Brexit: Is Boris Johnson splitting the Tory party? | FT

With Tory grandees expelled from the Conservative party and the government at loggerheads with the Commons where it no longer has a majority, the FT’s Miranda Green and Robert Shrimsley discuss whether this was part of prime minister Boris Johnson’s plans for delivering his ‘do or die’ Brexit. Read the latest on Johnson’s tactics:

So another extraordinary week in british politics perhaps the most extraordinary yet robert is this a plan boris johnson has hurtled at great speed towards a confrontation with parliament and now perhaps a general election as well is this actually part of the strategy or is this the unraveling of a premiership in its first few days of being in charge the answer

Could be yes i think that there definitely was a plan and the plan was exactly as you’re describing to bring the confrontation with parliament to a head that the team johnson recognized that parliament was going to vote to stop them having a no deal brexit it was going to legislate the prorogation wasn’t going to do the job they also were aware that the prorogation

Of parliament might actually heighten the confrontation which suited them they could have a people versus parliament election you people are stopping brexit we’re going to the country because we trust you and that was a strategy and you could see the logic of it what’s happened in the last few days is the unraveling of that strategy in a couple of different ways

Firstly he threatened to expel any of his mps that voted against him more of them did than he expected and something they even provoked some dominic cummings his chief strategist was incredibly dismissive and rude to some of the key figures who voted against the government and you know really eminent people philip hammond from a chancellor greg clark kenneth clark

He’s a senior people in the conservatories built people who’ve been in the cabinet a matter of weeks ago in very senior positions right and with the proximity of a general election taking the party with away from them is tantamount expelling them and deselecting them and what you’re saying to the country is there is no room in the conservative party for some of

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The best known figures and some of the most mainstream figures and furthermore since one of your organs against jeremy corbyn is that he is an extremist who expels and purges his moderate well moderates that line doesn’t look so good either the second reason is beginning to become complicated is because labour has tumbled to this strategy and it’s saying well

Maybe we’re not going to give you the election when you want and on the terms you want so all of a sudden boris johnson strategy is beginning to look very precarious it’s not definitely unravelling yet i think there’s still a decent chance label given the election but it’s not guaranteed and what about this idea that this might be the final coming to fruition of

The schism that’s kind of been threatened in the conservative party under successive tory prime minister’s really that europe is the kind of rock on which the tory party finally found us because you’ve now got dozens of tory mps potentially as you said deselected to make room for much more extremely anti europeans what happens to the rest of the tory party that’s

Been told it’s not well that really interesting question i mean obviously at one level schism is fractionally too strong because you’re talking about quite a small sliver of the concerns but because everybody’s been moving ever rightwards for quite a long time so there is a fair degree of the unity of purpose around the brexit position that they have among party

Members and among the bulk of the parliamentary party which is not the same as saying among conservative voters now see but the party while it looks divided at this minute there is a degree of unity and a purpose there they are now the leave party they are possibly the brexit party and so they’ve completed they’re also changing their electoral base because a lot

Of the well-heeled southern more metropolitan liberal minded conservatives are looking this in thinking about hang on this isn’t us and they have this northern strategy of chasing votes in working-class areas in the north some of the smaller towns people who have voted labour but a very patriotic don’t like jeremy corbyn and they think they can get those people

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But it’s a hell of a gamble and what has opened up as you having you’ll notice we open up right in the centre of politics is a huge space between corbin ism and johnson brexit ism there’s a large gap for a party if it’s able to fill it but there’s also a schism in the johnson clan yes absolutely boris his brother joe is that his younger brother who was a minister

Just outside the cabinet but with the right 15 cabinet has today announced that he is standing out from parliament’s and downs and minister citing the fact that he has been unable to resolve the conflict between family loyalty and national interests which is are not very kota way of saying i can’t put up with what my brother’s doing any longer and what about if

We do have an imminent general election earlier than is scheduled do you think you’ll actually see something very unusual which is a kind of pro brexit hacked on one side and a kind of mirror image pro remain or stop no deal alliance on the other because the numbers are so tight and there’s a danger of just ending up with another hung parliament which of course

Wouldn’t resolve bricks at at all unless it’s really clear what the two options are yeah i mean i think anybody who wants to call the general election should immediately be dismissed because i i certainly don’t know how it will play out you can construct different theories about this but a hung parliament is certainly one of the more plausible options as to the

Pacts well i don’t know i think the conservative party leadership would very much like not to have a pact with the brexit party nigel farage they would prefer just to shove them aside and and squeeze their vote and i think if they think they can do that that will be their preferred option if the election is held before the brexit date the brexit party has a major

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Question to face which is do we want to risk brexit by stopping the conservatives from winning on the remain side more difficult because i think the diverse parties have remain are finding it very difficult to work together joe swinson the liberal democrat leader has said she couldn’t put jeremy corbyn into power so that’s tricky the labour party is not a party

Which has minded to stand aside for other parties anywhere the scottish nationalists and snp because they are independence movement parties are problematic for the other two parties so i can see a few side deals on the remain side packaging the greens and the lib dems may be applied camry in the lived i can see that happening but on the greens are quite relaxed

About jeremy corbyn because they’re more left-wing anyway so exactly right so i can see smaller packs but i can’t see a grand remain alliance what is however possible is the voters could figure this out for themselves and they can look at where things lie and say the best remain choice here is labour all the lib dems or whoever the one other wrinkle in this is the

Labour’s own position on breaks it is complex in that it is offering a referendum while saying it will also seek a better brexit deal so it’s in the rather strange position of saying we will seek a better deal we will get our better deal and then we’ll have a referendum on it with the other option being remain and we’re not sure which side that will campaign them

So for the moment there is still a fair amount of daylight between them and say the liberal democrats or the scottish nationalists who are out in out remaining parties now and of course labour will be hoping that in fact the election turns into being fought on other topics but they’re stronger anyway but all we can say probably is it’s all looking extremely volatile

Transcribed from video
Brexit: Is Boris Johnson splitting the Tory party? | FT By Financial Times

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