Britain’s brutal front pages eviscerate Boris
BORIS Johnson's very bad day just got worse with the British Prime Minister having to suffer the indignity of some awkward first editions of the merciless UK newspapers.
The front pages were published just hours after Mr Johnson suffered his third Brexit defeat in just two days.
On Tuesday, MPs took control of the parliamentary agenda. Then on Wednesday, by 327 votes to 299, they demanded Mr Johnson rule out a "no-deal" Brexit and ink an agreement with the European Union by October 31. If he can't do that, the demand is he extend the leave date, probably into 2020. He has been steadfast that he will do neither.
An exasperated Mr Johnson then called for MPs to instead allow him to go to the polls to break the Brexit deadlock.
While Mr Johnson's motion for an election was passed 298-56, it needed 434 MPs to vote yes to bring on an early poll. All Labour's MPs abstained from the vote.
Mr Johnson slammed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn after the defeats. But some of the papers laid the blame squarely on Mr Johnson's shoulders.
The Daily Mirror, one of the country's biggest-selling tabloids, was unequivocal. It said Mr Johnson was "Britain's worst Prime Minister". However, it clarified, in smaller letters, "(since the last one)". Being only a little better than Theresa May is probably cold comfort.
The Labour-supporting paper said Mr Johnson's "premiership was in tatters" after becoming the first UK PM to lose all three of his first parliamentary votes.
In an editorial this week, even before the chaotic events of Wednesday, the paper said Mr Johnson should go only six weeks after he became PM.
His defeats in the House of Commons should "mark the end of the shortest Downing Street honeymoon ever," it said.
"An election we must have and soon. But it can't be a contest dictated by a tin-pot tyrant itching to throw Britain over his Brexit cliff edge."
The Guardian and I's front pages also focused on Mr Johnson.
The Sun, which backs Mr Johnson, devoted its front page to Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn with a digitally altered image of him morphing into a chicken.
That's in relation to comments Mr Johnson made on Wednesday night when he said, "Does somebody need to get out the chicken suit?" - a reference to the Labour leader and his MPs refusing to back a new election.
It was a "cluster cluck" the paper said, which then asked in a headline: "Is this the most dangerous chicken in Britain?"
In its editorial The Sun (which is part of News Corporation, the owner of this website), said Labour had been calling for an election for two years: "Now, incredibly, the wretched, snivelling coward Corbyn runs away from one.
"If Corbyn truly believed he was a shoo-in for No. 10 he would bite Boris's hand off for the chance to snatch the keys. But his ratings are at historic lows."
Today's front pages follow a swath on Tuesday reacting to dramatic scenes in parliament the day before when opposition MPs and rebel members of Mr Johnson's own party voted to take control of parliamentary business away from the ruling Conservatives.
Reacting to the news, the Daily Express criticised the Tory rebels and parliament in general, accusing them of "betraying Brexit" on a shameful day for democracy.
"Parliament surrenders to the EU" the headline reads above an image of Mr Johnson ruffling his hair.
"On another shameful day in our so-called democracy rebel MPs vote to betray Brexit as (Labour leader) Corbyn vows to block PM's snap election" the subheading reads.
Several other newspapers, such as the Daily Mirror and the I wrote that Mr Johnson had "lost control" - and The Guardian went as far as to say the defeat was a "humiliation" for the PM.
In Europe, papers have pointed out that Mr Johnson seems to be struggling as much as his predecessor, Theresa May.
Guardian front page, Wednesday 4 September 2019: Humiliation for Johnson as Tory rebels turn against him pic.twitter.com/265zf5MNdB— Guardian news (@guardiannews) September 3, 2019
"A different premier, a different style, a different rhetoric, but the same outcome," a Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad states.
In the US, The Washington Posthas published a particularly harsh take on Mr Johnson's strategy. "Boris's populist playbook implodes" reads the headline on a comment piece that goes on to state that "after all the huffing and puffing, the public gets the idea the populist cult leader is an incompetent charlatan".
Wednesday's result leaves Mr Johnson in a bind. He is now legally obligated to either seek a deal with the EU over Brexit or extend the deadline for leaving the EU beyond October if he cannot reach a deal. Yet he became PM with a promise to do neither.
Senior Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkins said in the Commons that Westminster was now a "zombie parliament".
He said the 2016 referendum result, where Brits voted to leave the EU by a margin of 4 per cent, needed to be honoured and extending the leave date for a third time might make little difference.
"What is going to be gained in putting off the decision again?" Mr Jenkins said.
"There's a definition of madness: to repeat the same decision again and again and expect a different outcome."
SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
What next? The last 48 hours in British politics have left Mr Johnson without a majority but unable to call an election and with his Brexit strategy in tatters.
Here are some possible scenarios for the coming weeks:
Despite Wednesday's vote, this still appears the most likely outcome. Under British law, the next election is not due until 2022 and a two-thirds parliamentary majority is required if the Government wants to hold a vote ahead of time.
Labour abstained on Mr Johnson's request for a snap poll in October, saying parliament should first approve a draft law aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit.
Some Johnson opponents also do not believe his vow to hold the election on October 15 and warn he may try to delay it until after Brexit on October 31.
This may also not be a good time for an election for Labour, which is languishing in the opinion polls.
If Labour remains opposed, Mr Johnson could consider other options, such as calling a vote of no-confidence in his own government or introducing a different type of law for an election, both of which only require a simple majority.
Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on October 31 whether or not it has agreed a divorce deal with Brussels.
Mr Johnson insists he will not make any more requests to delay Brexit, more than three years after Britons voted to leave the bloc in June 2016.
Although Mr Johnson says he wants a deal, he has stepped up preparations for a "no-deal" exit, and critics claim he could still try to force through this scenario.
In a highly controversial move, Mr Johnson has arranged for parliament to be suspended next week until October 14 - a fortnight before Brexit.
Other possible tactics could include advising Queen Elizabeth II not to give royal assent to the rebels' bill against his Brexit strategy or finding an EU ally to veto any British request for an extension.
BREXIT WITH A DEAL
Mr Johnson, who took power in July, wants to change the terms of the divorce deal agreed by Ms May, which was rejected three times by parliament.
His main objection to the plan relates to proposals for keeping open the border between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.
The EU insists this so-called backstop provision must stay and says London has yet to come up with any credible alternative plan.
Mr Johnson is pinning his hopes on an October 17-18 EU summit when he believes the threat of a no-deal Brexit will prompt the bloc to compromise and allow a last-minute agreement.
Alternatively, some believe Ms May's divorce deal - even still containing the backstop - could be presented to MPs again.
DELAY TO BREXIT
The draft law approved by MPs - which must still receive final approval from the House of Lords - instructs the Government to seek a Brexit delay until January 31, 2020 if it has not reached a deal with the EU by October 19.
Ultimately, the decision is one that must be taken by all 28 EU leaders unanimously.
But, if a delay is agreed, then the Government must regularly report on its progress in negotiations, and if there is still no deal by January 31, the law implies Brexit would have to be delayed again.
Mr Johnson has warned the legislation could have the effect of delaying Brexit "potentially for years".
NO BREXIT AT ALL?
This prospect seems perhaps the most unlikely but cannot be entirely ruled out. Mr Corbyn has promised that, if he wins power, he will hold a second referendum with an option to remain in the EU.