Richard North, 09/06/2019  

For what it's worth, Mrs May is no longer leader of the Conservative Party, her resignation having taken effect last Friday.

And while the contest for her replacement as leader, and ultimately prime minister, doesn't formally kick off until Monday, it has already been running some weeks and – in the case of the "turd-giver" – some years.

It goes without saying that the Telegraph is pulling out all the stops to back its favourite son, with today's paper running a lengthy supportive article telling us that he has won over "top Eurosceptics" with a "clean, managed Brexit" pledge.

This magical "conversion" (as if they didn't already support him) apparently happened in a meeting with Eurosceptic grandees last week, when Johnson told them that Theresa May's deal was "dead". He thus gained the endorsement of Steve Baker who says he will now put his "complete faith" in Johnson rather than stand in the contest himself.

Priti Patel, the former International Development Secretary, has also decided to back Johnson, asserting that only he could "deliver Brexit and restore trust in politics". At least two grandees are preparing to follow suit, convinced that the "turd-giver" is best-placed to rescue the Conservative Party from the electoral obliteration they fear it faces if it fails to deliver Brexit.

As to Johnson's master plan, it seems that he has adopted the report published by Corporal Baker on 5 June, from which he has taken the title, to label his "pledge". It is claimed that the plan is backed by "a host of senior Brexiteers". This includes Esther McVey, a rival candidate, to whom one can add Gavin Williamson and Owen Paterson. But, no matter how many people support it, there can be no doubt that this plan is completely irrational.

A notable feature of the plan is that it argues that the UK should leave the EU without the Withdrawal Agreement. And, "without prejudice to the UK’s departure from the EU by 31 October", the UK "could consider proposals from the EU to revise the draft Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration to meet the criticisms made by Parliament".

Perhaps "irrational" is too gentle, too neutral a term. "Barking mad" might actually be more appropriate, as the Baker/Johnson "plan" relies on the EU delivering substantial post-exit revisions to the Withdrawal Agreement - despite Barnier, once again warning that the EU will never renegotiate the Agreement.

Furthermore, even if there was the slightest likelihood of the EU accepting any amendments – which there isn't – the changes suggested in the Baker/Johnson "plan" would be wholly unacceptable to the EU, not least because it incorporates some of the more unrealistic ideas from snake-oil salesman Shanker Singham, who has heavily influenced the draft.

For openers, the Baker/Johnson duo assert that the Government "must not consider the UK to be liable for the estimated £39 billion payable to the EU under the Agreement", with Johnson directly threatening to withhold the money, yet they want the EU immediately to agree to a "temporary trade deal".

Despite having been told that there will be no transitional period without the Withdrawal Agreement – of which the financial settlement is part - they then demand that "any transitional period" must be without the continuation of the European Communities Act, in whatever form.

Effectively, what they are seeking is Single Market access without any commitment to regulatory alignment and, just to emphasise this point, they demand that "mutual recognition should be provided for across all topics based on outcome equivalence".

This latter point is a particular obsession of Singham, which the EU will never allow. Yet, no matter how many times this particular piece of stupidity is knocked down, it pops back up like a Weeble, as if nothing had ever happened.

Collectively, this group of inadequates are retreating into their own private fantasy where, having decided that we should exit on 31 October on "WTO terms" – amounting to a no-deal Brexit – the EU will immediately agree a new deal. And this will be on far better terms than we have already been offered, conclusion of which would actually be an improvement on what any Member States currently enjoys.

If there was any justice – and sense – in the Brexit debate, the brink of madness should rule Johnson out of the leadership race before it officially starts. But, even then, he is not getting it all his own way. This weekend, he is under attack from allies of Dominic Raab, who are marking down the former foreign secretary as "a controversial face from the past", which the voters don't want as prime minister.

Raab's supporters cite a recent YouGov poll which found that more than half of those questioned (53 percent) thought Johnson would make a bad prime minister – more than for any other contender. As the same poll suggested that more voters (26 percent) saw him as a good potential PM – more than any of his rivals – this rather confirms his status as a Marmite politician. It makes a mockery of any idea that he is unifying figure.

Oddly enough, Rory Stewart claims to be the only contender with more positive than negative ratings, placed equal first with Johnson in the overall ratings.

Already, though, Johnson is attracting less favourable publicity, with Peter Oborne in the Mail taking a dim view of his prospects. However, critic-in-chief for the moment is Matthew Parris, who uses his column in The Times to declare that Johnson's premiership "will fall apart in a year".

Taking note of prevailing sentiment, he writes that, "colleagues know the party favourite is a lazy, untrustworthy do-nothing but seem determined to vote for him anyway". In detail, he says:
That he's a habitual liar, a cheat, a conspirator with a criminal pal to have an offending journalist's ribs broken, a cruel betrayer of the women he seduces, a politician who connived in a bid for a court order to suppress mention of a daughter he fathered, a do-nothing mayor of London and the worst foreign secretary in living memory… such truths are apparently already "priced in" to Mr Johnson. One just hopes the actual electorate are informed that his rascality is already "priced in" and they’re not to bother their little heads with such horrors.
It really does say something of contemporary politics that a prominent columnist in a leading national newspaper can write in such terms about the leading contender for the Tory leadership, without the slightest fear of a libel suit.

Parris's thesis is that Johnson could lose a vote of no confidence in the Commons as he headed for a no-deal Brexit but could (just) win a general election later in the year and come wobbling back, Weeble-like, into Downing Street before Christmas. But then Parris gives him less than a year in office. His colleagues, Parris says:
know he’s lazy. They know he's untrustworthy. They know how he tries to wing things for which he ought to prepare. They look at the £700,000 he has earned since he quit government, much of it on the national and international speaking circuit, and wonder. They know he ducks. They know he makes conflicting promises. They know he skates on thin ice.
"And in their hearts", he concludes, "they have no confidence in Boris. But they're scared. They think he may possess a kind of magic. The magic, my friends, will fade". Why though we have to go through this process of electing him in the first place is anyone's guess. The nation cannot afford the Johnson madness, or the elemental stupidity of his colleagues and supporters.

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