Surely there is a way that Johnson can give us a treat on Halloween, rather than a trick?

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WARNING: This article contains high amounts of hysterical optimism (or at least non-pessimism)

Here are, to my mind, three significant things about Boris Johnson in the context of the current Brexit dilemma:

1. It is conceivable that he harbours ideas of having statues of himself built in future. When grappling with the choice of being a politician or a journalist, he allegedly once said:

They don’t put up statues to journalists

2. It is also conceivable that he sees politics as needing the same skills that he used to deploy as captain of a rugby team, as related by Rory Stewart:

I remember I had been pushing our ambassadors to be much more brutally honest about failure and the the weakness of British positions in their countries and he said, ‘Rory, I used to captain rugby teams and that is not how you do it.

“You say to them, “It is great, we can do this.

But, Mr Stewart disputed this, saying: “My disagreement would be that international trade negotiations are not like a rugby match.

“It might work in 80 minutes and pump people up, but you cannot do tariff schedules on the basis of a rugby match.

“Trade negotiations cannot be won on the playing fields of Eton.”

3. Johnson was photographed in Downing Street (in the words of the Express) punching the “air in triumph after stubborn EU crumbles in face of no deal Brexit”

These three points give me some optimism that we may (and I gave up making predictions about Brexit three years ago) see a way through the Brexit thicket so that the UK survives without “no deal”.

At the risk of laying it on thick, “no deal” will be a disaster for the UK. Just the three areas of peace in Ireland, Manufacturing supply chains and medicines are enough to make any sane PM run a million miles to avoid “no deal”. Add in the latest warnings about data (speaking as a former IT manager this latter warning gives me the screaming heebee-jeebies) and you have an utter nightmare waiting to happen.

But still Johnson endlessly repeats, day after day, on his Twitter feed that we’ll be leaving on 31st October. He must be insane. And I suppose that is his Unique Selling Point. People think he is mad enough to press the no deal button even if it means locking the doors of Parliament. You can just imagine him at his Downing Street desk with a Kamakaze pilot’s headband around his head saying “No deal” written by Jacob Rees-Moggs quill pen.

Taking number 1 above, I believe that Johnson will move heaven and earth to avoid being the UK’s shortest serving PM (and perhaps being called, in Donald Tusk’s words, “Mr No Deal”). There is a statue of George Canning, (the current brief tenure holder as PM) but it is a bit of gamble as to whether an ungrateful nation would erect one to a “Mr Shortest Tenure No Deal Chaos”.

Taking number 2, I can see that Johnson sees this all like a rugby game. He is firing everybody up for a final heave – to push the ruck over the line and smuggle the ball over the line just before the final whistle.

Taking number 3, he seriously seems to think that he is getting concessions from the EU and this is what he is aiming for.

I live in hope that these little characteristics of our PM may lead us to some sort of deal. Yes, I want a People’s Vote, but most of all I don’t want a “no deal”, and I think it is conceivable that Johnson will pull together some sorts of concessions which he can parlay into some sort of package to have one last heave and get through Parliament so that on Haloween he gives the UK a treat rather than a trick.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Delusion doesn’t pay the rent Paul. Look at his time as London mayor, Boris Island, Garden Bridge full of glourious ideas and achieved none of them. It is tempting to think of Depeffel as a clever man playing the fool, the sobering fact is he is a fool who thinks he is a clever man playing the fool.

  • If Richard North is correct, and the EU follows its own rules, then we can only leave on 31 October with the existing deal, otherwise we have to choose between:

    1. Leaving on 31 October with no deal
    2. Leaving with a different deal, but after 31 October

    I am not sure which Mr Johnson will choose. I am not even sure he knows.

  • ……………….At the risk of laying it on thick, “no deal” will be a disaster for the UK. Just the three areas of peace in Ireland, manufacturing supply chains and medicines are enough to make any sane PM run a million miles to avoid “no deal”………………

    ”Sanity”, as personified in the poingnant last episode of ‘Blackadder’, is relative. In the current Cabinet (+1) who would notice another madman?
    ……………Boris Johnson claims Britain could “easily cope” with a no-deal Brexit. Like Baldrick,, Boris Johnson claims to have a plan but, like Baldrick standing at his trench ladder, time will run out before the world can marvel at his brilliance.

