House of Commons in chaos: UK heads for an elephant trap election

It seems Britain will fall into what Tony Blair described as Boris Johnson’s early election “elephant trap”.

House of Commons in chaos: UK heads for an elephant trap election

It seems Britain will fall into what Tony Blair described as Boris Johnson’s early election “elephant trap”.

The situation has become so toxic, relationships so poisoned, trust and loyalties so trampled by untrammeled ambition, that a cathartic election, maybe several cathartic elections and a referendum too, might pass before anything that looks like business as normal resumes — no matter how remote any memory of normal seems this morning.

This is a tragedy for Britain, its people, its neighbours and allies too.

The depthof this sundering may not be fully appreciated by those manning either set of the Brexit barricades. A once stable country, where reason controlled emotion, where people kept calm and carried on, seems to be drowning in a sea of hysteria and mendacity.

The stiff upper lip is quivering.

Only the very naive imagine that all politicians are scrupulously honest, but even the bluest Tories must see that mendacity is the defining characteristic of Johnson’s premiership. How else could it be?

It was all the defining characteristic of his earlier career and his personal life too. Yet, he is cheered as if he is Britannia’s saviour.

The latest example of his contempt for facts, for the obligations of authority and for the millions who might become collateral damage in his fantasies emerged in Edinburgh’s Court of Session yesterday.

Court documents showed he secretly agreed to suspend the Commons in mid-August, nearly two weeks before denying the plan existed.

We, and Britain’s electorate, may have be inured to his lies as we have become inured to President Trump’s lies but we should never forget that this level of dishonesty once ended political careers — and for very good, timeless reasons.

This dishonesty is amplified by division. Just yesterday historian Paddy Docherty published an open letter to his brother, Conservative MP and Brexiteer Leo, urging him to resign and “speak out in defence of democracy... this government has become the principal threat to the lives and liberties of the people”.

Though it is nearly 400 years since the last battle of the English Civil War — the Battle of Worcester, 368 years ago yesterday — it is hard not to see that some kind of battlelines are being drawn.

Yet, in all of this darkness, there is a sliver of hope. An election, should recent trends continue, would further undermine the DUP and Sinn Féin.

That might bring the farce of SF abstentionism to an end and quell calls for an early border poll.

Which, in turn, means that the prospect of a shotgun-wedding reunification can be dismissed, downgrading the prospect of violent resistance. Consent rather than circumstance would again be the guiding principle.

A win for the law of unintended consequences.

This tragedy is exacerbated as Spain, a country familiar with civil war carnage, showed how adults behave.

Acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, announced climb-down policies yesterday to try to persuade the anti-austerity alliance to form a government and avoid a fourth general election in as many years.

As ever, compromise is the lubricant of stability and success and today, in Britain, probably the essential element in the survival of the United Kingdom as we know it.

More in this section

News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up

Our Covid-free newsletter brings together some of the best bits from, as chosen by our editor, direct to your inbox every Monday.

Sign up