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Karina's Column

An insider’s view on the City of London and beyond

Bring back Boris

 

An unlikely saviour

Much as one hates to welcome back a turncoat who sacrificed his Remain views on the altar of unparalleled ambition, bring back Boris!

The UK’s June 8th general election was Theresa May’s to lose and this she did. The catchphrase “strong and stable” turned out to be untrue, as U-turn followed U-turn with not even a glimpse of an apology. Being the recipient of years of austerity – however much it was needed following the financial crisis – was always going to make defending government positions on health and security a dreadful task. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, could scatter largesse for all and sundry like a bridesmaid’s petals. Cleaning up the mess was never going to be his problem.

At the time of writing, the Tory majority has collapsed with the loss of 13 seats, nine of them government ministers, while Labour has won 29. To reach the 326 seats needed to govern, the 318-seat Conservative Party is in talks with Northern Ireland’s 10-seat Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

A weak minority government with a discredited leader will not last. Nor is it the right position from which to negotiate Brexit. A new Conservative Party leader is needed to fight a new election.

The country’s saviour, Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, is an unlikely figure. Yet the contrast with Prime Minister May is where his strength lies. Bumbling and dishevelled vs controlled and neatly clad. Eton-honed debating skills vs May’s ducking the party leader debate. An excess of everything on display – flesh, words and humanity, vs containment. Well-documented sexual transgressions vs a steady marriage of 37 years.

Boris could recover the London and youth votes that May lost. He also stands a better chance of keeping the Hard Brexiters in the party under control. Not necessarily due to his charm, although that helps, but because the party has just received a horrendous shock. The actual share of the vote is truly terrifying for them, with the Tories at 42% compared to Labour’s 40%. The complacency of May is giving way to a June panic. And the biggest unifier for any party is a credible opposition.

Helpful to Boris will be the perception that voters are tired of austerity. The government will borrow more to fund policies ranging from increased police numbers to the NHS health service. It will also have to raise taxes. What this will mean for interest rates and the pound is far from clear due to a host of external factors, such as the German general elections in September and the timing of the Brexit negotiations. But with Boris at the helm, a soft Brexit looks more likely.

As the UK continues its slide into international irrelevance on the international stage, it is time for the return of the Teddy Bear, this time to head the Conservative Party, head the next government, and arrest the decline.