It’s decision time in the UK, and the stakes are the highest they have been in 40 years. Theresa May’s grotesque interregnum will be remembered, if at all, for her failed attempt at pausing history, culminating in a debilitating political stasis. Her three wasted years in office will now be followed by a period of accelerated and possibly extreme activity, as Britain’s pent-up appetite for radical change is finally satiated.
The only question will be the scale and magnitude of the country’s frenzied transformation, and whether it is Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn who leads the revolution.
The choice Britain faces is unusually binary, at once terrifying and exhilarating in its starkness. There are only two routes, and two camps; all other avenues keep returning to one of those two, as if the country were stuck in an infernal political maze. We can either opt for a radical reset via a meaningful Brexit, possibly without a deal — or hand power to Corbyn.
The first choice implies a radical political and economic rupture, necessitating root and branch pro-market reform; the latter a lurch into full regime change, complete with a Corbynite year zero, a devastating wealth tax, and the end of private schools.
Crucially, there are no other options available, no third way, no clinging to a slightly tweaked version of the current political and economic settlement, no chance of a centrist, mushy party emerging and replacing Brexiteers and Corbynites alike.
Meanwhile, the new president of the European Commission is a federalist; her team will push an even more centralising agenda. Another referendum would be won by Leave again, especially with a Brexiteer government and prime minister.
The decision tree always comes back to one or other outcome: Brexit, or a hard-Left agenda, or both, if the former is botched or sabotaged. Every MP and every voter will have to decide what sort of drastic change they prefer, or dislike the least.
The outlook is thus even more uncertain than it was on that sunny morning of June 24 2016. That is why the pound is falling again (for now): the City has grasped the extent of the uncertainty of the next few years.
Two possible futures
Boris is the Tories’ last chance. If he doesn’t deliver, if he stumbles incompetently, if he sells out or is taken down by a minority of his MPs, the Government would fall and the Tories implode. The most likely outcome of such an election before Brexit would be a Labour government, propped up by other Left-wing parties; the only other plausible alternative would be some sort of Brexit Party-Tory alliance (also the only way Boris could win before actually leaving the EU). The latter would lead us back to Brexit; the former to socialism. There is no escaping these two possible futures.
Wait a minute, some Remainers will doubtless interject: isn’t there a chance that a Left-wing majority would remove Corbyn, revoke Article 50 and return to their beloved Blairite utopia? Or that the Civil Service would step in, and defang the Corbynites in a coup similar to the one waged against the Brexiteers? They are dangerously deluded: any conceivable, realistic Left-wing government today would see the economy trashed to a far greater extent than in any nightmare scenario dreamt up by the purveyors of Brexit’s Project Fear.
Even were Corbyn somehow ousted and a different Left-winger propelled into No 10, they would be no Blairite. The entire party has shifted to the Left, a trend that started with Ed Miliband. There is now a broad consensus in Labour for a wealth tax, much higher marginal income tax rates, mass nationalisations, eliminating selection and autonomy in the state school sector and increasingly also for abolishing private schools — not merely taxing them more. Their best allies are the Tory diehards who claim to be willing to withdraw confidence from a Johnson government. These Remainers should concede the game is up. They were convinced delaying Brexit would bore the electorate into submission, yet Farage is now in a position to make or break prime minister Johnson.
So the message to the tiny number of Tory MPs who insist they may bring the house down in a final fit of pique: come to your senses. Your party is about to commit irrevocably and fully to Brexit.
You must decide: either back PM Johnson to the hilt, even if that means no deal, or be held responsible for a Corbyn government. You must also allow him to push through all the legislation he needs, including a historic Brexit Budget.
It shouldn’t be much of a choice for any Conservative worthy of that name, but we will soon find out what Oliver Letwin, Philip Hammond and the others are made of. I, for one, cannot believe they would want the unfathomable calamity that would be a PM Corbyn to haunt their consciences for the rest of their lives.
— The Daily Telegraph
Allister Heath is a British journalist, author and commentator.