The British prime minister Boris Johnson lost yet another major vote in parliament today when it voted 306-289 against a government motion to suspend parliament so that the Conservative party could hold their annual conference as scheduled from September 29 through October 3. This is the seventh consecutive vote he has lost and he has not won a single one, an astonishing record because in the British parliamentary system, the government almost never loses a vote. Add to that the strong rebuke that the UK Supreme Court handed to him two days ago and you can label him a major loser.
But just like his hero Donald Trump, Johnson has gone on the attack, ignoring calls to tone down his rhetoric and instead firing up his supporters with incendiary language, calling their proposals to delay Brexit a ‘surrender’ to the EU and charging that they are traitors and not patriots, so much so that MPs who oppose him have been receiving death threats from people who use Johnson’s own words, just like Trump supporters behave here.
Martin Kettle writes that Johnson has lost become utterly reckless in the way he is handling his office and the cynical way that he is using his defeats to inflame voters.
An angry and disturbingly pumped-up Boris Johnson’s response to the court in the recalled House of Commons tonight was an act of total contempt – for the courts, for parliament and ultimately for public and political decency. For the time being, Johnson still retains much of the formal power of the prime minister. But the role’s inner power, its moral authority, the holder’s ability to govern and his meaningful capacity to represent the country are practically shot. There is nothing tragic about this for Johnson personally. There is everything tragic for the country that never asked for him to become its leader.
These were merely the warm-up acts for Johnson’s own eventual appearance in the Commons this evening. But they had already pointed unerringly to the strategy that the prime minister was to adopt and which, it was now clear, he had intended to adopt from the very start when he spoke in New York. That strategy was that this is now a naked political fight to the death with the opposition and with the unbelievers. He is not interested in any of the issues on which the judges ruled. All that matters to him is to wade through chaos to Brexit. The twin objectives of the Johnson government when it took office after the ousting of Theresa May – Brexit by the end of October and a general election fought on a “people versus the elites” platform – remain utterly unchanged by the supreme court ruling.
Liberal Tories may be deceiving themselves in another way. They continue to believe that Johnson’s aim is really to make a deal with the European Union at the 11th hour… All this, though, mistakes the fact that Johnson is rounding the point of no-return. Like Macbeth in blood, he is stepped so far in recklessness that there is no going back to the kind of compromises and trade-offs that even Johnson voted for earlier in the year.
Day by day, in every way, it is becoming harder and harder to distinguish Johnson and Trump. They both belong to the elite class and faithfully promote the interests of the elites while at the same time posturing that they represent ‘the people’ against the establishment, when nothing could be farther from the truth. They will say and do anything that advances their immediate, narrow, personal goals. The above Macbeth allusion is apt in that they have gone too far to step back and are only going to get more and more extreme as they get increasingly cornered. One longs for the day when they will both be thrown onto the trash heap of history.