MITCH BENN: There is still time to sink this fool

Prime Minister Boris Johnson boards a security vessel at the Port of Southampton. Picture: Getty Ima

Prime Minister Boris Johnson boards a security vessel at the Port of Southampton. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images

Seizing an opportunity to defeat Boris Johnson could instigate a new era of political free-thinking, according to Mitch Benn.

Boris Johnson is a liar and a coward.

Once more for the people in the back row: BORIS JOHNSON IS A LIAR AND A COWARD.

Now, in previous eras this might have been thought sufficient reason to remove him from office (it might even have been considered reasonable grounds for denying him that office in the first place). But, alas, this is 2019, the era not so much of My Party Right Or Wrong, but My Party Right, Wrong, Really Wrong, Wrong About Literally Everything, Vicious Or Just Plain Generally Evil.

Indeed, the striking thing about the supporters of the lying coward Boris Johnson is that not very many of them leap to his defence when his cowardice and mendacity are pointed out. It's not that they deny that he's a lying coward, or pretend not to know that he's a lying coward, they're perfectly content for Boris Johnson to be a lying coward because damn it all, he's their lying coward.

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One tries whenever possible to resist glib comparisons between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump but there are times when it's inevitable: In the United States, the supporters of Trump neither protest Trump's innocence nor feign ignorance when his bullying, cowardice, pathological mendaciousness, racism and misogyny are flagged up. It's not that they don't know he's a jerk. They love that he's a jerk, because, in many cases, they're jerks too. (I'm not making an anti-American point here; at any given time a fair percentage of the human race are jerks.)

And then along comes Donald Trump - an arch-jerk, a man who has for his entire career nurtured and weaponised his jerkishness and ultimately built an entire political movement around enshrining his own right to be the biggest uber-jerk imaginable - and all the regular jerks' eyes light up. At last, no more tedious trying to contain their own jerk tendencies; the president's a jerk, it's a jerk country in which jerks can embrace their jerkery and give it full expression.

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Similarly at any given minute in this country there are many people - well men, let's face it - who would dearly love to be in a position to get away with turning in a half-arsed effort at work but being endlessly promoted anyway, charming and/or sleazing their way out of every sticky situation their own perfidiousness had landed them in, and helping oneself from a buffet of women while casually offloading the 'used' ones without suffering any serious consequences for any of it. For these guys, it's not a case of "Oh, Boris", so much as "Go Boris!"

But let's face it, if Johnson is still deliberately ruffling his hair before grinning for the cameras in Downing Street on Friday, December 13 (first Halloween for Brexit, now Friday the 13th for this; all we need now is for Boris to buy a house on Elm Street and he's done the set) it will be political tribalism that's kept him there. Both the unquestioning tribalism of his Tory supporters and the tribalism that's (thus far) kept the opposition from uniting against him.

We would all benefit so much as a nation if this curse, the curse of political tribalism, could be lifted. Labour have been enjoying a small rally in the polls but you have to wonder at why the party has been, for the last two years, far more concerned with protecting its own leadership than with protecting the poor and vulnerable they still claim to champion.

You don't go into an election campaign with a putative prime minster who has consistently polled lower than "Don't Know" and pretend that your primary concern is with gaining power. You just don't.

And when challenged on this, when it's pointed out that elections are fought in the centre ground and the only route back to power for Labour is to regain some of the support that the Tories took from them in 2010 and 2015, the faithful respond "Why would we want Tory voters voting for us?" Because. That's. The. Only. Way. You. Win.

Meanwhile on the other side, the Brexiters' sole concern is with preserving the victory they won in 2016 and continuing to 'own the Libs'. Any pretence that "getting Brexit done" has anything to do with the welfare of the nation has long been abandoned. It's about their 'side' getting one over on our 'side', even if their own children pay the price for it.

We have an opportunity in the next week; more and more people are beginning to see the importance of abandoning tribal loyalty and voting for an outcome. If we can defeat, or even just impede, Johnson by means of tactical voting, if we can show that it works, then it could be the start of a new era of political free-thinking in the UK.

And if the big parties find they can no longer smugly depend on the unquestioning loyalty of their respective bases, they might actually have to start doing some real work to persuade people to vote for them. Resist.

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