Brexit Bulletin: The Teflon Don
‘I’ve been talking to myself, Just to suggest that I’m selfish..’ 1
It doesn’t seem to matter what Johnson says or does, nothing seems to be sticking to him, conversely whatever the other party’s say or do seems to have little, or no positive impact on their ratings.
This week we will seek to understand why he is faring so well in the polls, and then examine three areas to highlight why he shouldn’t be
‘It doesn’t seem to matter what Johnson says or does, nothing seems to be sticking to him’
Roughly halfway through the election campaign polls are predicting a Conservative majority of c.60 seats. They appear to have learned for the debacle in 2017, running a more disciplined and focused campaign.
Whilst the lead at the half-way point is equal to the lead Theresa May held at the same point in 2017, this time around several things have changed:
- By this point in 2017 May’s lead, that peaked at over 20 points, had already been cut in half, due to a botched manifesto launch, arguments over the ‘dementia tax’ social care proposals and May’s poor performances on the campaign trail.
- The Brexit Party’s decision to stand down in Conservative-held seats has given Johnson a head-start in the race to squeeze third-party support, removing a competitor for Leave voters in nearly half of the country’s constituencies, and signalling to Leave voters everywhere that Johnson’s Brexit policy is tacitly endorsed by Farage himself.
- The Conservatives have gained nearly three points in polling since the announcement, while the Brexit party has fallen by a similar amount.
- Johnson holds a massive lead over Jeremy Corbyn in favourability ratings and ‘best prime minister’ questions
- Leave voters are uniting behind the Conservatives whilst Remain voters are still split, Labour still command less than half of the Remain vote.
- Labour Leave voters are switching to the Conservatives in much larger numbers than Conservative.
- Remain voters are going to Labour, a difference that could prove decisive in the Leave-leaning marginals that may decide this election. A constituency poll last week from Great Grimsby, a Labour held marginal that voted 70% Leave in 2016, showed the Conservatives 13 points ahead
Johnson really appears to be on a roll, nothing seems impossible
‘When we play at cards you use an extra sense
(it’s really not cheating)
You can read my hand, I’ve got no defence….’ 2
It isn’t that he has an extra sense, the electorate are being brainwashed and bamboozled, reciting ‘Let’s get Brexit done’, like a mantra
However, being so keen to get it done might, in the words of Britain’s former envoy to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, lead to Johnson sowing the seeds of ‘the biggest crisis of Brexit to date’.
‘sowing the seeds of ‘the biggest crisis of Brexit to date’
In a scathing verdict on the government’s ‘diplomatic amateurism’, he went on to say that Johnson was repeating Theresa May’s ‘strategy errors’ and would soon find himself ‘unwisely’ boxed in by his campaign promises.
These promises are included in the Conservative party manifesto, as Johnson continue with his promise not to extend an 11-month transition period should we leave the EU on 31 January 2020.
Negotiating a trade deal with the EU in an unprecedentedly quick time is the centrepiece of his misleading pledge to ‘get Brexit done’.
While it might to agree a ‘quick and dirty’ trade deal by the end of 2020, Rogers said it would exclude the UK services industry and give the EU leverage over fishing rights in British waters.
‘It all points to a repetition of exactly the syndrome we have suffered for the last three [years]. And a repetition of myopia on which ultimately lands us with a poor and deteriorating relationship on multiple things that really matter, economically and strategically,’ he said.
The pressure to ‘get Brexit done’ will mean that if returned as prime minister, Johnson will soon make ‘a lot of concessions’ to secure his deal.
‘EU side just sees a huge open goal opportunity and repeats its playbook from the article 50 process’
‘Because we are under time pressure and known to be desperate to ‘escape vassalage’ by the end of 2020 … the EU side just sees a huge open goal opportunity and repeats its playbook from the article 50 process,’ Rogers added.
He argues that whilst the UK could get a basic free trade agreement by the end of 2020, the two sides risk heading to ‘a no-trade deal’ in the short to medium term and ‘a very difficult relationship after that’.
And from getting it done, to not even bothering; firstly, social care:
Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, had to defend Johnson over his decision to shelve plans to overhaul social care funding in the Conservatives’ manifesto launch.
‘defend Johnson over his decision to shelve plans to overhaul social care funding’
The Tory pledged in their manifesto to allocate an extra £1bn a year for the social care sector, while guaranteeing that no one should have to sell their home to meet the costs, this falls someway short of Johnson’s rallying cry on the steps of Downing Street when he took office, claiming ‘we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all … with a clear plan we have prepared’
Sir Andrew Dilnot, the former chair of the commission on funding of care and support, said the Tory plans were ‘really not very specific’, adding: ‘Four months ago we had the prime minister standing on the steps of Downing Street saying he would fix the crisis in social care once and for all with ‘a clear plan we have prepared’. And then yesterday we were told we will commit to urgently seek a cross-party consensus.
‘If there is real energy about seeking a cross-party consensus then maybe we can get something done and that will be great, but it’s striking that there is no clear plan here.’
Sally Warren, the director of policy at the King’s Fund, said the Conservatives’ funding pledge was ‘a couple of billion pounds short a year’ of what was required. ‘The money we’ve seen from the Conservatives yesterday is not going to be enough to continue to meet demographic pressures as our population ages over the next five years,’ said Warren, who is a former director of social care policy at the Department of Health.
