One of the things you must do to keep your sanity during this general election campaign, which thankfully has less than a week less to run, is amuse yourself with the paradoxes that exist at the heart of the Tory campaign and indeed, Boris Johnson himself, ones that have hardly been explored during the last six weeks. I think these three are the most interesting.
Johnson’s ability to seem like the most reasonable actor capable of reaching Downing Street after December 12th is based largely on the fact that most people don’t believe he’s being honest a lot of the time
While opposition parties have failed to even try to demolish Johnson’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and point out the numerous flaws in his “get Brexit done” mantra, this was always going to be an uphill battle anyhow. If you say to people, “We’re going to face no deal Brexit again at the end of 2020”, a lot of them don’t buy it because when Johnson swears he won’t extend the transition period, they largely don’t believe him. He said he would “die in a ditch” if we didn’t leave by October 31st and then when that didn’t happen, no one minded that much. His dishonesty was priced in. Johnson is not only not expected to keep his promises – the fact that he is unlikely to do so in many cases is a built-in assumption that oddly works in his favour. This is what makes him most like Trump: he becomes impossible to defeat given the fact that people allow him leeway on stuff they would never allow anyone else and that strangely becomes a large part of his appeal, the fact that he has this power over people. The whole thing becomes self-reinforcing.
Johnson wants a large majority so that he can ignore the ERG and do what he likes without their madness getting in the way, but in order to get there he needs the votes of all the Brexity people whose thinking lines up with the ERG
In order to become powerful enough to ignore the Brexity, he must woo all of the Brexity to his side. He must get all of the Leavers to vote for him to have a large majority so that he can then ignore most of what they actually want from then on.
Johnson’s lack of honesty about Brexit may end up saving the country
Most Remainers are associating a large Tory majority with a hard Brexit. This may of course turn out to be true. Yet my hunch is that given Johnson doesn’t really care about Brexit when push comes to shove and actually just wants it out of the way, this very likely means us staying in transition for years and years given this may be the path of least resistance. This would allow the next political generation space to take up Remain again given we will still be in the single market and customs union with more years of negotiation ahead. What I mean here is, Dominic Raab would have been much more honest about Brexit but honesty isn’t always the best thing, at least not in politics in 2019.