POST TIME: 16 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Boris Johnson stumbles out of the election gate
In election pledge, UK Labour promises free broadband for all
The New York Times, London

Boris Johnson stumbles out of the election gate

For months, Prime Minister Boris Johnson planned on calling a general election in Britain, figuring he could break the logjam in Parliament by taking his case for Brexit directly to the people. Instead, as he has floundered in the early stages of the campaign, Johnson has discovered that the people are taking their case to him. “Where have you been?” asked a man angry at the government’s response to floods that have ravaged his Yorkshire town.

“You’ve got the cheek to come here,” a young woman chided him, saying that his promise of prosperity after Brexit was a “fairy tale.”

“I’m not very happy about talking to you, so if you don’t mind, I’ll just motor on with what I’m doing,” said another woman, filling sandbags.

In the voting this summer for Conservative Party leader — and, hence, prime minister — Johnson’s prime selling points were his personal popularity and skills as a campaigner. But in the early stages of the general election, exposed to hostile voices, he has seemed at times unsure, tone deaf and gaffe prone.

“Boris Johnson isn’t helping matters, he isn’t winning any friends, there have been so many mistakes,” said Steven Fielding, professor of political history at the University of Nottingham, while noting that Labour had failed to take advantage. On Thursday, Johnson was forced to cancel a visit to a bakery in the southwestern town of Glastonbury after a crowd of climate-change protesters gathered with signs that said “No BoJo” and “Cruel Con.” After he found a friendlier bakery in an adjacent town, the prime minister joked about needing to avoid the “crusties,” his preferred put-down for environmental activists.

Meanwhile, a report of AFP said, Britain's main opposition Labour party yesterday promised free, fast broadband internet for everyone, in the most eye-catching of a series of big spending pledges ahead of next month's election. Labour said it would bring the parts of telecoms giant BT that deal with broadband into public ownership, as part of a sweeping programme of nationalisations.

"The internet has become such a central part of our lives. It opens up opportunities for work, creativity, entertainment and friendship," said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

"What was once a luxury is now an essential utility.

"That's why full-fibre broadband must be a public service, bringing communities together, with equal access, in an inclusive and connected society."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the Labour plan "slightly fantastical" and ruled out a similar "crackpot scheme" that would cost "many tens of billions" of taxpayers' money.

A technology lobby group, TechUK, also warned the move was "fundamentally misguided" and would spell "disaster" for the telecoms industry and hit the fast-growing digital sector.