Boris Johnson inches closer to election with mercifully brief speech

The Prime Minister moved closer towards an election in a brief address to the nation. 

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Vote for me or get ready for an election: that was Boris Johnson’s message to MPs tonight.

It was a short and essentially content-free speech, because the Prime Minister has already used all of the weapons in his arsenal, rhetorically speaking: Conservative MPs have been threatened with deselection if they vote against the government, and he has already made vague noises about his ability to get a deal. The question is whether or not MPs buy it. 

He vowed never to seek an extension to the Brexit process, even should MPs vote to force him to seek one. It is far from guaranteed that they will, as rebel opposition MPs could yet cancel out any Conservative rebellion.

But Johnson has maximised the chances of defeat with an address that made it politically tricky for Labour MPs to break ranks and vote for him after so explicitly linking the vote to delay with the Labour leader.

The likelihood is that this won’t be the last time this week that Boris Johnson addresses the public from Downing Street – with his next address very probably an announcement that he is seeking a general election. You can see the contours of that election message: a campaign message that he can get a great deal, just the best deal, if voters can rid him of this troublesome Parliament. 

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics. He also co-hosts the New Statesman podcast.

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