‘He gets angry if the courts or parliament try to interfere … he thinks he should not be impeded in these ways’
The UK is “dangerously close” to becoming an “elected dictatorship” under Boris Johnson, veteran Tory Ken Clarke has warned – as he branded the prime minister’s handling of Brexit clashes “laughable”.
The former cabinet heavyweight lashed out at Mr Johnson’s disregard for “constitutional constraints”, calling his party “more nationalist than at any time in my lifetime”.
“He gets angry if the courts or parliament try to interfere. As the elected prime minister, he thinks he should not be impeded in these ways,” Lord Clarke said.
“We are now getting dangerously close to the ‘elected dictatorship’ that Lord Hailsham, the former lord chancellor, warned us about half a century ago.”
In an interview with The New European, the veteran Tory warned the failures of Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal were now being exposed, with a forecast slump in GDP and the loss of security cooperation.
“I considered myself to be in the mainstream of the party and am not pleased that people who think like me – internationalist, outward-looking, progressive – have been marginalised,” he said.
“The party is now more right wing and nationalist than at any time in my lifetime.”
He ridiculed the “global Britain” promise as “a slogan, an excuse for spending money on a royal yacht and flying the flag in odd places”. “We have to get used to our reduced role in the world,” the peer said.
Lord Clarke, who left the Commons in 2019, said Mr Johnson was trying to “tear up” his Brexit agreement, but “find a way of doing so in a way that they can blame on the French”.
“I only hope that they have got experts working behind the scenes on an alternative plan. A lot of what is being said at the moment is laughable,” he warned.
On the threat to the constitution, the former chancellor and home secretary said: “We have relied for too long on a Victorian ideal of what we used to call decent chaps doing the right thing to keep our constitutional principles intact.
“We have got to the point where we need a serious written constitution. We need to restore the strengths of the Commons and the Lords by putting their powers into statutory reforms.
“We are at the absurd point where it is up to the government whether extremely contentious pieces of legislation get to be debated at all.”
Lord Clarke warned many Conservative voters were alive to the shift, adding: “Moderate Tories are upset by right-wing nationalism. This was spectacularly shown in the Chesham and Amersham by-election.”