As of Tuesday, Theresa May has stepped down and been replaced by Boris Johnson after a heated but predictable Conservative leadership race.
Theresa May’s inability to get her Brexit deal through Parliament multiple times has led to her eventual – and inevitable – downfall. The deep divisions within Parliament as to how Brexit should be conducted are still tangible to this day, yet with Boris Johnson’s new position as Prime Minister, the country is even closer to leaving without a deal. One only needs to look at his newly formed cabinet to see the sudden change in opinion on Brexit, with no-deal supporters such as Priti Patel and Dominic Raab each holding one of the four great offices of state. Nevertheless, his new cabinet is claimed to be the most representative of ‘modern Britain’ and his promises of 20,000 extra police officers on the streets, giving the North a long-awaited economic boost and his promise of bringing Britain into a ‘golden age’ may be enticing for some. But is he really who he seems and can he be the Prime Minister that this country needs at this crucial time? Or is he leading this country over a cliff edge?
Johnson’s desire for the top job has always been clear to everyone. As far back as 2013, he suggested that if given the opportunity ‘it would be a great thing to have a crack at’. He put his name forward after David Cameron resigned following the Brexit vote but then withdrew after Michael Gove, his co-Leave campaign leader declared he was ‘unfit’ to be Prime Minister. He has constantly flip-flopped his position on certain views, especially with Brexit. Some, therefore, interpret this as him furthering his own career and putting his interest above the national consensus.
During his time as Foreign Secretary for Theresa May’s cabinet, Johnson made his displeasure towards May’s negotiated Brexit deal (known as the Chequers deal) very clear. The fact that Britain would essentially become a ‘colony’ under the deal, where Britain would be unable to take control of her own laws (which was the Leave campaign’s key mantra) meant that Johnson felt the need to resign. Furthermore, the Irish backstop was the main sticking point for Johnson and many hard Brexiteers, who see it as a tool for keeping Britain within the sphere of EU control for longer. Since coming into power, he has immediately promised the end of the backstop and will negotiate for a new deal that will be favourable to Britain, ardently praising his ability to get it done by October 31st. However, he has also made it clear that no-deal is on the table and that the country is not afraid to walk away.
Brexit aside, Boris Johnson made a series of pledges in his maiden speech and afterwards, including the recent news that he’s backing the construction of HS3 – a high-speed line connecting cities in the North, including Leeds to Manchester. This is part of a wider project to reinstate the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ scheme which never took off under David Cameron’s government and was something many thought was a vanity project created by the Conservatives. But already it has been met with criticism, with opposing politicians highlighting Johnson’s previous failures and excessive spending on projects during his tenure as Mayor of London including the Emirates Air Line, new Routemaster buses and the now-scrapped Garden Bridge project, all of which cost millions of pounds to the taxpayer. Johnson is also strengthening ties with America, with US President Donald Trump saying that he is confident that the two countries can reach a ‘very substantial’ trade deal. But Johnson has made clear that the NHS will not be in any US-BRITAIN trade deal and Trump has stated that ‘everything is on the table’. His pledge for 20,000 new police officers seems like the right thing to bring into action after the country has repeatedly been making headlines about the rise in knife crime incidences. However, Kit Malthouse (the new policing minister) admitted there were ‘logistical challenges’ and a conversation needs to happen about whether funding is available and where it will come from.
It is still very early days to determine whether Boris Johnson will do the job of Prime Minister to the best of his ability. But it seems so far he is saying all the things that his supporters want to hear. Promises of more safety on the streets, independence from a European project which is an anchor to British progress, economic security and prosperity for all. However, if his track record is anything to go by (as many politicians that dislike him like to refer back to) then we should not hold our breath and expect anything serious from the new Prime Minister. But again, it is too early to say. With the government now in a strong position to ramp up preparations for a no-deal Brexit, with Boris Johnson at the helm, it is all too real now.