IT might seem crazy to be guiding readers to the National Review – an American Journal – for an overview and analysis of the state of political play in Britain in its run-up to the election. But I am, and it’s to an article just published by its editor-at-large John O’Sullivan, a former senior advisor to Mrs Thatcher.
Will Boris strike a deal with Farage? sets out why Johnson must, or face Conservative suicide. It is aimed, I suspect, as much at politicians and analysts over here as at his US readers. He does what British commentators have failed to do, which is provide a comprehensive, historically-informed and wonderfully detached overview of where each of the British political parties is ‘at’ and why – how we have come to our Brexit impasse .
He starts with the basic truth that, argue and compete as the parties may about the NHS or public spending, this election is still only about one thing, which is Brexit.
This is because ‘being for or against our sovereignty’ is bigger stuff than any of the other issues over which the parties traditionally divide: ‘In fact on those other issues, all three (or at least two-and-a-half) UK national parties increasingly sound like different wings of a single Social Revolutionary party devoted to diversity, massive spending, and larger and more caring government, while differing only on how (or whether) to pay for it.’
On Brexit, O’Sullivan categorises the parties’ different approaches as corresponding broadly to ‘Out (Brexit Party), Half-Out (Tories), In (Liberal Democrats) and Stuck Forever in a Revolving Door (Labour)’.
He leads the reader through the LibDems, the Scottish Nationalist and historic reasons for Labour’s contortions to the conservative pro-Brexit side of British politics, which is (and unnecessarily so – please read this, Mr Cummings) entering the election divided, given that: ‘In theory the Remain parties have the more difficult (indeed, near-impossible) task of co-ordination since Labour, the LibDems, and the ScotNats are all fighting each other fiercely for long-term predominance in government, whereas the Brexit Party is in principle ready to sting and die if Brexit is attained.
‘If Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage could reach some kind of electoral deal – scroll down for what kind – they would very likely get a Tory landslide with Brexit Party trimmings.’
But, as he says, that’s not how it’s turning out. Hostilities have broken out big-time between Boris and Nigel. And there are two grounds for conflict.
First is Boris’s deal itself (described by Martin Howe as a bad one that ‘lands us unconditionally with huge financial obligations for nothing concrete in return, beyond the opportunity to negotiate a trade deal which we would be able to negotiate anyway’, despite his reluctant view that it could be seen as the best political option). Second is Boris’s belief that he can win the election without the Brexit Party and dispatch it for good.
You can read on for O’Sullivan’s debunking of both those myths here