British poll is truly an election for the ages, a hinge of history

British poll is truly an election for the ages, a hinge of history, by Greg Sheridan. Election December 12.

Modern Western politics, with every grievance amplified a thousand times by social media, subcultural myopia and ghetto-blaster echo chambers, is vitriolic everywhere. But British politicians are now routinely threatened, sometimes assaulted, in ways unimaginable even a decade ago. Politicians live with fireproof letter boxes, bulletproof windows, reinforced front doors, panic buttons. The vitriol comes from extremes of left and right. …

But whoever wins the election, Brexit won’t end. An element of May’s negative genius as Britain’s worst prime minister is that she wasted 3½ years working only on the withdrawal agreement. This was the EU’s insistence. Johnson has had to accept this sequencing too. What it means is that Johnson’s agreement only covers in any detail the transition period, which is set to run to the end of next year. …

In truth, it’s hard to see the EU ever giving Britain a reasonable free-trade deal. It will want to prevent­ Britain getting any competitive advantage as a nearby economic powerhouse and, after Germany, the strongest European economy. …

The Conservatives will be transformed by this election into a strongly pro-Brexit party. It’s hard to see them swallowing those restricti­ons in a post-EU Britain. Therefore, at some time next year, or two years after that, the whole agonising drama of a no-deal Brexit will come around again. …

Where next is important. What a choice!

The polls vary, but at the moment­ put Johnson’s Tories anywhere from eight to 14 points ahead of Labour. Most analysts think if the Conservatives lead Labour­ by more than 10 per cent, they get a majority. But there is a substantial anti-Tory gerrymander still in the British system, not least through the overrepresent­ation of Scotland in the House of Commons. …

Johnson is offering finality on Brexit, reassertion of British sovereignty and control over social regulation, money, immigration, as well as a tough law-and-order campaign. But he is also offering huge social welfare spending on the National Health Service, schools and police, and is otherwise socially liberal with an extremely racially diverse cabinet. He is generally pro-immigration — and a great admirer of Aust­ralian immigration — but wants Britain to control who comes into its country.

It is silly to describe that as hard-right. It is reasonable to call it populist, though populist surely can no longer be a term of abuse.

Labor have gone berko — or is this our leftist future?

Corbyn, on the other hand, rightly says he is offering Britain the most radical manifesto it has ever seen. It is impossible to overstate the extremism of Corbyn and the claque of barely ex-communists­ around him. Despite coming across as an avuncular version of Albert Steptoe, Corbyn has spent his life associating with terrorists, befriending Hamas and the IRA at its most vicious, giving shelter and support to anti-Semites­, praising the economic model of Venezuela. He is almost a Monty Pythonesque caricature of a sectarian far-left obsessive. But Labour’s machine is formid­able on the ground.

Corbyn is pledging to institute a four-day working week, to nationali­se 10 per cent of all big companies and redistribute this to workers, to renationalise water, energy and transport at prices to be determined by parliament, to raise taxes all round, to abolish private schools. On its first day, his government will buy enough property to house all the homeless.

He has a million other popular commitments which would, taken together, be unaffordable and involve massive government borrowing — higher pay for civil servants, more public holidays, wiping out all student debt.

Labour also wants to abolish immigration controls and allow all EU citizens in Britain to vote in British elections, as well as 16- and 17-year-olds.

Corbyn is a lifelong enemy of NATO and Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent but says for the moment he would keep both. He hates Trump and mostly hates America. …

His position on the EU is that he would negotiate a new deal, almos­t certainly a surrender Brexit involving Brexit in name only, and then take that to a referendum with the Corbyn deal or remaining in the EU altogether as the only options.

All or nothing:

If Britain finally stays in the EU it will be the single greatest defeat for British sovereignty, and for British democracy, in that ­nation’s modern history. Britain will be humiliated and the very idea of Britain will be humiliated.

Whoever loses this election, Corbyn or Johnson, will not only be personally discredited. The ideas they are most closely associated with — moderate nationalism for Johnson and unrecon­structed Marxism for Corbyn — will be discredited. …

This is truly an election for the ages, a hinge of history. The stakes are huge, not only for Britain. No recent election, outside Trump in 2016, has meant more to the West.

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