OPINION
13/12/2019 10:59 GMT | Updated 13/12/2019 14:59 GMT

Jeremy Corbyn Gift-Wrapped Victory For Boris Johnson Like An Early Christmas Present

Vast swathes of the British public have ahead of them a painful collision with reality following the UK election result, journalist Tim Walker writes.

Well, Boris Johnson can no longer duck responsibility for Brexit. The nation has told him in no uncertain terms to deliver it and quickly.

I’d heard from well-placed sources in recent months that the old charlatan had at various moments been drawn to the idea of using the opposition parties or even the judiciary as an excuse for resiling from his one and only policy, but now, of course, the electorate has given him permission to serve it up in whatever way he pleases. 

As they say to alcoholics, it’s going to be necessary for us now to hit rock bottom before we can start to recover.

So far from putting an end to the horror show that is Brexit – let alone getting it “done” – we will now be forced to view the second box set with countless more now being stacked up beside it. It’s fair to assume the Withdrawal Agreement will now go through before Christmas and the contingent paving legislation will be completed over the first quarter of 2020. 

What Johnson’s eventual Brexit will look like is anyone’s guess, but it will unquestionably be significantly worse than the existing deal that we now have with the European Union. The election result means it will be afforded precious little scrutiny. Vast swathes of the British public have ahead of them a painful collision with reality.

Seldom, if ever, can so many voters have chosen a prime minister on the basis of so little interrogation. Johnson would not talk to Andrew Neil. He dodged questions and hid in fridges. He even pocketed the mobile telephone of a reporter who’d had the temerity to confront him with an image of a stricken child on the floor of an NHS hospital that didn’t conform to his narrative.

The practicalities of Brexit were seldom if ever addressed. There was a great debate to be had between, say, Keir Starmer and Steve Barclay, but it never took place, and both were largely absent from the campaign. All that the voters had were banal quiz show-style encounters between the leading contenders in which they had to agonise over such vital questions as what they might give each other for Christmas.

Meanwhile, the media press barons had their own agendas and it was telling that the disillusionment an obscure former Labour MP called Ian Austin had with his party became headline news, whereas what titans such as Sir John Major, Tony Blair and Lord Heseltine had to say about Johnson and his unfitness for office was never allowed to gain any real media traction.

Hannah Mckay / Reuters
Jeremy Corbyn at the election count in his Islington North constituency

Ultimately it was, however, the Labour party that gift-wrapped victory for Johnson as an early Christmas present. Every single member must have known only too well that under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership they could never possibly have won. Obscenely, Corbyn had even talked about stepping down as leader, but only after he had lost. The very fact that concerned citizens such as Gina Miller had to go to the trouble of setting up tactical voting websites was a clear enough sign that the opposition was incapable of standing up to Johnson on its own.

Probably the single greatest mistake of any British political leader in modern times – and what will almost certainly be blamed for the start of one of the worst and most self-destructive periods in this country’s modern history – is Corbyn’s arrogant and stubborn refusal to enter into a Remain Alliance with the other parties to at least limit the number of Tory seats.

Now that Johnson has been returned so emphatically to 10 Downing Street, evicting him from it will be easier said than done. There was not a word in the Conservative manifesto about the Boundary Commission, but rest assured that “fixing” the boundaries between constituencies in the Tories’ favour will be an early priority. The rise in the fortunes of the SNP means Scottish independence now seems all but inevitable, but what will Johnson care with an English nationalist rump where his party will be all but impregnable?

What alarms me more than that – and even more than Brexit – was buried away on page 48 of Johnson’s manifesto. There in black and white, he talked about how he saw a need to look at the broader aspects of our constitution: the relationship between the government, parliament and the courts; the functioning of the royal prerogative; the role of the House of Lords; and access to justice for ordinary people.

Just as disturbingly, he talked about extending the powers of our security services, tinkering with the Human Rights Act and even judicial review to ensure that it is not “abused” to conduct politics by “another means” or to create “needless delays” to legislative programmes.

At various junctures in the Brexit process, there have been pauses where it’s been necessary for someone to point out that it’s going to be a bit more costly than was originally envisaged during the EU referendum of 2016. This has happened a great many times now, and each announcement has added billions to the bill, but the cost is no longer simply about money, but basic freedoms that we once took for granted.

As they say to alcoholics, it’s going to be necessary for us now to hit rock bottom before we can start to recover.

Tim Walker is a political commentator and journalist.