I haven’t written about British politics in some time, but I have been following quite closely with regular tweets.
The challenges with writing about British politics currently are manifold; the press coverage is omnipresent, everyone has an opinion, it is very difficult to keep up to date as there are constant small updates and finally, yet paradoxically, the underlying Brexit fundamentals remain the same.
I first tipped Boris Johnson to be the next Conservative leader in August 2017. At the time he was Foreign Secretary but was also tacitly criticising Theresa May’s performance as Prime Minister. When she failed to sack him after a particularly belligerent Telegraph article, I decided that she was already too weak to last much longer and that Boris would soon swoop in.
It didn’t turn out exactly as I had envisaged, and at times my belief in Boris to be the next Conservative leader and therefore Prime Minister wavered, yet we are now on the cusp of his premiership, bar a 40/1 Jeremy Hunt upset in the Conservative leadership announcement tomorrow.
The focus of this blog is to try and take a step back and assess how long Boris is likely to remain as Prime Minister. It’s an impossible challenge though I think it is reasonable to figure out some major early hurdles and analyse whether it appears likely that he will be able to clear them.
Firstly, Boris must maintain the confidence of the House via the Queen accepting he can form a majority. I am not a British constitutional expert, but it seems this is a lot easier than having a Vote of Confidence in parliament.
For this reason, I do expect him to become Prime Minister on Wednesday as expected. There is far too much uncertainty for many Conservative MPs to publicly denounce him as they would lose the whip immediately and would not be able to stand as a Conservative candidate at the next GE. There is also talk that up to six Conservative MPs could switch to the Liberal Democrats but even if they did, I am not sure they would take down a Boris government with Labour largely ahead in the polls.
Furthermore, the Liberal Democrats are also only announcing their new leader later today so those wavering Conservative MPs will probably delay this move until they see what direction the party are moving in, what sort of new leader bounce the Tories and Liberal Democrats enjoy respectively and how much traction Boris is getting in his negotiations with the European Union.
Once he does pass this initial hurdle, the next step will be to survive any Motion of No Confidence put forth by Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party in September. I think he will survive that as the hatred of many MPs (unfortunately from all parties) for Jeremy Corbyn should be enough to prevent them voting down Boris at that stage, especially if he has made any progress in talks and/or has downplayed No Deal Brexit (though not dismissed it as that could be fatal too).
After that, there is another parliamentary break and not long until October 31st. I think this is the moment we will know if a Boris Johnson premiership is any different to that of Theresa May’s. Under her stewardship, I would have confidently expected another delay while somehow avoiding a second referendum or general election.
I’ve realised that this takes us up to October 31st and I have decided, for now, that is my ne plus ultra. I think Boris will still be Prime Minister on that date, an election will not have been called though I can’t decide if the United Kingdom will be leaving the very next day.
That prediction will have to come at a later stage, when things have become a little clearer….