Smart Thinking

How Prime Minister Boris Johnson would change Britain

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He's the frontrunner for the Conservative leadership when May steps down after Brexit (we're assuming she'll keep her word) - so what will change if Boris Johnson becomes PM?

As Mayor of London, Boris Johnson’s public persona always preceded his politics – but that was before Brexit and his stint as foreign secretary. Back then, he was a slightly bumbling but essentially harmless public schoolboy who launched Boris Bikes – and he was happy to play this up while dangling precariously from a zip-wire while waving a Union Jack flag.

However, the Johnson who is now being tipped as the next leader of the Conservative Party is a rather different story. During his time as Foreign Secretary, his playful image was overshadowed by frequent gaffes (examples) and his subsequent switch of positions during the debate around Teresa May’s Brexit deal – seemingly changing his mind when the result was most favorable to gaining momentum for his career – has left many wondering what he actually stands for. 

Now that the Brexit deadline has been extended to 31 October and May’s deal still looks far from getting Parliamentary approval, there is a strong possibility we’ll have a new Prime Minister – so assuming there won’t be a general election, calling other parties into the race, it seems appropriate to ask: how likely is it to be Boris? Bookmakers currently have Johnson in the lead.

‘It’s easy to forget that a couple of years ago Boris Johnson was the most popular politician in Britain,’ says political strategist Rob Blackie, who has worked on five general election campaigns. ‘He beat Ken Livingstone to become Mayor of London, and was widely seen as moderate, as well as fun. He kept the London congestion charge and was a good Mayor for cyclists. He did nothing wild or extreme.’

But now that Boris has proven he is willing to jump ship on Brexit, should we be worried about what the United Kingdom under Prime Minister Boris Johnson would actually look like? Here are Blackie’s predictions for Boris, if he is to become the future leader of the Conservative Party.

  • If Boris became Prime Minister, things would be more uncertain than they are now

‘Many see Boris as willing to say anything to get to the top. And judging by his past record, that’s fair. So it’s hard to be certain what he’ll do if he does become Prime Minister. Boris’s approach to Brexit has changed his reputation entirely’.

  • Human rights will take a drastic hit

‘Boris will only get to the top with the support of the Conservative right. So expect him to appoint right wingers to many positions in order to increase his popularity in the House, and further his chance of gaining votes. In practice, that means cutting worker’s rights, attacking trade unions, and putting other protections for people at work at risk. It will also mean the end of the trend towards men being encouraged to have paternity leave. And probably less money for childcare too.’

  • He’ll allow Ministers to get on with their jobs without interference

‘Boris isn’t interested in the details. In London when he set up the Boris Bikes, Boris didn’t get involved in cycling policy, apart from appointing an effective Cycling Commissioner. All the extra bike lanes in London were controversial, but Boris didn’t really get involved. So most of all, Ministers will get to run their own departments without him interfering. Moderate Ministers, if any are left, will be able to get on with moderate policies.

  • Brexit under Boris will most likely be ‘disastrous’

‘On Brexit, Boris Johnson will continue to face the same problem that Theresa May has. The promises made by Leave campaigners, like Boris, are impossible to keep. So whatever he does will make somebody very unhappy. Most likely it will be a disastrous No Deal Brexit. But if we get lucky he’ll just accept that Britain stays in the EU simply because it’s too difficult to agree any alternative. Not entirely different from Theresa May.’