Thursday 21 November 2019

Editorial: 'Johnson's staking all on his biggest Brexit gamble yet'

'PM is as much in the dark as the rest of us as to details or outcome.' ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via Reuters
'PM is as much in the dark as the rest of us as to details or outcome.' ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via Reuters


'When you turn an election into a three-ring circus, there's always a chance that the dancing bear will win," noted US writer Nancy Isenberg.

Having found the status quo utterly insufferable, a much derided Westminster Parliament is finally primed to take its chances.

The electorate will take the consequences.

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But relief is probably the first feeling most will have felt, on learning Boris Johnson is to get a run at the polls to break the Brexit deadlock.

We had become like drunks growing more miserable with every glass yet hoping the next shot might be the one to lift the Brexit blues.

Yesterday they did indeed lift as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn seems to have rediscovered his sense of the ridiculous.

Throughout, Mr Corbyn has shown himself immune to the jibes and brickbats showered down on him for his refusal to go to the country.

He has flip-flopped every step along the way these last three torturous years. Only the previous day, he refused to budge on backing an election, a remarkable position for an Opposition leader.

But before lunchtime he emerged to spare his party's blushes. The circumstances were now appropriate for him to change his mind, he decreed.

A pre-Christmas poll is now on.

But as Machiavelli pointed out, nothing great was ever achieved without danger.

A no deal is not completely off the table.

Granted, the EU flextension ought to be sufficient to sort things out; but if the withdrawal agreement is not passed by the end of January, a crash-out could still occur.

Mr Johnson's strategy hinges on blaming a mischief-making Parliament for thwarting his noble aim of delivering the UK from its thrall to Brussels.

However, going into the electoral cauldron without Westminster's seal on a deal is a gamble.

The Chinese have a rule of thumb before placing your chips: "If you must play, decide upon three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time."

Mr Johnson is as much in the dark as the rest of us as to details or outcome.

Should he return with a healthy majority, he may have his wish. But a hung Parliament would raise questions, and such an outcome should not be ruled out.

The prime minister is thus betting a resounding victory can see him ram a deal through Parliament.

Mr Corbyn is hoping for a turbo-version of his "leap forward" at the 2017 elections.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems and SNP are hell-bent on stopping Brexit entirely.

Did Theresa May not pay heavily for presuming too much at the polls?

They say at gambling, the deadly sin is to mistake bad play for bad luck. At the polls the margins between the blessed and the damned are notoriously thin. The next six weeks will tell a tale, but for now we can enjoy the break from the Brexit cycle of hope and disillusion.

Irish Independent

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