In going for no deal, Boris Johnson should beware the Ides of March

Columnist  | Farrukh Dhondy

Opinion, Oped

The population of Britain is approximately 67 million.

Britain’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement in the House of Commons in London on Thursday. (Photo: AFP)

“Not tolerating intolerance
He was intolerant of himself.
If all books were in one book
How vast would be its shelf?”
From Bites Heal, Barks Linger by Bachchoo

Britain has a new government as of this week. Boris Johnson, to whom some years ago in a face to face casual encounter I suggested that his next move should be a shot at 10 Downing Street and was promptly told to shut up, has made it to that coveted address.

Mr Johnson, with a precarious majority of two in Parliament, has set out with great gusto to sack most of the Cabinet he inherited from Theresa May and set about recruiting his own officials, advisers and ministers, making all manner of costly promises to the British public.

Mr Johnson (he prefers to be called Boris, and though most commentators comply, I am not playing!) has won the leadership of the Conservative Party and consequently the prime ministership through an election in which 92,000 members of the party voted for him. The population of Britain is approximately 67 million. A quick mental calculation tells me that this electorate is 0.137 per cent of the population. Gentle reader, Mr Johnson’s accession has been undertaken in the cause of “democracy”.

Mr Johnson and his supporters constantly speak about the “will of the people” because 51.something per cent against 48.something per cent of the voting population opted in 2016 to leave the European Union. Mr Johnson insists that he will carry out the democratic will of the people — not noting the irony that puts him in charge of the nation through the vote of 0.137 per cent of this great democratic country. As something of a historian, he certainly knows that his path to Downing Street without an electorate’s mandate is an infinitely less democratic process than that which brought Julius Caesar to power.

And now, with the narrowest parliamentary majority and several of his own MPs dedicatedly opposed to his central policy of delivering Brexit on the 31st of October with “no deal”, he must await his own Ides of March. Incidentally that date is Halloween and more traditionally spooky than Caesar’s fatal day.

Boris has blithely set about recruiting his team to deliver on this promise and though most of his team, advisers and ministerial appointments will mean very little, gentle reader, to you, I choose to bring to your generous attention three characteristic Boris Johnson choices which are worthy of comment.

Almost as soon as he drove from the Palace, where the Queen appointed him her Prime Minister, to outside 10 Downing Street where the press awaited him, he appointed a fellow called Dominic Cummins to be his special adviser. This Mr Cummins, is to put it mildly, what the British public call a “weirdo”. In 2016, in the campaign for the referendum to determine whether the UK should remain in the EU or leave it, he became something of a mastermind within the “Leave” campaign. Very many “facts” that this Leave campaign put out to the public to win votes have proved to be not just adjustments of the truth but downright and conscious lies.

Whether Mr Cummins was behind these untruths is not certain, but what has emerged is that he persuaded the campaign to keep the details of the economic disaster that would ensue very quiet. The public was to be fed slogans such as “take back control” and they were to be urged to break loose from the “unelected bureaucrats of Brussels!” It didn’t occur to the unelected Cummins or his colleagues in the campaign, including Nigel Farage, the loudest mouth in the Leave campaign, that they hadn’t received anything near the status of the democratically appointed officials of the European Union in Brussels. Irony has ceased to be a subtle British characteristic.

So, the unelected weirdo will again be propagating the theme of labelling the negotiators of the EU, elected and democratically appointed by the European Parliament, which is itself elected by the people of Europe, as “unelected bureaucrats” — all in the service of Mr 0.137 per cent Johnson. O tempora, O mores!

Let’s now come to two of Mr Johnson’s senior Cabinet appointees. On assuming the keys to No 10, Mr Johnson announced that there would be more women and ethnic minorities in his government. He appointed Sajid Javid as his chancellor and Priti Patel as the home secretary.

Mr Javid’s claim to fame is that he is the son of a Pakistani immigrant who came to Britain and worked as a bus driver. Our “Saju” qualified and worked as a financier and manager of capital funds, so his economist credentials are not in question. But why is he in the Conservative Party, the Party of Churchill, Enoch Powell and Margaret Thatcher?

Suppose, just suppose, gentle reader, Prime Minister Narendra Modiji was genuinely appalled by and opposed to the Hindu vigilantes and criminals who attack, lynch and kill innocent Muslims. And suppose it occurred to him to appoint a Muslim to be the home minister with immediate and specially legislated powers and a recruited special police force to stamp out this blot on Indian civilisation; and suppose too that this Muslim minister got on with the task and went some way to sorting it out… No one in the world could wonder what that Muslim was doing in the BJP. He or she would be a national necessity and a treasure.

Is that the position our “Saju”, the Tory chancellor, finds himself in? Will he, for instance, exempt all people of colour from paying this burdensome income tax? (Please yaar!).

And Ms Patel? The daughter of immigrants from East Africa? She was thrown out of Ms May’s government where she was international development secretary, for initiating private negotiations with Israel without telling Ms May. Tch tch!

Her father stood as a candidate for the far-right UKIP. Let’s hope dikri is not influenced by daddyji’s politics. Chalo, joiyeh Priti soo karsey!