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  • Boris Johnson has been in Downing Street just two weeks

  • and already the talk is of a general election.

  • No ifs and buts, says Mr Johnson,

  • Britain must be out of the EU by October the 31.

  • So, Robert, is this real, the election talk?

  • And how does it square with the exit date?

  • Well, I think there are two answers to that, of course.

  • My instinct is that he doesn't want a general election

  • before Brexit for a number of reasons, one of which

  • I think he's articulated, is that the Conservatives need

  • to deliver on Brexit before they go to the polls.

  • Also, I think for a lot of people

  • who passionately believe in Brexit,

  • and that's who the kind of people he's surrounded himself

  • with, do you really want to risk Brexit by giving

  • the voters a chance to stop it?

  • On the other hand, he's also keenly

  • aware of the realities of his parliamentary arithmetic.

  • Just one-vote

  • He's got an official majority of just one,

  • it's fractionally larger and that in reality.

  • But nonetheless, he could be voted down at any time.

  • There's an awful lot of talk of vote of confidence

  • to bring down the government.

  • And that's led by the Remainers in chief, Dominic Grieve,

  • and one or two ex-disgruntled...

  • That's exactly right.

  • I mean, and the Labour, no...

  • there's all kinds of conversations going on between

  • the Labour party and Conservative Remainers about

  • how they can stop a no-deal Brexit.

  • And Boris Johnson and his advisers,

  • Dominic Cummings who's effectively

  • his chief strategist now, are looking at this

  • and they know there's a real possibility

  • of a general election.

  • So their question is, A, how do we get this over the line?

  • But also, the other message they want to send out to people

  • is, we're not going to let a general election stop us

  • from delivering Brexit on the date we set.

  • So don't count on a parliamentary cavalry coming

  • to your rescue.

  • Right.

  • A word on Dominic Cummings - the Rasputin, Svengali,

  • any other nicknames for this man who sees himself

  • as one of the great power centres in this new government?

  • Yeah.

  • Well, I mean, Dominic Cummings, who most notably was

  • the architect of the vote leave victory in the 2016 referendum,

  • rewarded for this by being played by Benedict Cumberbatch

  • in a TV serialisation.

  • You see, an actor who plays Sherlock Holmes and Alan

  • Turing playing you it is not good for controlling anyone's

  • ego.

  • But he is a serious campaign strategist

  • and he is bringing real discipline

  • to a government of believers in Brexit.

  • And people are prepared to go for a no-deal Brexit

  • if they have to.

  • And Cummings came back with a memorable slogan

  • "take back control."

  • But here's an irony, he talked about take back control

  • but parliament should in Britain post Brexit.

  • But in fact, this government wants

  • to disregard a parliamentary vote.

  • There hasn't yet been a parliamentary vote

  • to stop a no-deal Brexit.

  • We certainly think it's possible there could be,

  • but the parliamentary forces have

  • been erratic in their efforts to resist Brexit so far.

  • They have managed the odd success,

  • but there's not that many opportunities

  • between now and October 31 and there's not that many vehicles.

  • And any chance of this supposed national unity government

  • involving Remainers and Labour and Greens taking force instead

  • of the Johnson administration?

  • Well, I mean, look, this whole process has had more twists

  • and shocks than any.

  • So it'd be foolish to rule out anything.

  • I find it very difficult to see how you get to that government

  • of national unity, for the simple reason that it requires

  • Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party.

  • It would either require Conservative Remainers

  • to be prepared to serve under Jeremy Corbyn briefly

  • to stop Brexit.

  • Or, since I don't think they would be,

  • it would require Jeremy Corbyn to allow the Labour party

  • to serve under somebody other than him.

  • And I think it's quite difficult to make that work,

  • on top of which you do have some Labour Brexit and other

  • independents who would not support it anyway.

  • And finally, one figure we haven't mentioned

  • is Nigel Farage.

  • Do you think there's any circumstances under which Mr

  • Johnson would countenance a tactical alliance

  • with the Brexit party led by Mr Farage?

  • Well, again, you can't rule anything out.

  • I think it's difficult for a couple of reasons.

  • Obviously, it depends on when the election is

  • - whether it is before or after Brexit.

  • I think Nigel Farage is essentially

  • running another shakedown on the Conservatives

  • just like he did to get the referendum in the first place.

  • Because he knows that if he stands candidate

  • against the Conservatives in an election before Brexit,

  • what he is guaranteeing is that Remain minded parties win.

  • So he's got to be careful at this

  • but he could certainly scare them

  • into staying true to what he considers an acceptable Brexit.

  • All thinks he's really after in terms of a pact,

  • if he really thinks it's viable, is the right to stand unopposed

  • by Tories in Labour seats.

  • I think if things got desperate enough, it's possible

  • but it's not something I think the Conservatives would

  • want to cede and they'll resist it if they can.

  • Now I'm going to put you on the spot as a closer,

  • not to ask about Queen's Park Rangers, your team,

  • but what bet for an election before Christmas?

  • Before Christmas, I think there's a reasonable bet.

  • What's that?

  • 60 per cent?

  • Yeah, 60 per fent or so.

  • But I think the real question is whether it comes before Brexit.

  • There's no question the Conservatives will

  • want to go early, but the question for after Brexit

  • is, what is the immediate Brexit moment like?

  • If it's quite smooth, then a quick election

  • looks quite appealing.

  • If it's chaotic, well, that may not look so clever.

  • Robert Shrimsley, thanks very much.

Boris Johnson has been in Downing Street just two weeks

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Brexit: the challenge facing UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson | FT

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/03/27
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