What next? The first 100 days of the Johnson premiership

DateJul 24, 2019
AuthorMike Indian
Categories

Following yesterday's announcement, our guest writer Mike Indian, Political Consultant at DeHavilland, is giving us an idea of what to expect of the first 100 days of Johnson premiership.

On 23 July 2019, it was announced that Boris Johnson will enter Downing Street as Prime Minister. Around 100 days later, the UK is due to leave the European Union on 31 October.

This moment caps off a political renaissance for the man who resigned as Foreign Secretary from Theresa May’s Cabinet last summer. In keeping with his keen sense of history, Mr Johnson likely sees a parallel with his hero, Sir Winston Churchill, being called upon in the UK’s darkest hour in 1940. He has evoked the Dunkirk spirit during this Conservative leadership election, deploying the same mixture of bumbling charm and latter-day jingoism that helped him lead the Vote Leave campaign to victory three years ago.

Conservative prime ministers love casting themselves as riding to the nation’s rescue; Churchill in 1940, Thatcher and the Winter of Discontent, David Cameron and the Eurozone Crisis. Mr Johnson is unique among them in that he has been a leading player in the events precipitating his premiership and in shaping response. His first 100 days will see the former Mayor of London attempt to tackle a protracted problem that forced his two predecessors out of office. So, how will he handle it?

As a politician notoriously difficult to pin down on concrete policy details, Mr Johnson’s leadership campaign and past pronouncements are riddled with contradictions. However, the clearest strand has been near certain commitment to taking the UK out of the EU, with or without a deal, by 31 October. What began as a pledge to win over Brexiteer MPs has morphed into the defining issue a Johnsonian government will have to confront. It has also proven widely popular with the Tory grassroots; whose 160,000 members overwhelmingly prefer a no-deal Brexit.

What appeals to the Conservative Party most of all though is Johnson’s brand as a proven election winner. Past figures in both the Labour and the Tory parties have attracted large personal followings among MPs, groups that often borne their names, Bevanites, Thatcherites, Blairites and Cameroons. In common with Theresa May, there are very few die hard Johnsonian MPs. Instead, the strength of support Mr Johnson has enjoyed from his parliamentary colleagues is built on the perception that he is a proven election winner built on two terms as Mayor of London.

The breadth of supporters behind him is proof of this. Mr Johnson’s campaign is chaired by the veteran Eurosceptic MP, Iain Duncan Smith, and includes all of the stalwarts of the influential European Research Group, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Steve Baker and Andrew Bridgen. In addition, he has swept endorsements from leading Cabinet figures, including Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, whilst some who have previously criticised Mr Johnson, such as Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, have recently moderated their words.

You can expect any Johnson Cabinet to reflect this broad range of support, but all will need to be comfortable with the concept of a no-deal Brexit. This excludes several prominent members of Theresa May’s government, including International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, Business Secretary Greg Clark, Justice Secretary David Gauke and Chancellor Philip Hammond. Mr Hammond’s departure is significant because it allows Mr Johnson to possibility of installing a Brexiteer at the Treasury to address criticisms of a lack of funding and willingness to prepare for no-deal.

Sajid Javid’s name has been mentioned regularly in the press as the most likely candidate, given his banking background, but Matt Hancock is also reportedly keen on the job. Chief Secretary Liz Truss, who has acted as Mr Johnson’s policy chief in the campaign, is another possibility, but her libertarian instincts might also be deployed at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Any Chancellor appointee would need to be a details-orientated politician, but would Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s past animus with Mr Johnson keep him out of the Cabinet entirely?

Any government reshuffle creates potential backbench rebels and a Johnson government inherits a working majority of the House of Commons of just three. A prime minister needs a Commons majority or the “confidence of the House” to govern. Pursuit of a no-deal Brexit could see some of the pro-Remain MPs pressured to oppose their own government in any vote. On 17 July, 17 Conservative MPs rebelled to support an amendment designed to make it harder to suspend Parliament in the run-up to 31 October. A timely reminder that the next occupant of Number 10 still must contend with a divided party and House of Commons.

Without a legislative vehicle, like a Bill or a motion, to take control of parliamentary business, there are few formal routes for MPs to block no-deal. One of the only the avenues open to them is voting against the Government in a motion of no confidence. Supporting such a motion leads to a brief window in which another government could be formed. The combined majority of Conservative and Democratic Unionist MPs means it would almost certainly rule out Labour. If the Tories could not command support in the House, then an election would be called.

With only Parliament only scheduled to sit for a fraction of the days between Mr Johnson arriving in Downing Street and 31 October, time for a confidence vote is tight. Nevertheless, it would be wise to expect Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party to call one at the earliest opportunity when the Commons returns from its summer break on 3 September. Equally, Mr Johnson may need to break any Commons deadlock by going to the country. An autumn election looks almost certain.

A Boris Johnson government faces challenges that few incoming administrations have ever had to face. A divisive figure for his party and the country at large, Boris Johnson’s first 100 days in office will allow the boy who wanted to be “world king” the chance to show what he can do.

Whatever happens over the next few weeks and months, it is safe to say that the Brexit issue is far from resolved and is sure to bring more political, economic and market uncertainty. What is certain is that Groundsure products will continue to provide a level of clarity, simplicity and accuracy in all of your land and property transactions.