Prime Minister Johnson
In some ways, this political celebrity ushers in the beginning of a new period of British politics. In many more ways, it is most definitely not.
A deeply wounded Britain has put on a show for her new leader. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has fulfilled what he has seen as his destiny since he first acquired a rather unhealthy obsession with Winston Churchill and sought a career in politics.
His premiership will have a slightly different tone and feel to that of his mechanical, opaque predecessor due to an injection of jesterly antics, obscure Greco-Roman references, trademark ebullient mannerisms and confidence in front of cameras.
Nevertheless, the harsh realities of a factionalist Tory party, an unfriendly House of Commons on the edge of no majority, a flailing economy, foreign tensions, and an utterly bitter and divided country are still plain for all to see.
A new Prime Minister usually has a brief honeymoon period in which they establish their teams and suffer relatively limited public and media scrutiny due to their rookie status. However, due to the unprecedented times in which we live, a Johnson premiership will have no such luxury. Every move will be picked apart by those seeking to block his central policy, the pursuit of a No Deal if no new deal is reached with the EU.
Already, ministers have been committing political seppuku at a steady pace rather than serving under a PM who they both do not trust and is keeping a policy on the table which they think will monumentally damage this country. They include
- Margot James, Digital and Creative Industries Secretary (18th July)
- Andrew Percy, Trade Envoy to Canada (22nd July)
- Sir Alan Duncan, Europe Minister (22nd July)
- Anne Milton, Apprenticeships and Skills Secretary (23rd July)
- Phillip Hammond has said that he will resign on the 24th July rather than be sacked by Johnson
- Rory Stewart, the International Development Secretary (Also resigning on 24th July)
- David Gauke, the Justice Secretary (24th July)
Instead of May’s more varied cabinet, Johnson has hinted at a cabinet full of Brexit hardliners, of the ilk which he has pretended to be to woo the ERG and the party membership. This has recently been filled out by new members seeking to influence Conservative party policy and push it towards explicitly endorsing No Deal.
If one judges Johnson’s leadership rhetoric of leaving the EU on 31st October ‘do or die’ at face value, one would conclude that this may have worked. Although, Johnson is a political chameleon. He says whatever his electorate wants to hear. This is displayed perfectly by the famous two articles he wrote on the eve of the referendum campaign for the Daily Telegraph. One in favour of Cameron’s remain campaign, the other supporting what he judged to be the more politically lucrative leave campaign.
His premiership will be one of personal turmoil. His career ambitions are astronomical, but in his heart he knows that a No Deal, what a large proportion of leave voters demand is kept on the tabel, would not be in the interests of Britain.
He will pursue alternatives to May’s withdrawal agreement. All of the present signs indicate that this will be an endeavour ending in chagrin in the face of an intransigent EU. Even if this was a successful venture, the parliamentary arithmetic of anti-No Dealers and outright remainers denotes that MPs will form yet another constitutional logjam. A General Election may be called in an effort to remove this, and if so it would be one of the most interesting in British history.
We simply do not know what happens next.
One thing is for certain, however. He is a politician who craved power and now has it. He also needs the adoration of the public, and was shocked when heckled as a ‘racist’ and ‘scum’ after the 2016 referendum result.
This combined with ambition has the potential to be a problematic recipe. As Thatcher’s Press Secretary Sir Bernard Ingham once said, ‘God save me from politicians who want to be loved’.