Brexit powder keg lit as Johnson’s ‘coup’ provokes civil war within Conservative ranks

Brexit barrel
Tom Coburg

UK prime minister Boris Johnson is under attack from all sides. But like a frightened and wounded animal that’s backed into a corner by foes and friends alike, he is now at his most vulnerable.

It’s rumoured he will announce a snap general election. To some, this could be seen as a clever move, giving him a strategic advantage. To others, it would be like lighting a fuse to a powder keg, resulting in the quick and painful demise of his own party.

Even his friends are deserting him

The Conservative Party stalwart the Financial Times has published a damning editorial, slamming Johnson’s suicidal mission to crash the UK from out of the EU. Entitled “Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament is an affront to democracy”, it argues that “MPs must pass a no-confidence vote in the government and trigger a general election”.

Start your day with The Canary News Digest

Fresh and fearless; get excellent independent journalism from The Canary, delivered straight to your inbox every morning.




The editorial accuses Johnson of detonating a bomb under the constitutional apparatus of the United Kingdom. His proroguing of parliament is described as an “intolerable attempt to silence parliament”. It goes on to say:

It is time for parliamentarians to bring down his government in a no-confidence vote, paving the way for an election in which the people can express their will.

Though, despite such criticism, Johnson may well relish the prospect of an election at a time of his choosing.

Indeed, journalist Peter Jukes agreed with this analysis:

Conservatives are now UKIP

Michael Heseltine, the former Conservative deputy leader (under Margaret Thatcher) has described the BBC‘s retailing of Johnson’s excuses for proroguing parliament as mere “spin”:

And another Tory grandee, ‘Father of the House’ Ken Clarke, has gone further, describing his party under Johnson as “UKIP government re-badged”:

Clarke made it clear what he would do if a vote of no confidence against Johnson was passed. Should Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn then offer to head an alternative government, Clarke would support him:

Enemies within

Meanwhile, Johnson is also under attack via the courts, with the launch of three legal cases.

One is co-joined by former Conservative prime minister Sir John Major:

A second is being undertaken by the SNP in Scotland and is scheduled for a full hearing. And a third is under way, but now adjourned, in the north of Ireland to argue that a no deal Brexit would damage the Good Friday Agreement and so see more violence.

It’s civil war within Tory ranks

The Tory Party can now be described as at war with itself. Indeed, Johnson’s special adviser Dominic Cummings has apparently made it clear that any Tory MP who votes to extend the deadline for the withdrawal of the UK from the EU will be barred from standing as a Conservative contender at the next general election.

Former chancellor Philip Hammond commented on this:

And Young Conservatives for a People’s Vote added how they believe their party is on a “dark road”:

The wider ‘civil war’

Saturday saw protests against the Johnson ‘coup’ across the country in 80 locations, such as Whitehall and Manchester.

At one point demonstrators surged towards Buckingham Palace:

Political activist and journalist Paul Mason went on to describe the demonstrations as an “insurgency”:

Dilemma time for Tories

Meanwhile, if Johnson decides to proceed with a snap election, then that will be a huge gamble on his part. Success would presumably mean a mandate for a no deal Brexit and the dreadful consequences such a scenario would bring. Failure, however, may well see the dramatic collapse of the Conservatives, for many years to come.

So the choice for the Tories appears clear: back a rogue government, hell-bent on hard Brexit or no deal; or stop such a move in its tracks and re-establish more traditional Conservative values.

Rediscovering our political soul

For those of us who took part or supported the nationwide demonstrations (and more are likely) we need to examine our options too. 

But Labour has its own plans, as shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer explained:

And Corbyn warns it’s now essential that parliament reasserts itself in the face of Johnson’s latest manoeuvres:

And with Johnson cornered, it’s time for all progressives unite.

Featured image via Flickr Creative Commons

Since you're here ...

We know you don't need a lecture. You wouldn't be here if you didn't care.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to challenge the rightwing press and hold power to account. Please help us survive and thrive.

The Canary Support
  • Show Comments
    1. Wounded animals backed into a corner are also at their most dangerous.

      In The Art of War, we are told that it is a folly to pursue an enemy into a cul-de-sac, due to the fact that having nothing else but their lives to fight for, they will fight with everything they have, and everything they are, even knowing they will ultimately fail.

      At times though, even an animal/enemy backed into a corner can win due to the tactical error made by the pursuers. History shows us that even with numbers 3-5 times greater than the trapped, the greater force has lost due to not taking into account the wisdom of these warnings. These warnings apply in civil society as much as in military strategy.

      Johnson is a very dangerous animal, and a traitor to our democracy. He, along with a great many other traitorous politicians, should be arrested and incarcerated to face trial for the attempted murder of our Nation, and our Democracy.

      The Conservative party should be disbanded, and made illegal. It should be classed as a #1 Terrorist Organization, and should never again be allowed to reform under that name or those policies.

      It should be held up for all time as a terrifying example (like the Nazi’s under Hitler) of what Democracy should never be, and all our children should be taught about the nightmare they have inflicted on humanity, maybe even used as the bogeyman ….. ‘if you are a bad person, The Thatcher, The Cameron, The May, and The Johnson will rise up and take you to their lair, where they will suck the soul and marrow from your body, just as they sucked the soul and marrow out of England.