In addition, Johnson has also faced scrutiny over the party’s pledge to deliver 50,000 more nurses, after it emerged that nearly 20,000 of that number include existing staff who would be encouraged to remain, or those who had left being encouraged to return.
Moving on to the specific care subject of child poverty the picture is even bleaker.
‘a rise in the number of children living in relative poverty under a Johnson-led government to 34.5% in 2023-24 up from 29.6% in 2017-18’
Analysis by the Resolution Foundation thinktank organisation predicted a rise in the number of children living in relative poverty under a Johnson-led government to 34.5% in 2023-24 up from 29.6% in 2017-18. The thinktank highlighted a huge gulf in what the two main parties are prepared to put into public spending, with Labour committing 28 times as much as the Conservatives.
- Johnson set aside an extra £2.9bn a year by the end of the parliament that will largely go into more nurses, GP appointments and free childcare,
- while Jeremy Corbyn set out an extra £83bn a year for a programme of free broadband, scrapping university fees, reversing benefit cuts and extra funding for the NHS and social care.
The Resolution Foundation said the rise in relative poverty expected under a Conservative government was largely because of the impact of the two-child limit on support for families, which is mostly still to take effect.
Laura Gardiner, the research director at the Resolution Foundation, said: ‘Against the backdrop of major cuts, the parties’ manifestos do offer big choices on social security.
‘Under the Conservatives little is set to change, and child poverty risks reaching a record high in the coming years. Labour and Liberal Democrat pledges to spend £9bn more would mean child poverty being over 500,000 lower than under Conservative plans. However, this would not do enough to see child poverty fall from today’s already high levels.’
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data from 2016 shows that France, Italy, Sweden, Greece and Germany all dedicate more of their GDP to public spending on social goods (1) than the UK; between 25% and 31%. The UK spends 21%, which is slightly more than the US, Australia at 19%.
‘To hell with poverty, we’ll get drunk on cheap wine…’ 3
And finally, climate change, the biggest threat the world has ever faced. Unless of course you live in La, La Land when, obviously, it’s Brexit
‘climate change, the biggest threat the world has ever faced. Unless of course you live in La, La Land’
It’s of such overriding importance that Johnson is refusing to take part in tonight’s (Thursday 28th) climate crisis leaders’ debate on Channel 4.
The Green party’s Caroline Lucas said: It’s outrageous that he can’t spare an hour to address the greatest challenges of our time. How are we supposed to trust the prime minister’s word that he’s taking climate and nature emergency seriously?
Nicolas Stern, author of a landmark climate report, said it was crucial that all political leaders showed up for the debate to give voters the chance to see how future governments would respond to the unfolding emergency.
Stern, a crossbench member of the House of Lords and Chair of the Grantham Research Institute at the LSE, said voters had a right to hear ‘a more detailed discussion between the leaders about how their governments would rise to challenges of acting with the urgency and scale demanded by these issues’.
‘Will this hubris prove to be his undoing? Taking us all down as we race to the tune of his breakneck timetable’
For many voters, particularly young ones, climate change and nature are two of the most important issues at this election and they should be well-informed about each leader’s views about them when they vote.
Johnsons decision not to take part comes after warning yesterday from scientists that the world may already have crossed a series of climate tipping points posing ‘an existential threat to civilisation’.
So, there we have it. Despite a dilatory and uncaring attitude to spending on social care, including child poverty, and being seemingly unmoved by climate change, the Johnson bandwagon rolls-on.
Even this weeks’ revelations of a dossier showing clear intent on behalf of the US to include the NHS in trade talks was denied by Johnson, all 400+ pages of it.
All he really cares about is ‘getting Brexit done’. Will this hubris prove to be his undoing? Taking us all down as we race to the tune of his breakneck timetable.
‘And I’m in love with myself, There’s nothing else but me…’ 4
- This includes investment in health, old age, incapacity-related benefits, family, work programmes, unemployment, and housing
OK lyric spotters, another double double as we stagger towards the ‘Get Brexit Done’ Party; and it’s a pretty eclectic mix tape from Philip this week – as is becoming unfortunately familiar, I managed to blow the froth off of a couple of blousy cocktails, but those able to get into the hard stuff can fill their boots this week – plenty of points on offer, although no postal entries please because humping Santa’s engorged sacks around is already taking a toll on the little fellows.
First up 1 is one that really irked me – I knew it was in there, but not the kind of track I was looking for – 3 points if you landed ‘a classic from an 80s supergroup – just a great track, but one missed by the many’. Certainly missed by me – Electronic and ‘Getting Away With it’
Next 2 ‘a gimmie’ from a band that ‘just delivered great 3-minute pop songs and this is no exception’ – and you still would; Blondie with ‘(I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence Dear’. 1 point
3 is one that had escaped me, but I’m pleased to have met it ‘one of the finest post-punk bands, and one with a very militant attitude’ – three well earned points for the Gang of Four with ‘To Hell With Poverty’. Quite.
Last but not least 4 even with the clue ‘East Kilbride’s finest – the sound that spawned a host of copycats but never bettered’ I didn’t get to Jesus and Mary Chain and ‘The Living End’. 3 well earned points for that – enjoy!
Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s
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