    Balldrick believed in an ostrich; Johnson in a unicorn.

  • Andrew McCaig 26th Aug '19 - 7:18pm

    I don’t think “treat” is a suitable word for any sort of Brexit, personally.

  • David Allen 26th Aug '19 - 7:48pm

    Andrew – The Richard North link rightly explains why the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be altered by 31st October. So, either we accept the WA, or we leave with no deal, or we ask for an extension. No Halloween “treat” in terms of tweaking the WA.

    However, the Political Declaration could be tweaked. That is the straw that Merkel and Macron have clutched on to. A “commitment” that the UK would proceed to negotiate a comprehensive EU trade deal including customs and regulatory alignment could be met by a “statement” from the EU side that once that had been done, the backstop would certainly disappear.

    However – The Political Declaration is non-binding – So we are playing with smoke and mirrors.

  • Brian Edmonds 26th Aug '19 - 8:42pm

    Paul, I realise your post is intended to be light-hearted, but I can’t say how depressed I am to find a self-proclaimed party activist apparently resigned to leaving, when our party and our leader are, as I understand it, still committed to finding a way to remain. You probably regret the Halloween pun already, but I am wholly with Andrew – any kind of Brexit will be a disaster, and, as I argue elsewhere, there is always the option of revoking Article 50. The idea that the future of our country depends on the psychological profile of Boris Johnson is probably overstating the extent of his power, but picking the nits out of various forms of leave is what has landed us in this sorry mess, and it really is a sorry admission of failure.

  • @David Allen
    Thanks for the useful clarification. It is unclear to me what the process is for tweaking the political declaration. But since, as you point out, the EU is pushing for a tweak, it must be possible to follow the process through within the timeframe given.

  • Leekliberal 27th Aug '19 - 3:21am

    To quote the ghastly plutonium blonde, Mrs T, it’s a no,no,no to leaving under any deal for we Lib Dems!

  • Richard Underhill 27th Aug '19 - 9:49am

    Jo Swinson will be on BBC2 at 10.00 today 27/8/19 with Labour’s Keir Starmer who has been interviewed on Radio 4 Today Programme today.
    The SNP’s leader in the Commons is being pragmatic with the consequences of NO Deal being top priority.

  • Richard Underhill 27th Aug '19 - 10:28am

    Jo Swinson said that changing the law is more likely to be the best way forward, would support a vote of no confidence, but thinks that Jeremy Corbyn must know that after that vote he is not the person best placed to command a majority of votes in the House of Commons.
    Although parliament is currently in recess conversations between MPs have been continuing face to face, by telephone and online.
    Keir Starmer said that the two options of vote/s of no confidence and changing the law are not mutually exclusive.


    “Evil obese ugly man!”

    What a horrid choice of words. Since when was it appropriate to fat shame people?
    attack the policies is one thing, but to attack someone on their personal appearance is down right disgraceful.

  • Bless Matt, which bit of we have left the the age of “nice” and have entered the age of “nasty” do you not get. When you opened Pandora’s box many evils flew out, of which hurty words and fat shaming are the least of your worries. Actions have consequences and by voting for Brexit and tearing up certainty you have voted for dire consequences, enjoy you victory the price will be high for all of us.

  • @frankie

    stop talking nonsense.
    It is perfectly ok to disagree with someones politics, but it is totally unacceptable to use abusive and insulting language about someones personal appearance which has nothing to do with their policies.

    I noted the other day that there was some discussion on the appropriateness of calling Joe Swinson bossy, as some Liberal Democrats felt it was inappropriate to use “sexist” comments aimed at a woman.
    So how then is this appropriate to use such degrading language about somebodies physical appearance? or is it only ok to use such language as long as it is directed at a Non Libdem.