    2. The wounded animal and warfare analogies are apt.

      A trapped force, particularly one not likely to receive relief, is best left to attrition with an option for orderly surrender: the Stalingrad policy. Johnson’s attempted putsch, doubtless long in preparation, cannot be settled by bottling the conspirators. Reason being, they retain considerable power to cause devastation well beyond their area of confinement during the brief period until their cunningly contrived pseudo-deadline.

      The seriousness of the circumstances cannot be understated. This is no traditional left/right conflict. That evinced by almost united opposition across the aisle together with prominent Conservatives, some no longer in the House, demonstrating honourable intent. Brexit no longer is the issue, despite the mountebank Johnson’s attempt to make it seem so; if detachment from the EU were alone the aim, there is only contrived urgency over the timetable; Cameron, May, and now Johnson, have so muddied the waters that agreement is no longer possible without both parties taking pause for thought; demand by Johnson for strict adherence to the exit date has no credibility when presented as a tough negotiating ploy by a ‘statesman’.

      During recent months as Brexit frenzy hotted up, and thanks to Mr Trump for offer of a helping hand, it has become obvious that further deregulation of industry and commerce, together with more ‘privatisation’ (asset stripping), is the aim of Johnson’s loathsome crew in conjunction with dark forces lurking in shadow beyond parliament. That is why ‘no-deal’ Brexit is so important to them. Retaining trade links with the EU would entail continuation of standards of protection for society at large which would have to be abandoned when the USA becomes the first post-Brexit trading partner. Also, persons hitherto anxious for Brexit, but on terms, ought consider loss of legal protections superseding those on offer from the UK’s ‘make it up as one goes along’ constitution. They should consider Johnson’s attempted coup harbinger of things to come once restraints imposed by EU membership are removed.

      Also coming out in the wash is a matter few previously talked about: iniquitous ‘deep state’ rule effected through a self-perpetuating inner core of the Privy Council. Monarchy has proven itself incapable of standing for its ‘subjects’ and their parliament. It’s clear that all matters pertaining to constitutional arrangements must be placed in the hands of our Supreme Court. Moreover, creating a written constitution should figure in bipartisan agendas.

      Before us is an issue transcending conventional left/right politics of the past. We are faced with the stark choice between unchecked neo-liberalism and that of unwinding much done by, and following, Mrs Thatcher. It is an economic and social choice, the two deeply interconnected. On the one hand is placing faith in the benign nature of markets and accepting that, as presently organised, the current incarnation of market-capitalism (one Adam Smith would not grasp but predicted by Karl Marx and others) leads to sequestration of wealth by ever fewer people (thereby taking ‘capital’ away from ‘market’). On the other hand is regulated markets within a mixed economy. Mrs Thatcher made clear there is no such thing as ‘society for people thinking along her lines. Now there is need to repudiate that. Honourable Conservatives, those of the past, recognised the concept of Noblesse Oblige. That notion is alien to neo-liberals and why is explained in the writing of Ayn Rand.

      The last major constitutional spat led to civil war followed, after decades, by The Restoration (of monarchy). The ‘restoration’ to be sought after the current dispute is of ‘society’. Conventional thinking placing political thought on a left/right unidimensional spectrum is ceasing to possess utility; or as William James might have said: the idea now lacks ‘cash value’. In context of present day expectations and technologies there are many modes of thought and actions following from them truly belong in the realm of anachronism. However, that is a different story to be told another day.

      —–

      Released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 international license (sic).

      —–

      Author’s email: atlanticcouncil@protonmail.com

      —–

      Bitcoin appreciation to:

      1Kz9AteVKnt3xb4wfDtAZH2DhnU3dy1Wkt

    3. Paul Mason is right. He spoke at our demo in Manchester. The event began at noon, we listened to the speakers, cheered and chanted; but when that wound up we did not disperse. We remained united and continued to chant until the cry went up, “Let’s march.” And we did. To the town hall where we assembled in Albert Square and held our people’s parliament. Anyone could speak and many did passionately and intelligently. At length, an activist from the nearby Extinction Rebellion protest suggested we join forces, so we marched again. The streets were ours. The police, to their credit, were a low-key presence who took a sensible view, recognised we were a good-natured crowd intending no trouble and let us get on with it. The police need democracy too.
      I have been on hundreds of demos across more than four decades but I have never experienced a mood like yesterday. Angry, disgusted of course, but high-minded, peaceable, friendly, generous and utterly determined. Had the town hall not been closed for refurbishment we would probably have occupied it. The people of Manchester are democrats to their marrow. It was ingrained by Peterloo, by decades of struggle and sacrifice. We despise dictators, we loathe racists, homophobes, all forms of irrational negative prejudice. What was clear yesterday was that we are willing to stand and fight for our democracy, peaceably of course. This is an insurgency. If Johnson does not back off it will deepen, strengthen and spread. Next time, there will be fifty thousand of us in Manchester and will occupy the city. Johnson must be taught it is the common folk who make this country work, not a cabal of public school ideologues or top-hatted would-be aristocrats. We make it work and we can shut it down if our democracy is threatened.
      When Thatcher followed her political instincts what did we get? The Poll Tax. When Nye Bevan followed his political instincts what did we get? The NHS. The former brought riots the latter is our most cherished institution. That’s the difference between a politician who works for the people and one who works against them. Johnson’s instincts are more out of touch then Thatcher’s. The Poll Tax protests will be a dolly’s picnic if he isn’t reined in.
      The insurgency began yesterday. Remember the date. 31st August 2019.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.