We all knew that it was on the horizon; before the votes were announced last Wednesday it was highly probable that Boris Johnson was to become our next Prime Minister. What followed has been five days of promises a plenty and turbo charging towards leaving the European Union on the 31st October; deal or no deal. We are to become, according to BoJo, the ‘greatest place on earth’ by 2050 and will look back on this period of time as ‘the beginning of a new golden age’. Is bumbling Boris believable or just misleading us into a general election?
In front of the world’s media, his supporters and what sounded like hundreds of hecklers from beyond the Downing Street gates Johnson gave his first address to the UK on Wednesday afternoon. Within minutes he had promised 20,000 new police officers on our streets at a cost of 500 million in year one, 20 new hospital upgrades and a pledge to fix the social care crisis. Furthermore he vocalised his view that he would answer the ‘plea of the forgotten people and the left behind towns’ by providing higher wages, fibre broadband and greater rail and road infrastructure.
Love him or loathe him, one could argue that Johnson’s erratic energy is infectious and his passion for the United Kingdom post Brexit a refreshing change to that of previous leaders of the Conservative party. Is his vision for the future realistic however or just an extensive wish list that he is hoping is going to secure him and his new look brexit focused cabinet a win at the next general election?
At his first appearance in front of the House Of Commons Johnson seemed much more relaxed and at home surrounded by his fellow Conservatives. In another spirited speech he reiterated his points and pledges from the previous day on the cobbles outside Number 10. This speech was ultimately more Brexit heavy, advising that we have nothing to fear once we have left the EU due to British made battery technology, free ports to do with as we please and light resistant crops that will ‘feed the world’. Furthermore he added that none of the current 3.2 million EU citizens currently residing in the UK would have to book a flight ticket back to Europe.
Whilst all the passion and positivity is welcome, is Boris getting ahead of himself and will he actually be able to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement without the Irish backstop clause? Or is his real plan to take us out of the EU by reverting back to WTO rules? Reports suggest that he spoke with Angela Merkel on Friday and advised her that he will be seeking a deal but one that only involved entirely removing the backstop. This news was not welcomed by Irish PM Leo Varadkar however who said: ‘People who you might describe as moderate nationalists or moderate Catholics, who were more or less happy with the status quo, will look towards a more united Ireland.’
With rumours spreading this morning from the newly appointed Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, that in the event of a “no-deal”, direct rule over Northern Ireland is being considered, Johnson is potentially facing a breakdown of the United Kingdom. With a visit in the coming weeks expected with Emmanuel Macron and next month’s G7 meeting in France, Johnson will not be the favoured friend around the discussion table.
If the wheels do fall off Boris’ Brexit bus and he does not succeed in taking us out of the EU a general election will be arguably welcomed by all the political parties. One party which may favour well when an election is called is the Brexit Party. Although only formed in January this year they took the largest share of the European Parliamentary Election votes in May with a majority of 31.6% and won 29 seats. Securing the highest amount of votes in all regions bar London and Scotland and in Labour and Conservative heartlands, shows that UK citizens are indeed losing faith with the two main political parties.
Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party speaking on his LBC show last night on whether he thinks Johnson will lead us out of the EU on October 31st said:
‘I think in terms of style and optimism its miles better than what we had before…I want him to deliver Brexit on the 31st October but if he is going to go to Brussels and get some changes to the withdrawal agreement and then put that before the House Of Commons and say the withdrawal agreement is now fine, it isn’t in any way.
‘The withdrawal agreement even without the backstop is still the worst deal in history. I want us to leave with a clean break Brexit…The question is does he really believe in no deal or is it a negotiation tactic.’
One of the regions that may well change their political allegiance if a general election is called is the North West of England. A notoriously Labour dominant area but which gave the Brexit Party their share of the European Vote ultimately reveals how voters are lacking confidence in the Labour party as a whole. Add to that Johnson’s lacklustre ‘Northern Powerhouse’ speech that took place in Manchester on Saturday, is the Brexit Party the best bet for renewed hope for Northern voters and the rest of the UK?
In a 25 minute speech Johnson focused on a new high speed rail link that will connect Leeds to Manchester. No focus or vision was given to any of the other large Northern cities such as Liverpool or Sheffield until a journalist questioned him, arguably reminding him that people do exist north of Manchester. In true BoJo style he gave a scratch of his head, made an irrelevant point and tried to deflect his lack of Northern knowledge by using science related sarcasm.
Farage was also in the north of England on Saturday and reiterated his viewpoint on the need for positive regeneration of the entire area and that Johnson may well be trying to replicate the Brexit Party’s vision in the hope for Northern votes:
‘Being in the north of England yesterday and talking about the need to regenerate the north, I spent nearly the whole of the European Election campaigning in the north of England saying these things, he’s (Johnson) taken many things out of our playbook from the Brexit Party.’
Only time will tell what Johnson and his new look brexit focused team will do next but with the clock ticking and only 94 days to go, the turbo charged phrase of the week needs some real momentum behind it for people to believe in politics once more.