THERE ARE few gestures as silly as political promises that may prove impossible to meet.

This is something wise politicians avoid, remembering the truth of the old adage from Harold McMillan when he justified things going wrong by putting it down to 'events, dear boy'. Whether he actually said this is, like many quotations, open to question, but its logic clearly escaped Boris Johnson.

Phrases such as 'do or die' or 'die in a ditch' rather than delay Brexit are puerile. In the dark art of politics the secret of survival is to never paint yourself into a corner. Good players offer words that sound good, but always leave an escape hatch. Johnson has instead tied himself to an arbitrary date, by which his success or failure as a prime minister will be judged.

Most people thought sending an unsigned letter to the European Commission seeking a Brexit delay was his low ebb. This was an embarrassment to the office he holds as prime minister. He compounded that with his fit of pique this week, when having persuaded MPs to back his withdrawal deal he threatened to take his ball home when they would not agree a three day timetable to pass the legislation. This suggested that, as well as taking IT lessons from an ex-pole dancer, he has been learning politics from Donald Trump.

Whether you are a leave or remain supporter, stand back for a moment and look at this decision. The detail of the withdrawal deal is the most crucial debate for the UK economy in decades. Get it wrong and the consequences could be disastrous for jobs and for public services forced to live with a falling tax take from a weaker economy. Get it right and Brexit enthusiasts will be proved right in their belief that we can prosper outside the EU.

That is a high stakes game, but the government is seemingly willing to give up a fight it could win, because it does not want to delay a decision by a few weeks. This is crazy, when the only driver is a macho desire by Johnson not to lose face over his bizarre 'die in a ditch' promise if he failed to deliver Brexit by October 31.

Logically there is no reason to be tied to this date. In our business or private lives we would never tie ourselves up to an arbitrary date for no reason. Yet this is what the government wants to do. This is despite the reality that if the EU offers an extension it is just that. There is no reason not to leave earlier if everything is agreed. That is common sense and pragmatism, and those are two virtues lost when politicians stamp their feet and play to the gallery. Johnson is now threatening that if he cannot get the timetable he wants, he will pull the bill and press for a general election. This is akin to not playing football and taking your ball home, only to put a knife in it to destroy it. It would be a classic case of snatching defeat from the jaws of a possible victory.

An election is not in Johnson's gift, thanks to the fixed term parliament act. The more he ties himself in procedural knots, the greater the chances are that the other parties will deny him an election. He sees an election as a 'people versus parliament' battle that will sweep him to victory. Perhaps that is an easier battleground than asking people to support him for having delivered a withdrawal deal arguably worse that the Theresa May bill he battled to block.

Only he and his closest advisers know which track he is on, but he risks finding in an election that, as with his Brexit deal, it takes more than bluff and bluster to win.

There is a big danger for farmers in an early election and it is critically important that this is taken on board. The promise to maintain CAP payment levels for the lifetime of the parliament, assumed to be until 2022, would end with an election. The farming lobby will face an uphill battle to get this commitment written into party manifestos.

All business are facing uncertainty and agriculture is towards the top of the list of those with cause to worry. An election could pull the final safety net on financial support away unless that 2022 guarantee is renewed.