World King’s New Cabinet: An Election Team?
Johnson, after a whole life dreaming of becoming ‘World King’, has begun his premiership by transmogrifying his predecessor’s cabinet on Tuesday.
The mass of press assembled outside Number 10 were left dumbstruck on Tuesday after hearing whispers of a near complete clear out of May’s cabinet. Most of her ‘Remainer’ ministers and those who supported other leadership candidates were culled.
A total of 11 were sacked, and 6 fell on their swords before being stabbed by their new boss including Hammond and Stewart. Few had predicted that Johnson would exhibit such political chutzpah, and this move is clearly meant to represent a statement of intent to those who voted Leave in 2016.
In some ways, yesterday saw the import of the Vote Leave campaign team to Downing Street. Some may see this as improper due to their breaking of electoral law, but it seems those judgements mean little in a time of unprecedented and immutable political division, vitriol and turmoil. This new cabinet has the feel of an election team rather than a usual legitimate long term administration. Then again, is anything not unusual these days?
Dominic Cummings, portrayed by Cumberbatch in a recent Channel 4 Brexit film, is said to have came up with the motto ‘Take Back Control’ after listening to members of focus groups repeatedly claim that we had ‘lost control’ before the referendum campaign. He regards MPs with disdain, and this sentiment is reciprocal. This disregard for convention was displayed by his wearing of a casual T-shirt as Boris was welcomed into his new home yesterday.
Cummings has, in the past, been found in contempt of parliament due to his modus operandi, a misdemeanor which has seemed to have been forgiven. This is a common theme throughout Johnson’s appointment, as past offenders make returns.
Rudd, for example, retained her role as Work and Pensions Secretary and was also found in contempt of parliament when failing to adequately inform the house of matters regarding the Windrush Scandal. Patel, the new Home Secretary, attempted to formulate her own foreign policy by hosting private meetings in Israel without bothering to inform the PM. Gavin Williamson has also proven sly and clumsy as he leaked information from a confidential meeting at the Ministry of Defence as Defence Secretary.
Gove has also achieved the role as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, usually seen as the unofficial deputy PM. I digress.
The importation of the very hardest of Brexiteers like Rees-Mogg (representing the support of the ERG for the time being), Patel, Raab etc. would appease those craving an exit from the EU to some extent. Indeed, Nick Boles MP has claimed that Farage, not Boris, is the country’s new PM without the election of a single Brexit Party MP. The Tory party have had to drift even further to the right as Farage’s crew has shoved British politics even further to the right.
If Johnson wants to succeed in a General Election, which some say could soon be imminent, in his view he must convince a restless public of both his own Brexit credentials and willingness to embrace an No Deal, and that of the wider Conservative Party. He has weeded out the ‘Gaukeward Squad’ – May’s closest allies on the backbenches – and sought to emulate Farage et al with an equally extreme and untainted inner circle.
However, this is a perilous balance. There are moderates in the Conservative Party and opposition benches who are not even close to this political outlook, and numerous MPs have threatened a vote of No Confidence or outright opposition to Boris’ plans for A No Deal. Moreover, the public are not all ardent Brexiteers, as the new and old PMs seem to frequently forget, and his stance will certainly not appeal to them. Mr Steve Bray, the bloke you always hear shouting on the news, is a rather loud and ribbing reminder of this fact. Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats would happily guzzle this descent at a General Election and increase their share of seats as a result.
Johnson would, most likely, not call a GE unless he absolutely has to. This point could probably be disproved after the PM suddenly feels a surge of braveness. It would certainly be a very treacherous decision, as May’s antics have resulted in the reputation of the governing party amongst the public has dwindled in recent years. Johnson’s ‘no ifs, no buts’ rhetoric has been deployed to try and restore some of this, but he sees the delivery of Brexit as the ultimate prize.
In his heart he knows that No Deal, even Brexit itself, would be detrimental to the country he now leads. Therefore, he will seek a deal in the face of justified EU intransigence. Who knows if his No Deal threats are hollow and another extension is imminent. Maybe. If this does occur, he will doubtlessly posses an excuse or two and find someone else to blame.
However, his threats could also be legitimate and a dystopian No Deal may yet become reality. This prospect is the dream of some and the hand-wringing nightmare of others.
In this political era, can anybody – whether you are a builder from Norwich, a teacher from Glasgow, or a Political Correspondent from London – really know what the future holds any longer?