Boris Johnson’s destructive path towards a general election will come back to haunt him

Editorial: The prime minister is intent on whipping up angry Leave voters and splitting the Remain vote. It will further polarise the country. And at some point, he or a successor will have to pick up the pieces

Sunday 29 September 2019 23:06
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Boris Johnson defends use of 'surrender act' on Andrew Marr

When he took office two months ago, Boris Johnson said outside 10 Downing Street: “My job ... is to be prime minister of the whole United Kingdom, and that means uniting our country.”

A very different Mr Johnson gave a rare full-length interview to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. He was unrepentant about using intemperate language, doubling down on describing the Benn Act, forcing him to seek an extension of the UK’s EU membership in the event of no deal, as the “Surrender Act”. It doubtless plays well in focus groups, and he will not lose sleep if accusing parliament of surrendering to the EU widens the already dangerous divide between MPs and the public. Or worry that his label is factually inaccurate: the Benn Act, named after its Labour sponsor Hilary Benn, gives MPs the right to reject an extension proposed by the EU.

In his interview, Mr Johnson used “surrender” no fewer than 15 times, taking refuge in MPs’ use of military metaphors “for centuries”. He deployed it to deflect attention from his dismissing as “humbug” the fears of female MPs about threats of violence against them. He claimed, unconvincingly, there was a misunderstanding; that he used “humbug” in the context of MPs trying to prevent him using “surrender”.

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