  • Depeffle has used his disevelled apparence for years as a stage prop. So now people are commenting unfavourable on it you have a hissy fit. Well bless and bless again, as I said Matt you voted for chaos and hurty words will be the least of your problems. When times get hard people look for scape goats and the easiest scape goats are the old, minorities and the different; I wish that was not so but it tis and while everyone will have a hard time the scapegoats will have the worst. If only it could be different, quite if only you hadn’t voted for it.

  • @frankie

    I am taking issue with the use of the words ugly and obese as I do not feel it is EVER appropriate to describe ANYONE in those terms, no matter the circumstances or the person.
    It is totally unacceptable and I will call it out every time.

    I hoped for better from this site and I am surprised that the comment is being allowed to stand or is not at the least being called out by those in a place of responsibility

  • Sue Sutherland 27th Aug '19 - 12:10pm

    I think bumbling Boris is offering us a trick or no treat Halloween.

  • David Evershed 27th Aug '19 - 3:32pm

    Ad Monum attacks are off limits for anyone who is a liberal. Attack opponents arguments and policies but not them personally.

    Describing Boris Johnson as fat or bumbling or dishevelled just demonstates a lack of contrary arguments to his policies.

    The LibDem party nowadays seems to contain very many people who are illiberal in attitude.

  • David Evershed 27th Aug '19 - 3:33pm

    That’s Ad hominem in the previous post.

  • Sue Sutherland 27th Aug '19 - 6:14pm

    David Evershed. The word bumbling means acting in a confused and ineffectual way, incompetent. Our Lib Dem members of the London Assembly have pointed out quite strongly that Boris was ineffective and invested money in failed schemes. I do not see how the word can be taken as an Ad Hominem attack and resent being told I’m illiberal.
    I could easily call you illiberal in return but it’s a word that should only be used in extremis not as a play ground insult. This PM is apparently thinking about preventing Parliament from sitting in order to make a no deal Brexit easier to achieve. That is illiberal in my view because it goes against all the principles of parliamentary democracy that have been upheld since the 17th century. It is not a policy or argument but could be the start of a dictatorship. I think one of the best weapons against dictatorship is derision, but I agree that attacks on people’s appearance are undesirable, even though I might whisper them under my breath from time to time. I think that we can attack an aspect of someone’s character if it makes them unworthy of office. Telling lies is one of those character defects and the false promise on the bus was an example of this. That isn’t a policy or an argument but surely it should be attacked because it is likely to affect everything a person says.

  • @ Sue Sutherland Great response, Sue. I like the bumble bit. As a lover of Dickens it always delighted me that the awful Mr Bumble, the cruel pompous beadle of the workhouse, ended up in the workhouse himself. Here’s hoping.

    @ Lorenzo, you really can’t call somebody ludicrous and then advocate keeping it decent. If I may say so it’s doing the splits and ripping your pants…….. which would be impossible for me and a rather ludicrous split infinitive for you.

  • Brian Edmonds 28th Aug '19 - 9:50am

    Just when I thought I’d found a forum for serious debate, we get the above. I stopped reading Guardian comment threads exasperated by the mindless bile of sad, lonely, angry, intellectually impoverished people – the sooner Caron gets back from holiday the better.

  • Brian Edmonds 28th Aug '19 - 9:55am

    David Evershed: I guess the problem is, you don’t have to be a member to post on this site, though why anyone else has got nothing better to do defeats me.

  • Dilettante Eye 28th Aug '19 - 10:48am

    Brian Edmonds

    It sounds as if you don’t like your views to be challenged, so why put your views out on an open comment thread either here or the Guardian, when you must realise that views and opinions expressed there will get challenged ?

    Is your preference a closed forum? I believe LDV does have that facility for Lib Dem members, so why not express your views there?

  • Brian Edmonds 28th Aug '19 - 1:19pm

    Dilletante Eye – I should have added pretentious pseudonyms to my list…. You are underlining my point really. If you look elsewhere on this site you will see I relish informed challenge and debate of my ideas. Sadly the concept of ‘serious debate’, as opposed to puerile point-scoring and vituperative insults, seems to have passed you by.

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