By Will Barber Taylor
Picture the scene. The 24th of June and Brexit has swept the nation, defeating all attempts to hold onto Britain’s forty-year connection to the European Union. Pictures soon spread of a crushed Prime Minister, ready to concede defeat. Cameron steps down soon after, triggering a leadership contest. During the contest Cameron gives his official support to a former “friend” and now front runner: Boris Johnson. Johnson soon scores the leadership and enters Number 10 with former Justice Secretary as his “number 2”. Now, for Johnson at least, the real fun begins.
As he is swept into office, Johnson’s plan will be clear – to go back on the austerity policy convinced and developed by Cameron and Osborne. Aside from the association with the previous regime, austerity is far from popular. Aside from being unpopular with most people, it is also becoming unpopular with members of his own party.
Before the election, there was already talk of descent in Conservative controlled councils and recent polling has shown that austerity is about as hot as Michael Foot’s donkey jacket. More likely than not, in the first hundred days of Johnson’s premiership austerity would be drastically scaled back or even done away with all together. Whether the scaling back of austerity would be merely public or simply temporary, it would prove that Johnson’s Conservatives were separate from the previous administration – no more cutting Tories.
As already put forward in Leave’s leaflets, immigration would certainly be a major concern of any Johnson administration. Without membership of the EU, Johnson would go about implementing the points system that Australia currently has. Forgetting for the moment that Australia’s system had been deemed a “disaster” by groups such as Migration Watch, the system could be easily trumpeted as putting skills before anything else. Johnson, noted for his fondness for invoking previous Tory leaders, would be able to claim to be following Thatcher’s legacy of creating “ladders of opportunity”. This would also be a smack in the face for Cameron and Osborne; all their hopes of creating a more moderate and centre Conservative party revoked in face of a neo Thatcherite approach.
Along with revoking austerity and attempting to introduce his point based system, Johnson would surely have to concede to his promise to scrap fuel VAT. Whilst the previous two pieces of prospective legislation might be difficult in the wake of such changes to Parliament, this would surely be hard one of the hardest to swallow. Fuel VAT certainly helps the treasury and government rake in money to pay for services as varied as the NHS to road repairs, it isn’t popular amongst most members of the public. Whilst death and taxes may be certain in life, the majority of the public would rather less of the latter, thank you very much, and if it could be helped, none at all of the former. Though this would certainly make Johnson popular he would have to scramble around for another tax to replace the hole in the treasury’s accounts. It would be unlikely that Johnson would end austerity and axe fuel VAT so more than likely only one would be implemented.
However, the most dominant force of Johnson’s first hundred days would be Britain’s renegotiated trade deal with the European Union. What form that would take is anyone’s guess. Remain supporters have suggested that it would be like Norway’s deal or Switzerland’s. However, both Leave and Johnson have claimed that any trade deal with be individual to Britain. Having already been seen by most world leaders – with the exception of Mr Putin – BoJo’s attempts to try to not annoy Europeans leaders would certainly be interesting to see. Europe would not be settled but intensified and could possibly divide the Conservatives even more than they already have been.
In conclusion, the first hundred days of Johnson’s premiership would be fraught with division and change. More likely than not, it would bring more chaos than order. The loss of a leader so soon after a general election would certainly cause more than murmurs and for him to be replaced by an unpredictable popularist would be even more worrisome. If Johnson ever does get the job he most desires, whether through the means suggested above or some other, he will never be accused of being forgettable.