What kind of prime minister will he be? Will he be a reflection of his avatar as the disastrous, gaffe-prone foreign secretary, or the go-getter celebrity Mayor of London? Yes, that is the question about Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, the UK’s newly-elected Tory leader, and now the prime minister of the country. The answer will only be known in due course of time. As of now, he remains a puzzle.
The Eton-Oxford educated Boris Johnson, with the baggage of a chequered, colourful past, be it his personal or professional life, first became known in the British establishment when, as a journalist, he was fired for a ludicrous fabrication. But he has survived on his politics of riding the chaos.
It was clear that he was racing fast towards the highest office of the country when he became the poster boy of the Brexit Referendum in 2016, and today he has entered the hallowed office of the prime minister.
But his tenure, many believe, could be extremely short-lived, as he takes office when the country is most divided.
Boris’s Plans For The Economy
With the backing of the extreme right-wing Brexiteers, Boris ramped up the Brexit rhetoric, becoming a hero for those supporting Leave, but the way ahead remains strewn with thorns. The EU remains stubborn, and Boris, in his run-up to the Conservative Party election, never once explained what was behind his confidence, that the UK will leave the EU on 31 October. He could well be on the path of his predecessor Theresa May, when she committed to a date to leave the EU, but failed to live up to it. When it comes to the economy, the UK is far more dependent on the EU than vice versa.
Despite predicted economic recession, if the UK leaves with no-deal, which Boris has been propagating, his economic policy, though sketchy, promises tax cuts and increase in public spending.
He has committed himself to a multi-billion pound programme of measures, paid for by extra government borrowing, including employing 20,000 more police officers.
A lot more will become clear once Boris’s cabinet is announced. But it is evident that Boris’s ‘modern Britain’ promise will be delivered with a record number of ethnic minorities and women in his cabinet and senior positions, including the likes of Priti Patel, Sajid Javid and Alok Sharma, to name a few. He obviously is trying to neutralise the impression of the UK being an isolationist country, given his rallying cry for Brexit.
Boris Shows Openness To ‘High-Skilled’ Immigration. But What About Foreign Policy?
He has vowed to push for an immigration system modeled on the Australian-style points system, resurrecting one of the key promises of the Vote Leave campaign. It could well mean doing away with Conservatives’ net migration target.
“We will restore democratic control of immigration policy after we leave the EU,” Johnson said.
“We must be much more open to high-skilled immigration, such as scientists, but we must also assure the public that as we leave the EU, we have control over the number of unskilled immigrants coming into the country... We must be tougher on those who abuse our hospitality. Other countries such as Australia have great systems and we should learn from them,” Johnson also said.
However, there are several questions about his foreign policy. Most importantly, how will his relationship be with US President Donald Trump, who has expressed his joy at Johnson’s win?
How Does Boris Plan To Handle Trump?
Will Boris be a lapdog of the US, and will the two be allies in disruption, or will he be able to use his affinity with Trump to calm the immediate and serious crisis over Iran?
It is safe to say that that the new prime minister’s first visits abroad will be to Washington, to re-establish the trans-Atlantic harmony. But the tough question is: will there be any convergence on policy? While Trump has been pitching for right-winger Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party to be appointed as ambassador in Washington, it will be up to Boris who he will appoint as UK’s ambassador to the US.
That will be the first sign of how he plans to handle his relationship with Trump.
Boris Johnson: ‘DUDE’ Must Be Careful To Not Become A ‘DUD’
With all his bravado and blonde mane, looking puzzled, animated and gaffe-prone, Boris will, no doubt bring colour to No. 10, after ‘grey May’, but he has to show astute intelligence as he is surrounded by enemies at home, including the Remainers, and also those Brexiteers who do not trust him.
During his victory speech Boris said, "I know some wag has already pointed out that 'deliver, unite and defeat' was not the perfect acronym for an election campaign since unfortunately, it spells DUD. But they forgot the final E my friends, E for energise.”
But the DUDE needs to be careful and not become a short-lived, high on rhetoric, short on substance DUD.
(Nabanita Sircar is a senior journalist based in London. She tweets at @sircarnabanita. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same)