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Boris Johnson: An Upbeat Week 1

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by John Brian Shannon

Finally, things are happening in the UK, now that the extended process for choosing a new Conservative leader is finally over. Thankfully.

New Prime Minister Boris Johnson had quite the week, didn’t he?

First there was his initial (short) speech in front of 10 Downing St (see the video here) and nicely followed-up by a full length speech in the House of Commons (see that video here) that outlined his priorities for the country. So far, so good.

Then it was off to visit the leaders of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, followed by a positive appearance at a factory in the West Midlands. All well and good.

Further into the Prime Minister’s first week in office some negatives began to appear, such as the Scottish Conservative Party leader questioning Mr. Johnson’s thinking on Scottish affairs, and then the Conservatives lost a seat in a byelection reducing their parliamentary majority to one.

So, they remain the government, and as long as there isn’t a contentious issue that divides Conservative MP’s the Prime Minister will continue governing the United Kingdom.

However, should a divisive issue appear when the House of Commons resumes in September and any number of Conservative MP’s abstain or vote against a government bill, it could precipitate a Vote of No Confidence in the government, and the entire government could conceivably fall. This would bring about a snap election and it’s anyone’s guess as to who would win.

From here, it looks like the Liberal Democrats would win a tiny majority and with such little experience on the government bench between them, that government would likely fall itself within days or weeks. Maybe long enough to cancel Brexit, or not.

But the LD’s should exercise caution in regards to Brexit if they, by accident, happen to become the government.

Why? Well, for one, Brexit came about as a result of a democratic vote by the citizens of the UK. And while implementing Brexit has been delayed for 1137-days as of this writing, the delay has in no way undone the result of the democratic vote.

Just because Liberal Democrat MP’s don’t like Brexit doesn’t mean they’re free to not respect the will of the people. A majority of UK voters DID vote to leave the EU.

Indeed, entire UK governments have been elected into power on a smaller margin than the 4% margin of victory Brexiteers enjoyed and those governments served their full term in power. Saying the Brexit vote was won by a small margin of victory and is therefore something less than legitimate just doesn’t cut it.

Also, some Liberal Democrat constituencies voted to leave the EU, and that, in addition to a majority of UK voters casting their ballot to leave the EU.

  • The EU was officially notified of the UK’s intention to leave the EU via the Article 50 instrument and it accepted the UK’s plan for leaving the EU.
  • The EU signed the Withdrawal Agreement that former UK PM Theresa May and EU President Jean Claude Juncker agreed in early 2019.
  • Subsequently, Theresa May couldn’t get the agreement passed in the House of Commons (3-times!) and the EU itself chose October 31, 2019 as the new Brexit date.
  • Therefore, unless both the UK and the EU sign a new agreement to postpone or cancel Brexit before October 31, 2019, the UK is set to automatically leave the EU on that date.

Understand, leaving the EU on October 31 is the default modality. Changing that date or cancelling Brexit under these circumstances is a very big deal.

So the LD’s would be smart to remember the following points should they form a government prior to October 31, 2019:

  1. A majority of UK voters chose in a democratic referendum to leave the EU and that instruction has yet to be carried out by the government, through no fault of voters.
  2. MP’s are elected to serve the people of the UK — not the other way ’round. The fact that many LD’s don’t like Brexit is completely irrelevant.
  3. Should the LD’s win the right to form a government in a Vote of No Confidence scenario they might win by a tiny margin and could be bounced from power within weeks and Brexit would be ‘back on track’ as soon as the Conservatives resumed power.
  4. Voters have long memories. And should the LD’s cancel the Brexit that voters voted for, they will write their party’s epitaph as the party that went against the will of a majority of the UK people. Good luck ever getting back into power after gaining that kind of reputation! Thenceforth they would become known as the ‘We’ll DO WHAT WE WANT party’.
  5. Liberal Democrats would be wise to know that the reason Brexit is unpopular among some Britons is because of the three long years of economic uncertainty due to the overly-extended Brexit negotiating process. The whole ‘Project Fear’ campaign was wrong, wrong, and wrong again! Not one of their ‘doom and gloom’ predictions came true. In fact, far from it. The UK economy weathered a 3-year stress test called ‘Brexit uncertainty’ and passed with flying colours. In short, Brexit is unpopular (with some) due to the 3-years of uncertainty — not because there is anything intrinsically wrong with Brexit itself. Had Brexit been completed in one year as it should’ve been, there wouldn’t have been any reservations by a small and vocal group of Remainers. (Tail, wagging the dog)
  6. If the LD’s do get elected via a protest vote, they should remember that protest vote victories carry with them less legitimacy to govern than non-protest vote election results. Such governments formed in a protest vote situation aren’t voted-in for any other reason than the voters wish to expel the incumbent government because they’re angry at them for doing something wrong, or for not doing something that voters wanted done — not because the protest vote beneficiaries are themselves overflowing with virtue, or because they’re more popular. They get in because voters wanted the other party out of power and (LD’s in this hypothetical example) simply got more votes than the other protest vote party (Labour, in this example) nothing more. Therefore, it’s not a mandate to govern, it’s a coin toss.

First Weeks are Usually Chaotic. This First Week for new PM Boris Johnson was No Better nor Any Worse Than Any Other PM’s First Week

Of course, the media need to sell newspapers, get airtime, get clicks on their websites, but it’s time to move on. First weeks are always this way and have been since before there were rocks.

Boris Johnson hit a positive note in his first week, got a bit of bad news later in the week, and one hopes he simply carries on as Winston Churchill would do when faced with a similar week — and that is to raise the ante by a factor of one in regards to taking the fight to his political opponents, and even more importantly, continuing to inform Britons about his vision for the country.

Looking too far ahead isn’t a productive use of his time at present, but setting out his government’s plans for the foreseeable future would probably prove comforting to Britons.

And if the Prime Minister can get beyond merely informing Britons and the business community about his near-term plans for the country (which itself is uber-important) and carry right on to ‘the good stuff’ by getting some of those items ticked-off as DONE within the next few weeks, he will be doing himself and his party a world of good.

Let’s hope Boris Johnson has a thick skin and carries blithely on with his mission to create a more upbeat and more successful UK, and that he out-succeeds his political opponents every day until Brexit is completed and proves the ‘doomsters and gloomsters’ wrong for all time.

 


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