Sat 30 May 2020

Otto English raises a glass half full – to a future of hope after the years of chaos which may follow next month’s General Election.

I’ve always very much been a glass half full kind of guy who believes that things will come right in the end. The darkest time is always just before the dawn, good will out, the bad guys will have their comeuppance – everything will be alright in the end. 

When I was about 20, I found myself on a sinking ferry and, as everyone ran about shrieking and preparing to abandon ship, I remember turning to my companion and saying “well at least I’ll have something to write about one day”. It was a happy outcome and we all survived. Better still, I finally used that anecdote, so I was right.  

But currently, in all truth, as the nation trundles towards 12 December, I’m struggling – for once – to find a silver lining.

If the polls are right, Britain is currently on course to elect Boris Johnson to the highest office in the land. Yes, polls can prove very wrong, but the real risk of this man – so lacking in integrity that he can’t say how many children he has – being our Prime Minister for the foreseeable future is there. And it is enough to leave me looking to the skies and longing for a meteorite to come. 

But, what good does doom and gloom do? As Ian Dury so aptly pointed out: there are always reasons to be cheerful. So let’s look for some positives. 

For all the nightmare that Brexit has caused, it has at least awoken a nation from political apathy. In the past few weeks, millions of people have registered to vote. In the 48 hours to the deadline on 26 November, more than a million voters registered – with an estimated 70% of them being under the age of 24. That has to be a good thing, both in terms of an engaged electorate and those keeping their fingers crossed for any outcome bar a Boris Johnson majority government.

There’s also the hope of a nice dollop of election night schadenfreude. Several key Tory Brexit figures are at risk of losing their seats including Iain Duncan Smith, John Redwood and, most deliciously of all, the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

Were Raab to go it might almost make up for the last three years. He is one of a raft of Cabinet ministers who appear to be in office purely by dint of their ideological purity on Brexit. Again and again, he has shown himself to be the living personification of the Dunning Kruger effect – lacklustre and ignorant on Brexit basics while seemingly embodied with a hugely inflated sense of his own self-worth.

Raab represents Esher and Walton – a seat that voted 58% Remain. In the 2017 General Election, he was returned with a thumping majority of around 23,000. But, in the two years since, he has really put in the hours to make himself a figure of hate. Even his predecessor, the retired Tory MP Ian Taylor, who served for 23 years, is now urging voters to back the Lib Dem candidate. Tactical voting could just unseat Raab.

The Foreign Secretary’s recent career highlights have included his cack-handed and insensitive management of the case of the teenager Harry Dunn, who died in a collision in August that subsequently saw the suspect claim diplomatic immunity and flee to the US. Raab has defended the Government’s decision to seek legal costs from Dunn’s parents in order to protect ‘taxpayer’s money’ and brushed off an attempt by the boy’s father to talk to him at a hustings. Raab could be the ‘Portillo moment’ of 2019. 

But, even if he goes, he could yet be upstaged by an even bigger scalp. Whisper it quietly, but Boris Johnson himself could lose his parliamentary seat. The Prime Minister won Uxbridge and Ruislip with a majority of just 5,034 in 2017 and an overall 50.8% of total vote share. Turnout in 2017 was around 66% and, if the ground forces working against Johnson can get the vote out and if enough Lib Dems and Greens lend their votes to the Labour candidate Ali Milani, it is possible that Boris Johnson could be out. 

It wouldn’t necessarily be game over for him. Alec Douglas-Home was briefly Prime Minister while a member of the House of Lords and, theoretically, one of Johnson’s backbench minions might step aside forcing a by-election in a safe seat. But, a seat-less Prime Minister occupying Number 10 would likely be untenable.

Imminent extinction poses a much greater threat to our old friends the Brexit Party. They are currently polling at around 4% and look set to return no MPs whatsoever.

Nigel Farage seems to have given up, posting photographs of himself playing golf and going on pub crawls, while his unfortunate supporters run about the place doing the leg work. The dear leader seems to have lost the will to campaign and it’s anyone’s guess as to who will give up on his fan club first – himself or his dwindling base. One benefit of a clear Johnson win will be that Farage and co will be rendered pointless in all respects – forever.

A Tory win would also have one massive and undeniable advantage. Finally, the Brexit Tories and Johnson’s Cabinet of Fools would be obliged to take ownership of the chaos they have caused. There will be no one left to blame.

Johnson has made much of the fact that all of his candidates are fully on board with Brexit and his deal. If elected, he will no longer be able to blame fifth columnists and ‘traitors’ in his own ranks. As the full scale of the task is revealed, his promise to “get Brexit done” will be revealed to be the sack of bullshit that it is. 

As the weight of the task crushes Johnson and his acolytes to a slow political death, as crisis follows crisis, as the country wakes up to the reality that Brexit isn’t done and dusted and that there will be years more to come – something new will rise and something better might come of it. 

So trust me on this – the sun will come out tomorrow. (I hope).

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