His premiership has gone so differently than I’m sure Boris Johnson imagined. Some of that is fair enough; he couldn’t have foreseen a pandemic. A lot of what has transpired was less difficult to predict, however. In February, which seems like a very long time ago now, I wrote an article on here about how I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Johnson’s time in Number 10 was brief, even going as far as to speculate he could be out within a year. I got a lot of people telling me I was talking out of my arse at the time. What’s interesting is I’m certain that if I said the same thing today, far fewer people would disagree with me.
The Conservative Party is starting to panic a little. In Keir Starmer, they finally face a leader of the opposition who isn’t a joke. The polls have already begun to reflect this new reality. The economy has tanked in a way that is almost beyond normal comprehension. Quietly, behind the scenes, doubts are being flung around within Tory circles about Johnson’s ability to lead. The Cummings affair hasn’t helped – but it is about much more than that. The prime minister has been played into a corner and it is difficult to see how he gets out. He’s been in bad situations before in politics and escaped, so he might well find a way this time round. This corner really is pretty tight though.
The number of Tories who want to fast track opening up the country again, starting with things like relaxing the two metre rule, particularly with parts of the UK such as Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man starting to relax restrictions, is growing every day. Yet Johnson must be crapping himself about what to do here. If restrictions are relaxed in England, this could mitigate economic damage – but if the CoVid death rate significantly spikes again, it will be hard to avoid the conclusion that he sacrificed lives for the economy. But again, if he allows restrictions to go on and the economic pain gets even more severe, he faces open revolt within his party.
Added to all of this is the shit show that is Brexit. I wrote in the Spectator this week about how I thought we should push ahead with no deal Brexit. I expected to get a flood of Remainers screaming at me combined with some Brexiteer love. I got some of that but I was surprised to find many more Remainers saying in response, “Yeah, agree. Let them do it. Get it over with and let the Tories suffer the political consequences when it’s a disaster”. I also got of lot of stuff from Leavers along the lines of, “No, there won’t be no deal. The EU will fold at the last moment” that sounded a touch desperate, as if faced with no deal for real, there was recoil.
Boris Johnson faces a massive problem here, on the same scale as his CoVid dilemma. If he caves in to an extension of the transition period, the political fallout will be massive. Brexiteers will be furious, while everyone else will see a major promise being broken. If he pushes ahead with no deal, he is taking a tremendous gamble. If the disruption from no deal is minimal, Johnson will emerge triumphant. If it is a disaster, I think he’s finished. I believe at that point the Tories will collectively hang it all on Johnson, just as they were planning to do with May, and use the fallout to get a new leader who will have loads of time before another general election to turn things around.
Boris Johnson has already done the thing they elected him leader of the Conservative Party to do. He won them an election. Having achieved that, he is fast becoming surplus to requirements. I remain of the same opinion I was back in February, that Johnson’s premiership rests on weaker ground than almost anyone else thinks. He will require a great deal of luck to get through both the rest of the CoVid crisis and the next stage of Brexit.
I have a new book out now. It’s called “Politics is Murder” and follows the tale of a woman named Charlotte working at a failing think tank who has got ahead in her career in a novel way – she is a serial killer. One day, the police turn up at her door and tell her she is a suspect in a murder – only thing is, it is one she had nothing to do with. The plot takes in Conservative Party conference, a plot against the Foreign Secretary and some gangsters while Charlotte tries to find out who is trying to frame her for a murder she didn’t commit.
It’s available here:
The phoenix says
How lucky was Corbyn to lose in december 2019
As super mac said events dear boy events
Keir Starmer is already the new PM
Matt (Bristol) says
Resiling somewhat from my February comments, yes, you have a point, because (just as with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe) now we have a non-Brexit issue that directly tests his personal competency.
However, I think the crunch time will come outside your ‘one year’ timescale — if the May 2021 elections are bad for the Tories, or worse, if Covid-19 means he tries to elections again and is seen as doing so to avoid a pummelling, that is when the Tory vultures will circle. Tories attack Tory prime ministers when they are a demonstrable electoral liability.
Tories attack Tory prime ministers when they are a demonstrable electoral liability.
They didn’t do it to May.
Dave Chapman says
Or Major. (When it had been crystal clear for years he was a cretin).
Paul Barker says
Johnson has already found what he believes to be a really clever way out of his Brexit corner, No Extension but we wont actually enforce the Customs Rules. The practical effect will be much the same as an Extension (provided The EU play along) but it wont be called one; classic Johnson “Having Cake while Eating” tactics.
I wonder if its another of Cummings Genius ideas ?
We will see if it works.
Julian Tisi says
The fallout from no deal is more likely to be a long death rather than a sudden cliff edge. For example, on day one post no Deal I suspect that the EU won’t be rushing to introduce border checks. For a moment, many Brexiteers might cheer that the fallout wasn’t as bad as the naysayers predicted. But then as soon as the UK chooses to adopt non-EU compliant rules which might undermine the single market (e.g. in a deal with the US, allowing chlorine-washed chickens et al into the UK) that’s the moment the border checks will go up and it’ll happen without Britain’s say-so. For remainers there may never be a “I told you so” moment but the pain will be very real. Alternatively if the EU does introduce early border checks and similar consequences of a no deal, Boris will try the line “Look how bad the EU are, punishing us” but I can’t see it washing; I think voters will turn on the Tories and they’ll dump Boris.
David Evans says
Boris Johnson will do what all threatened politicians do – take the short term easy action to satisfy his supporters and hope something will turn up.
Supported by a media/propaganda machine that will still support his “It’s those nasty Europeans’ fault” coupled with no Senior Tories wanting to inherit the mess, things will steadily decline until as Dec 2024 gets closer. Then they will look for some no-mark they can bribe with the offer of a good gob in the city to be leader into the GE (John Major anyone?), so they can pretend to have learned the lesson and done something to get rid of the cancer.
If a miracle happens, as it did with John Major, they win. If not, they bequeath the shit to Labour, having trashed the field totally so Labour will definitely lose the next election. By which time another new leader will have emerged and they can carry on regardless.
Now which bit of this did the Lib Dems forget to do in the run up to 2015?