blame land the place it belongs. No, not rerunning the referendum, that’s over – however guarding the long run.
Unhealthy occasions are not often fertile floor for higher politics. The lesson from the 2008 banking crash is that blame for the ache was simply perverted and diverted; that demagogues and rogues feed on hardship, warping it to their very own use. As Labour attracts degree with the Tories, with Johnson’s rankings tumbling because the election, the stay events collectively have the firepower to ensure those that led the nation into this calamity would be the ones to pay the worth.
• Polly Toynbee is a Guardian columnist