Thursday, December 12, 2019
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Boris, a sheep in wolf’s clothing?

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IN HIS recent Sunday Times column, Dominic Lawson ponders Boris’s election manifesto and finds it virtually empty of policy on key aspects of life in crisis, such as social care. ‘We have a plan’ sums it up. If he does Boris is keeping it to himself, urging voters just to trust him. Lawson says that Theresa May’s catastrophic snap election campaign did at least attempt to address this crisis honestly, and that it was hypocritically used by Labour to destroy her. Hence CCHQ’s determined avoidance of any challengeable policy initiatives. Hence Boris affirming very little as a defensive tactic. Hence his main slogan  ‘Get Brexit Done’, telling us he has a fantastic oven-ready ‘deal’ with the EU,  though he has signed the UK up to a Withdrawal Treaty with a very non-level playing field for desperately tough negotiations to come for a year. A year in which the EU will leverage the UK to make deep concessions and gain nothing in return. 

That the EU wants to make the ‘deal’ with the UK as much of an ‘abject humiliation’ as possible, as the Telegraph‘s Jeremy Warner reports, is silently avoided. Fortunately for Boris, EU trashing of the idea that trade talks will be agreed by December 20, as elicited by this witless Brexit Party MEP, hasn’t yet made the headlines:

Despite such evidence to contrary that all will be done and dusted by December 20, this ‘trust me’ message seems to have worked. Boris has had a string of very strong polling leads. Yet all of a sudden Labour are climbing in the polls, halving his lead to eight points despite Corbyn’s anti-Jewish racism, lunatic economic policies, and unfitness for office according even to several Labour MPs, and apparently helped by a negative reaction to Boris’s comments on Friday’s terrorist attack. This is the irrational political landscape we live in and in which Corbyn remains a clear and present danger. His Momentum army on the ground is fanatical and febrile, and it is Labour, not the Conservatives, who will profit from any illegal voting that the Electoral Commission has failed to deal with. 

The time has surely come for Boris to inject a much more pragmatic note to his campaign, not to retreat but to stick to his guns – whether on terror or Brexit – and to do it in a way that resonates with ordinary people in practical terms.

Above all he needs ‘white van man’ and small business sector votes in shedloads, the votes of the backbone of the UK economy who want assurance that hard work pays. They had been promised business tax cuts by the Chancellor but Boris broke that undertaking in his manifesto, stopping the cut of two per cent for business under the cover of ‘that money instead will go to the NHS’.  

As so often, he allowed the Left wing to dictate Conservative policy. All talk of Brexit bringing an economic mini-boom on the back of new freedoms and tax cuts was halted. The cancelled cut in business tax turned out to be an alignment with EU tax policy and a retreat from any idea of UK freedom to compete with the EU using its own democratically endorsed policies, a tilt to the EU that Dominic Lawson failed to pick up on in his analysis. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard did however, identifying this rowing back from the earlier Boris in his Telegraph article last week entitled ‘Timid Tories reject low-tax dream in manifest tilt towards Europe’. Whither the rhetoric of a free independent state, making the most of its new-found liberty and creative potential? Boris has backed off all that, according to AEP, and is lining up a ‘deal’, it seems, which will stop a big US deal and that, with a new digital tax, is like a slap in the face of the US. 

So, no, Boris’s manifesto was not all vacuity: it signalled a future more or less in line with that plotted by Theresa May, of deep bonding with the EU in a controlling marriage. The EU keep their £90billion trade surplus, we get no ‘level playing field’ equivalent with a financial services deal at all. They get the same access to our fish as now, as confirmed by the Dominic Raab interview with Andrew Marr. 

What is going on? Whose strategic plan is this? The manifesto was – to economic experts – a body blow to free-market Brexiteers, as well to small businesses in need of relief from massive EU aligned taxes. And what’s happened to the WTO no deal walking away from the hostile EU leverage? The one thing we have left against them? So Boris plans an easy exit, giving all away and gaining nothing. That’s how it looks from the evidence. It’s worth reminding ourselves of Boris’s Cabinet’s voting record on Brexit. He was not one of the two who stood out against May’s surrender Treaty third time round, notwithstanding his long campaign against such regulative vassalage. Now he is apparently accepting this as the terms of ‘getting Brexit done’, that looks like being out of the EU, but under its regulation. Arlene Foster believes that Boris lost his nerve during his negotiations with the EU.      

The bravado of a ‘fantastic deal’ is beginning to wear thin and will disappoint the voters of all kinds if it turns out that he has caved in to Whitehall and Brussels.

Timid, appeasing Boris, a sheep in wolf’s clothing, needs to recover his bark and his bite, reconnect with the people who actually do things in our economy against the Sir Humphreys and Monsieur Barniers, if he’s to complete that final furlong and free Britain from the clutches of the EU.

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Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw is a Theological lecturer and Anglican clergyman

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