AND THEN THERE WAS ONE
So Boris Johnson has made it, a life long ambition achieved, and now his decisions will matter to a quite dramatic extent.
His victory over Jeremy Hunt was decisive, amongst MPs and Conservative Party members. I am proud to have campaigned for Jeremy Hunt, who I believe fought a powerful and very direct campaign all the way to the finish. I am extremely sorry to see him leave Government, for now.
For Conservatives, however, that much is now yesterday’s news. We have a new Prime Minister, and many issues ahead, and what is important is how they are tackled on behalf of all my constituents, most of whom did not get a chance to vote for a new leader, though they will all in time get that opportunity.
Boris Johnson has made clear his priority is to restore faith in democracy, by leaving the EU on October 31st, then unite the country around an ambitious, optimistic future for all in the UK, from enhanced security with 20,000 more police to the revitalisation of our ‘forgotten places’ and boosts to business and new technology. He has won the right to do it his way and has set about this with a re-drawing of the Cabinet table.
One or two of the losses from Cabinet have disappointed me, not least the excellent Penny Mordaunt, but I see the logic in the shuffle. He won - politics has little pity, is brutal and the winner feels time is short. He has gathered around him those who persuaded the country to ‘Vote Leave’ in 2016, in order to try a different negotiating tactic before October 31st, his aim being, he tells us, to ensure that the EU understands the risk of there being ‘no deal’ on both sides. He hopes this will lead to a deal, and at the same time no one can doubt his readiness, and that of his Cabinet, to leave on 31st October, come what may, as he advances the preparedness of the UK. And at the same time, he adds to his breezy optimism a series of measures to move the UK on beyond Brexit.
It’s a huge gamble. If it comes off, then there will be some variation on the Withdrawal Agreement, the ‘backstop’, or the Political Declaration for the future, and I hope Parliament then agrees this. We can then leave the EU and move on. If it doesn’t come off, then the PM will return to the Commons saying there has been no chance of a new agreement, and say that we are leaving on October 31st. This will be a more hazardous course, and at this stage I do not know quite what will happen. It remains possible that the Commons will seek to avoid this, forcing a vote on a Referendum, Revoking Article 50 or a General Election. Any of these are possible, none, in my view are better than leaving the EU with a deal. I will continue to make any decisions I have to make in Parliament in the best interests of all my constituents, and keep you informed as things develop.
I have never known such a combination of circumstances, nor such an extraordinary Prime Minister, whatever you think of his politics. It is no mean ambition for the country that he wants to make it ‘the greatest country on earth to live in’ – and who would want to disagree? The next few months will be some guide as to whether or not we are heading in that direction.