The pretence is already over. Less than a week after Boris Johnson unveiled his new plan for a Brexit deal, it is in tatters. In line with the strategy discussed many times in recent months, the British government and the EU are at loggerheads.
.@BorisJohnson, what’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game. At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people. You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) October 8, 2019
Tusk’s tweet followed a reportedly acrimonious meeting between the PM and Angela Merkel. The fallout will come as no surprise to anyone who read James Forsyth’s Spectator blog last night – for which Dominic Cummings is widely believed to be the source.
Full steam ahead for Cummings’ election plan
Save some hard to identify last-minute gamechanger, Britain is heading for the showdown Johnson and Cummings (pictured) have gamed. It will result in an election, framed as ‘parliament versus the will of the people’. The strong indication from Betfair punters is that their plan will work – the Conservatives are rated 74% likely to win Most Seats at 1.35.
That is what the polls indicate. However as anyone who remembers the 2017 election will confirm, taking short odds-on before the campaigns have even started is fraught with risk. Various known unknowns are yet to be resolved.
Just how engaged are voters yet?
I enter into this unprecedented sequence of events with one over-arching theory. Western democracies are suffering from extreme attention deficit disorder. Since the rise of social media, everyone is constantly distracted and vulnerable to disinformation. Most voters – especially the undecided – are disengaged most of the time.
Therefore when they do engage, opinion can change quickly and very dramatically. For example, see what happened before the first Brexit date was missed. Despite widespread predictions that Theresa May would be forced to seek an extension to Article 50, this threat to Brexit barely registered at all in the polls.
Missing Brexit date could transform polls
During February, Conservative and Labour polled between 71% and 79% combined in every survey. During March, the range was 66-74%. By late April, that combined share had fallen regularly below 60%. By late May, after Euro elections that saw the big-two parties hammered like never before, the bottom fell below 40%.