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Perhaps it’s the heat. Perhaps it is the amusing spectacle of the elevation of Boris Johnson driving certain people totally round the twist. Whatever it is – and as I write, sitting in the Commons watching the festivities, it’s only noon on the day he becomes Prime Minister – I’m enjoying the handover and the start of a new era.
Like many people, I have concerns about Boris’s capacity, or otherwise, to do one of the most difficult jobs in the country. We’re all about to find out whether such concerns are justified.
But there are reasons to be optimistic. Here are five:
1) Boris is not Theresa May. The May era is over, thank goodness. Goodbye to running through fields of wheat. No more “nothing has changed.” No more having to watch May struggle to communicate. Even when she was right she couldn’t sell her plans. No-one expected May to have the persuasive skills of LBJ, in wooing opponents and cutting deals, but she was beyond hopeless as a negotiator and a salesperson. She is dutiful and decent, but she couldn’t sell water to a man dying of thirst. She is – as of this afternoon – no longer Prime Minister. I find that prospect uplifting.
2) Philip Hammond is about to be whacked. Sure, the old glumbucket – why was he ever in politics? – will be extremely annoying throughout the crisis to come, droning on boringly about when he was Chancellor. But he won’t be Chancellor. Hooray!
3) One way or another, Boris Johnson is going to bring this interminable Brexit crisis to a head. It will either be resolved to his credit, with a compromise Brexit deal, or he’ll somehow brazen his way through no deal, or it will all come crashing down into an election. We’ll know soon.
4) Boris is an election winner. That is, I accept, not a cause for optimism if you want a Marxist Prime Minister, or if you want to be bossed about by Jo Swinson, the new Lib Dem leader who demands a referendum rerun and confirms she still won’t respect the result if she loses. But if it does come to an election – and assuming you want Brexit to happen – Boris has the explosive and charismatic qualities required to put the Brexit party out of business. Such an election will be extremely high risk. It could go badly wrong. Still, the Tories have chosen a proven winner who likes to campaign rather than dreading the prospect of facing the voters.
5) Let’s wait to see his full list of appointments and policies. The signs are that he will be broad church in his approach. Some of the appointments – such Dominic Cummings, Vote Leave chief strategist – will infuriate his opponents and concern allies. I suspect it shows he is up for the fight and prepared to be bold and counter-intuitive. Other than on Brexit, he will aim to craft a one nation narrative, emphasising help for under pressure public services such as the police and the strained parts of the public realm. That, married to a bit of economic dynamism and can do vim on science and technology, is where the Tories need to be if they are to stop Corbyn or his successor.
Whatever happens in the Boris era, it will not be boring…
Incidentally, May has just walked into the chamber to huge cheers from Tory MPs who removed her. What a shameless bunch!