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‘UK is now on brink of a dictatorship,’ says Tory grandee Ken Clarke

Party veteran says Boris Johnson’s handling of Brexit ‘laughable’


Lissie Harper, the widow of PC Andrew Harper, with prime minister Boris Johnson outside Downing Street. Photo: PA

Lissie Harper, the widow of PC Andrew Harper, with prime minister Boris Johnson outside Downing Street. Photo: PA

Lissie Harper, the widow of PC Andrew Harper, with prime minister Boris Johnson outside Downing Street. Photo: PA

The UK is “dangerously close” to becoming an “elected dictatorship” under Boris Johnson, veteran Tory Ken Clarke warned as he branded the prime minister’s handling of Brexit clashes “laughable”.

The former cabinet heavy-weight lashed out at Mr Johnson’s disregard for “constitutional constraints”, calling his party “more nationalist than at any time in my lifetime”.

“He gets angry if the courts or parliament try to interfere. As the elected prime minister, he thinks he should not be impeded in these ways,” Mr Clarke said.

“We are now getting dangerously close to the ‘elected dictatorship’ that Lord Hailsham, the former lord chancellor, warned us about half-a-century ago.”

In an interview with The New European, Mr Clarke warned the failures of Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal were now being exposed, with a forecast slump in GDP and the loss of security cooperation.

On the row over the Northern Ireland Protocol, he said: “There is a serious danger of the Good Friday Agreement and power-sharing collapsing and heading back to direct rule.

“I considered myself to be in the mainstream of the party and am not pleased that people who think like me – internationalist, outward-looking, progressive – have been marginalised.

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“The party is now more right-wing and nationalist than at any time in my lifetime.”

He ridiculed the “global Britain” promise as “a slogan, an excuse for spending money on a royal yacht and flying the flag in odd places”.

“We have to get used to our reduced role in the world,” he said.

Mr Clarke, who left the Commons in 2019, said Mr Johnson was trying to “tear up” his Brexit agreement but “find a way of doing so in a way that they can blame on the French”.

“I only hope that they have got experts working behind the scenes on an alternative plan. A lot of what is being said at the moment is laughable,” he warned.

On the threat to the constitution, the former chancellor and home secretary said: “We have relied for too long on a Victorian ideal of what we used to call decent chaps doing the right thing to keep our constitutional principles intact.

“We have got to the point where we need a serious written constitution. We need to restore the strengths of the Commons and the Lords by putting their powers into statutory reforms.

“We are at the absurd point where it is up to the government whether extremely contentious pieces of legislation get to be debated at all.”

Mr Clarke warned many Conservative voters were alive to the shift, adding: “Moderate Tories are upset by right-wing nationalism. This was spectacularly shown in the Chesham and Amersham by-election.”

Mr Johnson was also accused yesterday of being a “dribbling wreck” during a speech to business leaders this week, the SNP has said.

Pete Wishart, the SNP Commons leader, urged Jacob Rees-Mogg to “tell us exactly what is wrong with the prime minister” after a “delusional, gibbering stream of consciousness” at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference.

During questions for the Commons leader, Mr Rees-Mogg also faced demands to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics and to publish minutes of a meeting between a health minister and PPE company Randox.

Referring to the speech given by Mr Johnson to the CBI on Monday, Mr Wishart said it was “excruciating”, adding: “If aliens had landed in Westminster last weekend and requested to be taken to our leader and found this dribbling wreck, they’d immediately be asking to be transported back to the planet from where they came.”

He insisted a debate about the Metropolitan Police is needed after the force refused to investigate “the recent cash-for-honours scandal”.

“I, along with the Good Law Project, have written to them to give the reasons why they refuse to investigate or we will ask for this decision to be judicially reviewed,” he said. (© Independent News Service)

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