Ok so here’s the thing.
I recently wrote an article that was, by far, the most-read, shared and engaged post that Between the Lines has posted so far.
And it’s not hard to see why – things are a teeny weeny bit tense at the moment. Which is an understatement that equals, “Roger Federer is quite good at tennis.” All those who read the article (and thank you for doing so) presumably wanted to understand why.
Boris Johnson ripped up the rulebook on Wednesday morning, stating his intent to prorogue Parliament in order to prevent it from stopping his Brexit plan.
And I, bastion of unbiased analysis and impartiality that I am, wrote an article calling him a dickhead for doing so.
Make no mistake, I maintain that BoJo is a dickhead.
However, now that the furore around the move has subsided from apocalyptic to mere abject fury, I think it is worth taking stock of what the situation really is.
And maybe with a touch less hyperbole.
This Is Not A “Baller Move”, But A “Weird Flex”
Yeah I don’t understand popular culture at all. But hear me out.
Johnson, at his core, yearns to be loved.
This move to prorogue Parliament is designed to get this Brexit shit-show out of the way so that he can move on to be the glorious leader our country needs (or deserves, if you want to throw a Batman analogy into it).
He has created a task-force to do this, full of cynical but effective political strategists. The thinking is that people are exhausted by Brexit. It’s gone on too long, no-one has had a clear strategy, and we can all move on once it’s done.
All of those statements are true. We’re all sick of it. It’s the political equivalent of that one person at a party that stays a bit too long and for some reason starts picking at the leftover nibbles.
Those leftover nibbles, so we are entirely clear, are for the hosts to enjoy the morning after rather than do the cleaning up.
But it’s not enough. To merely look at the exhaustion of voters across the UK and say “Well, they’ve given up, so we can do what we want” is utter rubbish.
Certainly in our elected representatives it’s rubbish. Our MPs were voted in in 2017, and they are still the people tasked with serving their constituents after all of the misery that’s happened since. I’d wager most of them are probably so fed up with Brexit that they’d rather be Prince Andrew’s Press Liaison than continue with their current job.
And yet still they fight. Still the anti-no-deal brigade fight on, as they have for the last three years.
But now, crucially, they are all utterly, utterly furious.
Johnson’s move was taken straight out of Game Theory, but he has failed to recognise that no-one else gives a toss. While the move might be a tactical masterstroke, Brexit has never been about tactics.
It’s about emotion.
Let’s Get Real
Brexit is no longer about Europe. Yes, the EU has a small mountain of flaws, but remaining in it is still the lesser of two evils, in a purely economic sense.
Many of those (but absolutely not all) who voted to Leave were told that the EU was to blame for their own lack of opportunities in life by mainstream media press like the Mail, the Sun and the Express. Initially the arguments were about the EU and, fundamentally, immigration.
But can any Leaver look me in the eye and tell me that, honestly, that’s really what it’s still about?
I would argue that it’s now about “I’m right and you’re wrong, and to hell with you for telling me otherwise.”
The Brexit Party are unequivocally in favour of a no-deal Brexit, as Farage said two days ago, despite its catastrophic economic fallout (as predicted by economists and business leaders). For them, it’s not about leaving the EU for the sake of the country, because if it was then they would want a deal.
It’s about proving that their political Johnson is longer and girthier than Johnson’s own Johnson.
And it’s utterly mental to think that way, yet they are the ones that Boris is pandering to.
There is no Brexit that doesn’t damage the UK in the short-term. But the damage is mitigated significantly by having a deal in place with one of the largest trading blocs in the world.
But the game has changed. It changed on Tuesday, when the opposition leaders of parties with a vast variety of policy ideas got together under a united banner. It was cemented on Wednesday, when their opponent played a deft hand to destroy their momentum.
But now, that cement is not just laid: it is set. Whatever their previous quibbles against one another, Johnson’s opponents finally stand united.
Not to undermine the will of the people. Not to undermine democracy. But to make sure that those elected to Parliament, by the people, have their say.
They are fighting to safeguard the single most important cornerstone of democracy. Johnson’s mission is legitimate, so long as it has the consent of those who we voted into power.
Otherwise, we might as well have a dictatorship.