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Boris kicks-off risky polls strategy

FROM SARDAR SHAHAB

LONDON: The phoney war is over. After months of rehearsing his election strategy, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is poised to run a high-risk campaign designed to exploit divisions over Brexit despite his public appeals for national unity.

Ahead of the Dec. 12 vote, he will focus on portraying his new Brexit deal with the European Union as a victory for a leader who many said would be unable to win concessions from Brussels and would instead leave without an agreement.

Central to the election campaign will be the message that only Johnson can finish the job of leaving the EU, two sources close to the campaign said.

It is a stance the former foreign minister and London mayor has used with varying degrees of success since becoming prime minister in July, after his predecessor failed three times get parliament to approve her own Brexit deal. Johnson’s deal secured initial parliamentary approval, though its passage remains uncertain. In the election, he hopes to win a parliamentary majority – something he does not currently enjoy – to push the agreement through.

To win the election, rather than uniting the people, one source said, Johnson’s Conservative Party wants to tap into divisions over the EU, hoping to fire up voters who backed leaving by offering them an early taste of the so-called “Brexit dividend” – for example, funding promised for healthcare from savings generated by quitting the EU. It is a narrative that pits those who back Brexit against the “establishment” – parliament, the courts and big business – which Johnson says is trying to frustrate the “will of the people”.

“It’s the outsiders versus the insiders,” said one veteran party member. It involves making a play for English regions which traditionally vote for the opposition Labour Party but also back leaving the EU, in order to counter a challenge from the Brexit Party led by veteran eurosceptic Nigel Farage.

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