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At issue . . .

06 September 2019

IT HAS always been about an election. From the start of Boris Johnson’s time in Downing Street, there has never been any real intention to govern. He has known that Parliament would continue to block a no-deal Brexit, and every speech and every move that he has made has been engineered to provoke an election in which a tough, Brexiteer Tory Party could take advantage of splits in the Remain camp, reclaim voters from the Brexit Party, and secure a workable majority. As the Conservative leadership has known for years, elections are when Mr Johnson is most in his element. They are periods when anything can be said, everything can be promised, with no serious comeback if they are shown to be falsehoods. It is for this reason that, despite the Archbishop of Canterbury’s advice against the use of hostile language, Andrew Brown repeats the widely held view that Mr Johnson is an unprincipled liar. It is for this reason that Tim Farron, interviewed for this week’s back page, says: “Being gracious towards others does not mean that we must shrug and meekly accept their dishonesty.”

However many times Mr Johnson has been caught out in other areas, his Government’s lies about Brexit are of a far greater seriousness. There are no significant negotiations going on with the EU. There is no prospect that a new deal will be struck at the EU Council next month (deals are negotiated with the European Commission, not the EU leaders). The politeness of EU leaders is not a sign of their willingness to acquiesce to British demands: it is merely bemusement at the self-destructive nature of the Government’s policy. Is there any wonder that the opposition parties have not trusted Mr Johnson not to move the date of a General Election?

The greatest lie is that all will be well once Britain withdraws from the EU. Ivan Rogers, writing in this week’s Spectator, says: “No amount of repetition of ‘this will all be terribly easy’ ever makes it true.” Instead, he paints a picture of years of wrangling, as the 27 EU countries respond unsympathetically to a country that has expressed a strong desire to function apart, and other trading partners exploit the UK’s desperation in order to secure deals advantageous to themselves. Again, this scenario has been laid before the Government. It has chosen to lie about it to the electorate. If Mr Johnson succeeds in tricking Parliament into agreeing to an election (not known at point of writing), it will open the floodgates of mendacity, as he depicts MPs as working against the people’s interests. As the leaked Yellowhammer documents showed, this is a charge that should be laid instead at Mr Johnson’s door. Christians through the ages have been enjoined to pray for the monarch and his or her ministers. Perhaps Mr Johnson’s soul should get a mention.

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