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Will playing down the Brexit bounce rebound on Boris?


ONE approach in analysing the election is to ask about issues hidden from the public. For example, defence has barely been mentioned, as Charles Moore has pointed out.

He argues that Labour does not believe in defence and the Tories are downgrading its importance despite the vast increase in terrorist attacks over the past decade and Russian build-up of military might.

Mr Moore however omitted the May/Johnson policy of handing over our command and control to the EU’s PESCO (Permanent Structured Co-operation) system, disguised from the public but revealed in the so-called KitKat tapes.

This policy is pencilled in and oven ready – Boris was Foreign Secretary and knows all about it. So Mr Moore’s analysis might be amended to ‘both parties do not believe in defence’.

Experts at the very highest level have warned of this mad policy and of treating the national capacity to defend itself as a mere bargaining chip in trade negotiations, and with an agency, the EU, with a proven record of hostility to the UK’s best interests – for example, its reactivating the tensions being healed by the Good Friday Agreement and its brutal destruction of the British fishing industry.

On the economic front, the election has been more than strange, with Labour’s massive borrow and spend and tax policy – truly smashing the Western European model – being accorded a kind of respect and fear and making the Conservatives try to show themselves as equally big spenders in a poker game of raising the stakes. 

Labour’s mad policy has become the criterion. The Tories have not dared to suggest any reforms or improvements to public services – for example, the woke Ofsted educational professoriat.

Nor have they tackled the desperate need to engage with the crisis in nurse recruitment, training and retention caused by the control of The Blob – the catch-all name for opponents of education reform. Nursing has been ‘outsourced’ to the seminar rooms of The Blob. 

Boris has reacted by pouring more cash into this system and continuing the hunt for overseas nurses, not by bringing back the ward-based system of nurse training and employment and so stopping the alienation of thousands of potential nurses by the need for a psycho-socio ‘degree’.

The decision to stop nurse degree bursaries was taken by the Council of Deans of Nursing University Faculties, because they wrongly assumed that removing the cap on nurse undergraduates would lead to a flood of new applicants. 

It was, in other words, The Blob controllers of nurse training who effectively stopped the bursaries – but Boris was happy to take the blame in a general election.  And now Boris has opened up the free bursaries to the whole EU.

The Tories are scared stiff of The Blob, and will not face the task of reform because of that. In fact since Thatcher, Conservative policy has been to institutionalise Labour criticisms, making the Tories ‘Labour Lite’ in effect and depriving the voters of choices. The great people’s vote of the referendum gave voters the chance to reject this stitch-up.

Back to the economic model. Boris stopped the cut in business tax and said the money was to pour into the unreformed NHS. That was a key message, and against business which produces the funds to pay for good public services – the Thatcher model of the economy. 

Boris has not played this up at all, White Van Man will not get the business tax cut that Chancellor Sajid Javid promised. And in his argumentation with Corbyn in the last ‘debate’ on the BBC, Boris said nothing at all about post-Brexit new opportunities, a point made very well by Professor Graham Gudgin, editor of Briefings for Brexit. 

Why are the Conservatives failing to present the potentially enormous economic gains for the UK from Brexit and even allowing Corbyn’s false statements to go unchallenged – for example his claims that more than half our trade is with the EU and that all our manufacturing industries depend on EU supply chains?

It is as if a soft version of Project Fear is again bedding down in Tory High Command. Conservative campaigning has in fact jettisoned all policy connections with the Brexit opportunities.

Roger Bootle in theTelegraph is devastatingly clear about the need to defend the Thatcher economic model of free trade if we want to prosper and have the cash to fund public services well.  

The Tories in this election have not made this emphasis, and it means they are failing to state ‘we are the party of change’, leaving Labour to claim that successful message. Boris is fading into May mist: Strong and stable, stasis and worry. 

Brexit should BE invigorating change and challenge, but it is being presented as ‘continuity’, ‘get Brexit done’ and that unfortunate stone in the road will be done with.

Alignment with EU regulation, that seems to be a background axiom, rather than getting free from nanny’s apron strings to grow up and prosper. And as for Corbynomics, well, giving away £39billion for nothing puts Boris on a par with Jeremy’s mad spending numbers.

How about pensions? We have had no real discussion of this crucial area of government responsibility, and certainly have not heard an impending threat to our pension funds from, not Jeremy Corbyn directly but … the European Court of Justice. The EU no doubt wants funds to prop up the euro. Funny it’s been covered up isn’t it?

This Conservative campaign had the chance to point to the need to reform our constitution: The obscenely vast and monochrome Blairite House of Lords, added to year on year with failed politicians. That is not a second chamber for a modern state. 

All the Blairite quangos, such as the Electoral Commission, Crown Prosecution Service, Ofcom, Ofsted, Office for Students, the lot, need to be reformed. But no, nothing of any such change is promised, although at the time of writing Boris has mentioned the BBC licence fee. But just a mention, deniable. 

Freedom of thought and speech needs bolstering. And the Equality Act Section 7 – referring to the ‘protected characteristic’ of ‘gender reassignment’ – in particular needs thorough review in terms of its chill factor for some groups and not for others. 

The public is now fed up with the Orwellian ‘some are more equal than others’ assumptions now rooted in law. How come hatred of the Jews is OK and an interesting topic for the liberated middle classes, whereas reasoned, calm criticism of burkas brings down fire and brimstone even from Western secular feminists?

OK, Boris has played this election like Boycott not Botham, he wants not to offend rather than paint a vision of escaping vassalage and getting a free and open future. We will soon know if this playing down of the positives of Brexit will convince voters to trust him or not. 

If not, we can look forward to a Labour-SNP regime of recession and genuine, bitter ‘austerity’ for a generation. A Venezuelan destiny beckons.  

And, who knows, maybe they will call in the EU Commissioners to run the UK, as happened in Greece and Italy? Or maybe the EU would expel a moribund, debt-ridden, wreck of an economy, getting us a clean-break Brexit via a savagely painful route of Corbynomics?

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

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