The Times: Boris Johnson could be last UK prime minister, warns Gordon Brown

By Kieran Andrews, Scottish Political Editor

18 July 2019

Boris Johnson will be the last prime minister of the United Kingdom unless a new and radical vision for the Union is adopted, Gordon Brown has warned.

The former Labour prime minister attacked “extreme nationalism” from both Conservative Brexiteers and the SNP that he said ignored the challenges facing the UK.

He predicted that Nicola Sturgeon’s party will condense its case for independence into two words: “Boris and Brexit.”

Both Mr Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, his challenger in the contest to replace Theresa May, have said that they would prioritise safeguarding the Union over Brexit.

This is at odds with their party members. A YouGov poll found that 63 per cent would be willing to accept Scotland becoming independent if it meant Britain left the EU.

“The Conservative leadership contest has left the Union hanging by a thread,” Mr Brown wrote in the Scottish Daily Mail.

“And, unless the progressive case for Scotland’s role in Britain is made, and strongly made, Boris Johnson could be the UK’s last prime minister — and our 300-year-old Union will bite the dust.

“What we all do in the next few months will be vital if we are to prevent such an outcome. Yet already the UK seems to be united in name only, with two extreme and bleak views of our future in head-on conflict.

“Johnson’s hardline, anti-European conservatism — which is also seen in Scotland as anti-Scottish — versus the SNP’s extreme nationalism, hellbent on abandoning the UK pound and our 300-year-old single market and customs union. People in Scotland deserve better than more decades riven by seemingly endless divisions and conflicts between these two extremes.”

A “Punch and Judy, SNP versus Conservative show” is holding Scotland back from developing ideas on how to improve the health service and the economy, Mr Brown added.

Mr Brown, who was Labour leader and prime minister in 2007-2010, cited his opponents’ reactions to the drugs-related deaths crisis gripping the nation as evidence that they are more focused on attributing blame than on finding solutions.

Mr Brown is setting up a think tank, called Our Scottish Future, which will make the “social justice” case for Scotland’s continued membership of the UK.

Its inaugural event will be staged next month in Edinburgh and will be chaired by Professor Jim Gallagher, a former director-general for devolution in the Cabinet Office under Mr Brown. The event will focus on the SNP’s plans for a Scottish pound after independence, following a transitionary period of “sterlingisation”.

An SNP spokesman said: “The prospect of a Boris Johnson-led Brexit Britain illustrates exactly why Scotland needs independence. People in Scotland don’t think Labour can stand up to the Tories — and the increasingly irrelevant interventions by Gordon Brown are doing nothing to change that.”

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