After years of speculation we now know what a Johnson government will look like. Following the most effective restructuring of a government in office since Macmillan’s Night of the Long Knives in 1962, we can see what a Johnson’s government will do now that it its in office. Two things are immediately clear from his appointments.
Firstly, that Boris is keen to stamp his authority over his administration from day one. He clearly sees unity, stability, and conviction at his top table as a vital tool to be used to achieve his objectives in the face of considerable opposition within Parliament and the country. He foreshadowed this in his leadership campaign by saying that everyone in the government will need to be signed up to Brexit and he has sought to make this a reality in office. As a man who knows only too well the damage that rebellious ministers can do to a government’s ability to govern, he is keen to ensure that he does not face the situation he and his supporters created for Theresa May.
Secondly, this is a government created for one purpose and one purpose only- to leave the European Union by the 31 October no ifs not buts. All other considerations will be parked for the moment as the central issue of Brexit is dealt with. So central will this be to government thinking in the early days that Boris stated that if he did not deliver it the people should sack him. He has, therefore, staked his whole reputation and future on getting the UK out of the EU in the next one hundred days.
Now as someone born in America and with such a strong affinity for that country’s political history, a one hundred day target will not be lost on him as this was the same time period in which FDR implemented the key parts of his new deal to meet the urgency of the Great Depression. Johnson knows that the first months in office have an ability to shape not only how other see a government but to determine its long-term destiny. Should Boris succeed in his ambition he will then be able to use the credit gained from achieving what appears to be the impossible to deliver on a social agenda that was alluded to in his speech yesterday.
Part of this programme could well be investment in the new infrastructure projects that will underpin UK economic performance in a post-Brexit world. While campaigning for the leadership, Johnson stated that he was wiling to see borrowing increase for investment in improved infrastructure networks across the country as way of increasing prosperity and improving productivity. For this to happen, however, the current fiscal rules that have been in place since 2010 will need to be changed so all eyes will be in the new Chancellor and the forth coming spending review.
If a week is a long time in politics, then three months is an eternity. Boris has so far succeeded by confounding his opponents’ expectations and it is brave individual who casually dismisses this most idiosyncratic politics of modern times. We now know the direction the government will lead us in so all that remains for us to find out is whether we will reach our destination in the next hundred days.