Would you please kindly tell me about what the words in bold do mean?

... he argued May's Brexit plans amounted to "a suicide vest around the British constitution".

Baker, who quit in July over Chequers, said at least ...

Boris has to make a decision - I think he's sort of made it. He is either a journalist or a(?) he's a politician.

from the Guardian.

Many thanks in advance.

1 Answer 1


The passage deals with the controversy in the Conservative Party over the formula for Britain's exit (Brexit) from the European Union proposed by the prime minister, Theresa May, during a meeting of her cabinet at her country residence, Chequers.

This formula is strongly opposed by many members of the party, including her former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who afterwards resigned from the government to oppose it.

In an extravagant metaphor in his newspaper column Mr Johnson compared the likely impact of the Chequers plan to that of a suicide vest. That's to say: it would destroy the British constitution.

Steve Baker, a former minister in the Brexit department, also resigned from Mrs May's government in July in protest against the plan that she proposed. (He and many other Tories consider that it will not amount to the complete exit from the EU that they demand.)

Another former government minister, Nicky Morgan, who is supportive of Mrs May, condemned the comments made by Boris Johnson in his newspaper column. She says that Boris, who came to politics via journalism, has to decide whether he wants to be a journalist or a politician. (That's to say: he should not try to be both at the same time. Boris remains a Conservative MP while he uses newspapers to voice his opposition to government policy.)

Nicky Morgan thinks that he has already made this decision. The expression sort of softens her statement. (Sort of and kind of are expressions that people use in conversation all the time, both to catch their thoughts and to modify their comments.)

  • Thanks for your explanations for the background events. I should admit that my initial query was unclear. I am interested in the meaning of the words 'vest around' (perhaps as a phrasal verb, but I cannot find its meaning, or perhaps the use of the preposition 'around' in this context), the use of the preposition 'over' in this particular contexts. I do not understand the grammar use of 'about' and 'over' in these examples. Further, shouldn't we put commas before and after 'sort of'? Sep 11, 2018 at 6:40
  • Please ignore my last comment. After reading your answer, I realised that I missed the point I wanted to clarify. I am interested in why the prepositions "around" and "over" are used grammatically in these examples. "around" conveys various meanings when used together verbs to form a phrasal verb (moving in many directions, turning to oposite directions, avoiding somethign'). "over" means above sth, from one side to another, by means, the subject of/about, but there, to me, 'over' means 'because of'. But my dictionaries do not say that 'over' can have such meaning. Sep 11, 2018 at 6:56
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    @ObliviouslyIgnorant In this case, the British constitution is being compared to the torso of a person who was wearing a suicide vest (around that person's body) Sep 11, 2018 at 13:40
  • @ObliviouslyIgnorant “suicide vest” is a metaphor for destroying yourself in the name of some dubious cause yet doing more to hurt that cause than to help it. Here, instead of the vest being around a person, it is around the British constitution.
    – StephenS
    Oct 25, 2020 at 16:50

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