The Tories are still riding high in the polls. The prime minister’s personal ratings remain outrageously positive, as do the numbers reflecting faith in the government. So, it would be highly logical for you to rubbish the idea that the rally round the flag affect is on the wane at all. But I believe at a grassroots level, something is starting to shift. A lot of normally faithful Brexiteers are beginning to not only question some of the current lockdown strategy, a lot of normally faithful Tories are as well.
Sweden is starting to become a problem for Boris. I want to repeat before I go any further that I have no expertise in the science of this and it is very complicated. I am more than willing to believe that what has worked relatively well in Sweden would not have worked in the UK for many reasons. Yet the “Scandinavian model” here is starting to attract the political gravity, while at the same time the exact opposite idea, that the UK waited too long before going into lockdown, exerts the precise opposite pull, threatening to tear the consensus across most of the country around the government’s CoVid strategy to pieces.
Another problem is the combination of lockdown fatigue and the economic impact of the lockdown starting to feel widely felt. Again, this would happen even if the government’s strategy was the exact right one, but that doesn’t matter. Sometimes, even though the experts are right, the public decides a different way – as Boris should know all too well.
What can the government do at this point? Probably not a lot. Their bed has been made. I could talk here about something that is completely in their hands, what to do about the Brexit extension, but even there, every choice is a bad one. I’ve read a lot recently about how the government can choose to extend the transition and the public won’t mind. Yes, most of the public won’t mind, but a crucial slice of the electorate that voted Tory last time in key seats will mind, a lot. Then again, going for no deal at the end of this year, possibly when we’re just starting to really economically recover from the CoVid crisis, is the largest political gamble of all time. Boris would be betting his entire legacy that the WTO Brexit crowd were at least mostly right.
What next? The government is announcing something on next steps this Sunday. I think this needs to be substantive or else these trends could actually begin to become a problem for Boris.
I have a new book out now. It’s called “Politics is Murder” and follows the tale of a woman named Charlotte working at a failing think tank who has got ahead in her career in a novel way – she is a serial killer. One day, the police turn up at her door and tell her she is a suspect in a murder – only thing is, it is one she had nothing to do with. The plot takes in Conservative Party conference, a plot against the Foreign Secretary and some gangsters while Charlotte tries to find out who is trying to frame her for a murder she didn’t commit.
Also: there is a subplot around the government trying to built a stupid bridge, which now seems a charming echo of a more innocent time!
It’s available here:
Dave Chapman says
Only a hunch. Not based on anything other than an extension subsequent to Dec. 31 is an inescapably logical position. I think BoJo will go for the extension at the very last minute. If he gave advance warning of it he’ll have nothing but trouble for weeks and months. An overnight change of tack will the same as a policy coup. Opponents may grumble and gripe and go into a petulant session of foot-stomping but that will be after the unchangeable fact.
We’ll see, I suppose….
I think there will be an extension only if the basics of an agreement are clear, and extra time is needed to complete the details. And then it will be only for a specified period — maybe six months, more likely three — with absolutely no way to extend again.
After al that would be the equivalent situation of what happened last October.
I can’t see any extension if — as now — the two sides are so far apart that there seems no prospect of any agreement even on the basics. What after all would be the point of merely prolonging the uncertainty in that situation?
Clearly Remainers hope for an extension as they think that it’s easier to push rejoin if we are still stuck in the transition period, so they are clutching at straws. But that won’t be factoring into the government’s calculations.
n hunter says
I understand negotiations have begun with Trumps America re trade deals. If so, an extension will happen if the US deal takes longer than this year. After that is finalised Gove etc will drop the EU extention.. What happens to the country after that is anyones guess