Boris Johnson

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the NLV Pharos, a lighthouse tender moored on the river Thames to mark London International Shipping Week in London.

13-09-2019REUTERS

What is it about ex-Prime Ministers that they feel such a powerful obligation to slag off their successors in such virulent terms? This week we have had two prime examples: David Cameron in his new “revenge” book and Sir John Major branding Boris Johnson in the Supreme Court as a liar and a law-breaker.

And remember, they are not attacking the Opposition, but the leader of their own party and the country’s current Prime Minister. His crime, apparently, is that he is determined to deliver the verdict of the 17.4 million people who voted in a referendum (set up by Cameron himself) to leave the European Union.

Oh no, the Remainers will reply, Johnson is being attacked for proroguing Parliament in a bid to avoid scrutiny by MPs. But didn’t John Major prorogue Parliament, shortly before the 1997 general election, in order to stifle debate about the “cash for questions” affair that was embarrassing his government? Talk about the teapot calling the kettle black!

And wasn’t Major also responsible for widening the division in the Conservative Party over Europe by endorsing the Maastricht Treaty in 1992? This created the European Union (dropping the title of “Economic Community,” which is what the British people had voted to join in 1975,) and set up the Eurozone.

In doing this Major tied Britain more closely to a Europe that was set on achieving a federal government and forcing individual member countries to hand over more powers to Brussels in many areas, including justice and immigration. That was surely the time when a referendum should have been held (as happened in France and Denmark) to approve or reject this loss of national sovereignty.

Major, who seemed such a gentle soul in office (Edwina Currie notwithstanding) has followed Edward Heath in becoming increasingly hot-headed after he left. His resignation as a member of the MCC was completely irrational in favouring a property developer’s plan for Lord’s against the judgement of the Committee and its professional advisers.

Besides, in what sense have MPs been prevented from challenging Johnson’s plans for Brexit anyway? Haven’t they already bound him hand and foot to seek an extension from the EU in the event that he doesn’t come up with a deal? In doing that they have not only put him in a position where he would be required to act against his own conscience and his declared policy, but also pulled the rug out from under him in his attempt to secure the deal that the MPs say they want.

What more could they possibly want? Well, what the Remainers really want is just what their name says: for Britain to abandon the referendum result and stay in Europe. They may dress up this stance as opposition to leaving without a deal, but what they really want is no Brexit at all. And they dare to call this the “democratic” option.

Now the Supreme Court has to rule on the matter. I have to say it troubles me that the courts should be called in to judge a Prime Minister’s honesty, or political decisions at all (and it should trouble the judges as well). If the courts are to be involved, why weren’t they required to judge Tony Blair’s honesty over the so-called “dodgy dossier” that led us into the war with Iraq, bringing death or mutilation to thousands of British troops while making the plight of the Iraqi people worse rather than better?

If politics is to come within the purview of the courts, wouldn’t it be useful to know if it was “lawful” for MPs to stage a Parliamentary coup and take over Government business with the aim of blocking the referendum result on leaving Europe? And if the decisions of the Speaker, John Bercow, were “lawful” in breaking Parliamentary precedent and allowing this to happen? And, on the question of honesty, was Bercow motivated by his own opposition to Brexit when his job, constitutionally, is to be impartial?

Besides, how can the judges possibly determine, as they are being invited to do, that Johnson lied to the Queen over his reasons for seeking the prorogation of one of the longest Parliaments in history? Only two people took part in that conversation and neither of them can be forced to reveal what they said.

Johnson has crashed into so many obstacles in his bid to do what his Conservative MPs elected him to do – defeated on a number of votes in the House, losing his Parliamentary majority, undermined by senior figures in his own party, denied a general election, forced to seek an EU extension he doesn’t want, taken to the Supreme Court for allegedly lying, and so on.

I’m not sure if his situation should be likened to the trials of Job or the labours of Hercules. Either way, I hope that, despite these setbacks, he succeeds in getting Britain out of Europe by the end of next month. For once I agree with that tipsy old chancer, Jean-Claude Juncker, that this outcome is possible.

LESSONS from England’s drawn Test series with Australia:

· Joe Root is not the right long-term captain for England. He lacks the self-confident drive the role requires and it has had a bad effect on his batting.
· Ben Stokes is a genuine all-round hero in the Ian Botham mould, but (like Botham and Kevin Pietersen) not a Test match captain.
· Rory Burns looks like the real thing as an opener and is a top-class slip fielder.
· England need two new batsmen: Sibley and Ollie Pope?
· Stuart Broad still has some miles on the clock.
· Ben Curran should have been played earlier in the series for his batting and the variation he offers as a left-arm seamer.
· Jos Buttler’s batting needs to be more consistent if he is to justify his place.
· Jofra Archer is a gift from God.
· If Steve Smith is the best batsman in the world: if he hadn’t been there, England would have won the series.

Now for the Rugby World Cup: can England repeat the success of its one-day cricketers? It’s definitely possible, as Juncker might say.

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