UK Politics: Johnson completes first year promising normality by Xmas

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson in a leaders' debate at last year's election

As Boris Johnson completes a year in Downing Street, Max Liu discusses the betting on the prime minister's future and the chances of another country leaving the EU...

"The prime minister is 2.0621/20 to leave office in 2024 or later but at the end of a turbulent first year that looks a long way off."

On Thursday it will be exactly one year since Boris Johnson was confirmed as the new leader of the Conservative Party and UK prime minister. He's 1.618/13 on the Exchange to survive another year in Downing Street.

It's been quite a year for Johnson, who originally wanted to be "world king" but had to lower his ambitions and accept merely governing one of the world's oldest democracies.

First, there was the wild autumn of defeats in the House of Commons, the expulsions of Remainer Tory MPs and clashes with the judiciary, as Johnson's proroguing of parliament was judged illegal by the Supreme Court.

All of that looked like part of Johnson's chief adviser Dominic Cummings' masterplan when the Tories romped to victory in the general election of 12 December with an 80-seat majority.

Cummings trash.jpg

Johnson planned to govern for a decade but today the Tories are 3.211/5 to win a majority at the next election and a hung parliament is the favourite at 2.486/4.

The government's handling of the pandemic is a significant reason for that price, although it should be pointed out that in some polls they're 10 points ahead of Labour.

No matter how assured Keir Starmer sounds at PMQs, it will be extremely difficult for Labour to win the next election.

Get covid done?

This week Johnson claimed that Britain could return to "normality" by Christmas, even though the country has a high death rate from covid-19 and one of its cities has already had to go back into lockdown.

There was an echo in Johnson's Christmas comment of his pledge last autumn to "get Brexit done". It's the same appeal to people's impatience. Johnson differs from David Cameron in many respects but as PMs both understand the power of getting things done or at least looking like you are.

Cameron and Johnson.jpg

In the early 2010s, Cameron's austerity policies were unpopular, and did not stand up to economic scrutiny, but they made the government look proactive against an indecisive Labour opposition. That was a big reason why the Tories won a majority in 2015 against the odds.

Covid-19 is not Brexit, though, and nor is it the credit crunch. In March, Johnson said Britain could "send the virus packing". Four days later he reluctantly put the country into lockdown. Talk of returning to normality deploys the same brand of inane optimism.

In his first year in Downing Street, Johnson was able to win an election with a three-word slogan. But he cannot bluster the virus away. At some point, reality kicks in, even for populists, and when it does his downfall could be abrupt. He's 2.0621/20 to leave office in 2024 or later but at the end of a turbulent first year that looks a long way off.

Addio EU?

There were eight years between the financial crisis and Britain voting to leave the European Union but the two events were undeniably connected. So could the covid-19 fall out include another country deciding to leave the EU or will it lead to the members binding closer together?

There are signs that it could be the former. There have long been politicians on Italy's right advocating the country's exit from the EU. In November 2018, a poll showed 26% of Italians supported leaving ('Ixit'?) but this April, when the question was asked again, 42% said they would back leaving.

Today EU leaders are locked in tense debates about how the bloc should respond to the economic fall-out from the pandemic. Not for the first time - remember Greece and the mooted Grexit in 2015 - there are fierce disagreements between the countries in the continent's north and south over an economic recovery package.

Italy's government is furious at the lack of support it received from the EU amid the pandemic. The country is 6.86/1 to be the next to vote to hold a referendum on EU membership, although it is Poland, with its newly re-elected government, that leads at the market at 6.05/1.

UK - Party Leaders: UK - Party Leaders (Exit Dates - Boris Johnson 2)

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Wednesday 14 December, 5.00pm

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