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  • Lawrence Bailey

Battle is with the breadline - not Brexit

As someone once observed; a week is a long time in politics - and this week in Westminster could yet deliver a few surprises.

Without going too much into the respective rights and wrongs, it wouldn’t hurt to ponder the background behind the current hoo-hah.

So let’s start with how newly installed prime minister Boris Johnson clearly took on the job in the knowledge that he faced pretty much the same barriers as confronted his predecessor, Theresa May, in delivering a Brexit deal.

Add to that how a good proportion of MPs on both sides of the House don’t think he has much in the way of a mandate, whatever his intentions.

We shouldn’t therefore be too surprised by his ruthless purge of the unbelievers plus a virtual parliamentary lock-out; actions that drew as much approval in some quarters as they generated absolute horror in others.

The accusation levelled at Johnson - and one that Downing street has done little to repudiate - is that the individual pulling the strings is one Dominic Cummings. A pivotal figure in the Vote Leave campaign, Cummings has a spiky reputation and a less than respectful attitude towards Westminster and its conventions.

With equal enthusiasm for sacking other political advisors as arranging for the delivery of a rescue puppy to Downing Street, Cummings' undisguised influence is evidence that it’s apparently acceptable in tory circles to have a government run by un-elected bureaucrats provided that they’re our un-elected bureaucrats.

Once you know these salient facts then a lot of the other stuff sort of falls into place.

Nonetheless, the collective view among fellow MPs is that Johnson appears to have overplayed a fairly weak hand in the Commons where it’s always been about the numbers.

It’s also possibly dawning on some in his cabinet that they’ve not only been left out of the loop in key strategic moves but that the loop now closely resembles a noose.

It must be said of course that several pundits insist Johnson is actually a canny individual and that beneath all the blond bombast sits an astute tactical brain.

The insight they offer is that a ploy is in operation which covertly acknowledges from the outset that cross-party opposition was always going to stop a no-deal Brexit. The smart bit involves in exploiting the political capital from such a ‘betrayal of the people’ in a subsequent general election campaign.

It’s a neat scenario and may well be included in the Cummings playbook. The only problem is that strategies of this kind typically have a habit of unravelling at the hands of an increasingly united opposition. What’s more, Nigel Farage still remains a far more credible figure among do-or-die leavers.

Politics is in a right old state and general elections are not the solutions they used to be. Nor do they produce the clear-cut outcomes that can change things for the better.

There’s a currently a meme on social media which depicts a punter telling a woman behind a counter how the government has created thousands of new jobs.

“Yes”, she says, “I’ve got three of them and I still can’t make ends meet”.

For many families, the battle will not be about Brexit but the breadline.

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