‘Boris Johnson’s majority means he has a licence to do what he wants’
Take a deep breath, swallow hard and ask yourself this question: Is it about time we started to take Boris Johnson seriously?
No, I don’t mean forgetting that he is a charlatan, liar and political trickster. The Prime Minister’s personal character is a given.
He’s cocked a snook at any sanction that might once have brought down a PM and got a parliamentary majority with a licence to do what he wants.
What requires deeper examination is his determination to get things done and what he wants to do.
He is not the cack-handed buffoon of pre-Downing Street but a politician with unfettered power on a mission. A mission that carries a hidden danger.
The man who played such a prominent part in governments that championed the crushing of the less well off under austerity is now pledged to “level up” and tackle the massive wealth gap – between regions and between the richest and poorest.
Nothing less than to fix “broken” Britain, the nation he helped break.
There are signs he means it. In the almost child-like enthusiasm for building things, in the oft repeated pledges to look after the “left behind” in the Midlands and Northern seats whose votes were “lent” to the Conservatives at the election.
It’s there in the green light for HS2 and further plans for the railways, in the extra public spending that will be seen as a One Nation splurge in next month’s Budget.
Evidence of Mr Johnson’s determination came in the reshuffle as delicately lacerating as a butcher’s bluntest knife.
It will be there in the rewriting of the Treasury rules to switch spending from the wealthy South East to the more deprived parts of Northern England.
The myth that the rules on public spending are politically neutral, a precise scientific formula, are about to be busted.
They’ve always been open to political direction and Boris – sorry, Mr Johnson – is about to perform a hand-brake turn with a tax raid on higher earners.
Wearing Labour’s clothes is going to be uncomfortable for many traditional Tories in the cosseted shires.
But what obstacle will they be to a leader who is prepared to expel such party stalwarts as Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine?
For them it will be a price to pay for ten, or more, years of Tories in power, restored to their old claim of being the “natural party of government”.
But the traditional low-tax, low-spenders and the Treasury’s formidable power will ensure the richest keep a firm grip on their end of the scales.
That’s where Labour comes in. It has to be forensic in exposing Mr Johnson’s mission as one devoted to power, not a true desire for fairness or greater democracy.
It won’t if it doesn’t itself adjust to a new political landscape.
Boris may be deadly serious. But it doesn’t mean he should be taken at face value.
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