Rod Liddle

Boris may end up delivering Corbyn

3 August 2019

9:00 AM

3 August 2019

9:00 AM

Alastair Campbell has written a longish ‘open’ letter to Jeremy Corbyn, helpfully explaining why he has decided not to contest his expulsion from the Labour party. The remarkable thing is that Alastair believes there is anyone of importance in the party, or indeed outside of it, who gives a monkey’s one way or the other. For all of Jeremy Corbyn’s myriad faults, he has not visited upon this country the two greatest crises, foreign and domestic, that the UK has endured since the second world war (by which I mean the Iraq war and unconfined immigration). Nor has Magic Grandpa lied to the British public and parliament with quite the same level of barefacedness as Mr Campbell; nor used the death of a government scientist to settle a personal vendetta with a journalist.

It is a mystery to me why Alastair is still wheeled out by the BBC to opine about anything, frankly, given that there is almost nobody left in the country who values his opinion. I am rather with the Momentum hordes who think he should have been kicked out for his role in the illegal invasion of Iraq, rather than for voting Liberal Democrat. In his letter, though, Campbell unwittingly revealed why the far left was able to take over Labour, banishing Blairism for good. Campbell’s main criticism is that Corbyn has not built a machine for winning an election — sod policy and principle, then. He also attacked Corbyn over Brexit, and yet — until recently — that is the one area where Corbyn, against enormous opposition from within the parliamentary Labour party, has behaved with a degree of fortitude, resisting calls for a fatuous second referendum until effectively bullied into it. That Corbyn resisted for so long, despite knowing that it was costing his party votes, is to his credit, I think. Not much else is to the idiot’s credit, but he can have that.

Nor am I quite so certain as Campbell that Labour will necessarily lose the next election. It is true that so far our new Prime Minister has scarcely put a foot wrong. He has shown decisiveness, positivity and strength at a time when the country had been long wearied by leadership which encapsulated the precise opposite. His ethnic–minority-stuffed cabinet and team of advisers has shown Labour for what it is — a party which keeps black and brown people captive under a shroud of victimhood, much as the Democrats do in the USA. The complaints from Labour that ‘real’ ethnic minorities would not join a Conservative cabinet are as repellent and arrogant as they are desperate.

Johnson has also set about the civil service, a much under-reported hindrance to both Brexit and indeed any policy which strays from the liberal left, by installing very close to it the ready-primed hand grenade which is Dominic Cummings. Johnson’s early policy of no deal being a one-in-a–million chance has been jettisoned — so that it now seems a more genuine prospect to the EU rather than being, as it hitherto was, a rather damp paper tiger. The Guardian is squealing — ‘The clown is crowned as the country burns in hell’ was one of its more measured headlines — and has begun to castigate Johnson as being spendthrift, an interesting take from a newspaper which has shrieked for five years about the iniquity of austerity. Barnier, Tusk et al are squealing too, and for once the UK is on the front foot in negotiations.

Boris has also thrown a few sops the way of more usually averse northern voters by promising them a few quid here or there to spend on pies and heroin. I am still not convinced it will be enough to win over the northerners who are less taken with Johnson’s schtick than the south-east of England is. And finally, he has wounded Nigel Farage’s Brexit party.

But Mr Farage is still there, nonetheless. The latest poll by Opinium shows the Brexit party down seven percentage points on a still stubborn — and for the Conservatives, calamitous — 15 per cent. And here is the problem. The exultant headlines in the right-wing press would lead you to believe — as Alastair Campbell’s letter does — that BoJo is poised to sweep all before him, a confident new leader who will easily swat aside the imbecilic Catweazel-Lenin hybrid from the opposition. And yet that is not quite what the opinion polls suggest. At very best, the Tories may have established a two-point lead over Labour, while at worst the two parties are neck and neck. Meanwhile, the Lib Dems have been a little rejuvenated and are polling at around the 16 per cent mark; the tougher Boris is with the EU, the more that figure is likely to increase. But the more conciliatory he is with the EU, the more likely it is that the Brexit party will siphon off sackloads of disgruntled Leaver Tory votes.

In other words he is caught between two poles. If Johnson were to strike some sort of deal with Nigel Farage it would necessitate sacrificing a number of seats, which he can ill afford to do. Nor will all of those Brexit party votes transfer directly to the Tories in the event of a successful delivery of Brexit (and still less so before 31 October). The huge Ukip vote in the north of England in 2015 transferred fairly evenly between Labour and the Conservatives in 2017 — you might expect the same sort of distribution next time around.

To win a majority, Boris needs to take the vast bulk of the Brexit voters and some more besides, and I don’t see where these votes are going to come from. Even assuming that Boris resists the temptation to do something spectacularly dumb in the next couple of months, the electoral maths is still broadly against him. Far from being banished, the spectre of a Corbyn-led government is slightly more likely than it was a year or so ago.

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