The Boris Brexit Bet
Fortune favours the brave. Sometimes. Boris Johnson’s move to come out for a ‘No’ vote in the Brexit referendum is undoubtedly brave. He could have accepted the probability of a ‘Yes’ vote, rowed in behind Cameron and, difficult for Boris, kept his mouth shout for the next few months. Instead, he’s gone and rolled the dice for the biggest gamble of his political career so far. What’s in it for him?
There are a few scenarios that play out, some good for Johnson, some not so good. Let’s start with a bad one for Blonde Ambition. The ‘Yes’ side wins and it wins by a rout; over 60% of the electorate votes and over 60% vote yes. This is entirely possible. If Labour goes out and campaigns hard, if the Cameron can staunch the internal party bleeding and if most ordinary British subjects think about the crucial choice they have to make, possibly the most politically existential decision for the rest of their lives, there may be a turning away from the nuclear option. This is bad for Boris and other ‘No’ candidates.A defeat for Boris sees his opponents mount a ferocious attack on his ‘No’ leadership, presenting is as a wild piece of opportunism, an act of disloyalty that disbars him from the highest office.
A middling scenario for BoJo is a narrow win for the ‘Yes’ side. There will then be immense pressure on Cameron to quit sooner rather than later. A narrow vote to stay in would mean millions of Tory supporters had voted no. The grass-roots will start agitating for change and Johnson will be in the mix for Conservative Party leadership and the prize of PM.
The calculus gets even better with a narrow ‘No’ win. There will be blood, rancour and recrimination but Johnson stands a good chance of coming out on top after the knife fight.
Then there’s the dream result. A comfortable or crushing ‘No’ victory. Forget for now whether or not this would be a disaster for British National Interests – it would be- and look at it from Johnson’s point of view. He gets the acclamation of the febrile right-wing Euro-sceptic Press. He is then head and shoulders above any other candidate in terms of popularity with the public. Should Cameron lose, there’ll either be an immediate resignation or a pledge to lead his country’s withdrawal negotiations from the EU. The latter may be politically unviable. Johnson wins.
Cameron gave a hostage to fortune when proposing the terms of this referendum. Boris Johnson knows this may be his best opportunity to become Prime Minister. Cameron’s ignominy could be Johnson’s glory.
Civil Politics and End of Days; US Primary Season Rolls On
American politics, particularly the 2016 Presidential cycle, never ceases to amaze and appal. The results of last night’s Nevada Caucus (Democratic Party) and South Carolina Primary (Republican Party) gives much for discussion and much for deep concern.
The Democratic Primary season is still by-and-large, being fought without rancour by the two candidates. While many supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders might strongly disagree with that statement, the two main actors have been mainly civil and courteous when in debate with or commenting on each other. They have had a battle of ideas; an essential and ever-topical debate among Liberals. Sanders is the democratic revolutionary, Clinton the gradualist. Clinton is portraying herself as the realist candidate, Bernie as the only one looking at the real issues. Let’s give each credit where it’s due and that credit is coming from an unlikely source, Noam Chomsky. When asked if there was a difference between the two parties, the radical Professor said that there was a clear one. The Democrats accept that global warming is a man-made phenomenon and are committed to trying to save the planet. Then there’s the Republicans.
The bizarre and irresistible rise of Donald Trump has most political commentators baffled. He has continued to be the anti-candidate, channelling the Bubba vote, taking stances so extreme, so frightening, that President Obama commented that most Americans wouldn’t trust Trump with the nuclear codes. His complete absence of grace is now, apparently, a winning asset. Van Jones was right to point out Trump’s lack of any class, ignoring Jeb Bush completely when the hapless former Governor pulled out of the race; at least Marco Rubio paid tribute. While Ted Cruz may still be the one, arguably, with a better path to nomination, it is Trump who is casting all the shade.
The odds on a Trump nomination in a divided field are shortening by the day, however. The hope is that if Trump, or Cruz (who on many issues, is just as extreme) gets the nomination, Clinton or Sanders will rekindle the Obama plurality. Rubio, despite his manifest weaknesses, would at least garner Moderate votes. Trump could bring the Republicans down in flames as many in the GOP vote Democrat in disgust. Donald Trump stopped being a joke months ago. He needs to be taken seriously by both the Republican establishment and the commentariat. He is a threat to democracy and world peace.