By the time you read this article, our country will have a new Prime Minister. Now I’m going to chance fate and assume that it’ll be Boris Johnson, so apologies to Prime Minister Hunt if I’m wrong. Boris and I have history. We famously sparred with each other in TV interviews during the 2017 General Election. On one occasion, he refused to debate with me so I doorstepped him. He tried to push me over on live TV and he got the Egerton Park treatment back, I called him a “pillock”.
For all his ‘jovial idiot’ persona, the man is dangerously clever. He is also dangerously lazy, as senior civil servants who’ve worked with him will openly attest. His lack of attention to detail proved disastrous during his spell as London Mayor where he wasted millions on new ‘Routemaster’ buses. Iconic, they were supposed to be. Each bus costs three times more than a conventional double decker, but the cost was supposed to be recouped by sales of the model outside of London. The number of sales? Zero. Worse for the travelling Londoner, the air conditioning on the buses doesn’t work and the windows don’t open.
That’s just one example of a bad decision he made as Mayor. There are others: The Garden Bridge (never built) but with £40m of taxpayer money wasted in the process; the savage police cuts that created many of the crime issues that now exist across London; and the closure of fire stations across the capital, to name a few.
But it was his spell back in central Government, as our Foreign Secretary, that should cause us real concern. He’s offended allies across the globe (diplomacy, for our most senior diplomat, sadly was not a strong point) and these countries will remember the offence when we come begging for trade deals; but worse was the impact of careless words on the British mother, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who remains in detention in Iran because, in no small part, of Boris’s carelessness.
So it looks as though Boris Johnson will become our next Prime Minister. He will, of course, be chosen by a small cohort of Conservative Party Members, and it will be the first time in modern political history that a Prime Minister of a government which doesn’t command a majority in the House of Commons has been changed without recourse to a public vote (when Callaghan replaced Wilson; Major replaced Thatcher; Brown, Blair and even May, Cameron, the governing party at that time commanded an overall majority in the House). For PM Johnson, the numbers don’t change: he leads a minority Tory government with a fractious and rebellious rump of backbenchers.
That’s why I believe a General Election is likely this year, or early next. And if and when it comes, I hope we can focus on what needs to be put right after ten years of austerity: rebuilding our public services over uncontested tax cuts for the rich; our NHS protected not sold off at the behest of President Trump; and the narrowing of social inequality not fuelling the division in society. Sadly, Boris Johnson, I fear, is on the wrong side of all these arguments. It’s time for real change.