UK Politics: Johnson government creates A-grade chaos

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has been compared to Donald Trump
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In this week's politics update Max Liu discusses the UK government's latest controversy and argues that Boris Johnson should fear a Joe Biden presidency...

"The controversy caused by Johnson during his year in Downing Street - from closing down Parliament to taking on the judiciary - has earned the PM comparisons with Donald Trump for whom chaos and distraction are political tools."

What grade would you give this government based on their performance so far? At the end of a week which saw widespread outrage at the way A level grades were allocated - with almost 40% of predicted grades downgraded by the exam regulator's algorithm - the Tories are [3.15] on the Exchange to win a majority at the next general election and [1.8] to take the most seats.

At times, this week, as the government and its education secretary Gavin Williamson was accused of ruining the futures of thousands of young people, it seemed inconceivable that anybody could bring themselves to vote for Boris Johnson again - although, as I've argued in the past, there's a decent chance he won't be the Tory leader at the next general election.

Gavin Williamson 956.jpg

So far the Exchange markets have been fairly unmoved by the fallout from the A level fiasco and this week's Opinium polling shows the Conservatives (42) three points ahead of Labour. That could change, with the Tories losing support as the exams controversy escalates.

Labour and the Lib Dems are calling for Williamson to resign. You may remember that he didn't need to resign from his previous job - as defence secretary - because he was sacked from it last year for gross misconduct.

With the exception of Sajid Javid, however, members of this government don't quit. Matt Hancock, Robert Jenrick, as well as the PM's special adviser Dominic Cummings, have all faced pressure to resign and would have been forced out of any previous UK administration.

The old Sportsbook market on cabinet exits was a lively one when Theresa May was in office - especially on the day a certain foreign secretary resigned - but no such market exists today and that makes sense.

Johnson should fear a Biden presidency

No government can keep testing the public's limits forever and dire economic forecasts, as well as the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus, suggests Johnson and co. face a challenging autumn and winter. But there could be another event this autumn that is bad news for Johnson.

The controversy caused by Johnson during his year in Downing Street - from closing down Parliament to taking on the judiciary - has earned the PM comparisons with Donald Trump for whom chaos and distraction are political tools. But Trump is [2.46] to win November's US presidential election, with his opponent Joe Biden [1.77] to beat him.

If Biden takes the White House, it may signal the end for the age of madcap autocracy and there could be a domino effect in other western democracies, as electorates yearn for stability and fairness. A Biden presidency - and in particular a Kamala Harris vice presidency - could make Johnson's premiership look seedy and dated.

If Britons tire of the chaos, and look longingly across the Atlantic at a grown-up government, that will be bad news for Johnson.

Don't rule out frontline return for former Labour favourite

For a brief moment in 2015, following Labour's defeat to the Tories at the general election, Andy Burnham was the favourite to succeed Ed Miliband as leader of the opposition. It wasn't to be and, after an honourable stint as Jeremy Corbyn's shadow home secretary, Burnham became Mayor of Manchester in 2016.

Burnham should be returned to office at next May's postponed mayoral election. In the meantime, however, the odds on him becoming Labour's next leader have shortened to [16.5].

The mayoralty has made Burnham a more rounded and more radical politician. This week, he was praised for standing up for A level students and, although he has his critics as well as his supporters in Manchester, he is becoming a strong voice of opposition to the government.

Does he still have leadership ambitions? If so, the timing might be good. His second term as mayor of Manchester would only last three years and it could be that by 2024 - when the next UK general election is [1.52] to take place - he is ready to stand once again for parliament.

If Burnham does that, he may well want a third crack at the top job (he previously stood in 2010 too). At 50, Burnham is seven years younger than current leader Keir Starmer, so has plenty of time.

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Thursday 2 May, 7.00am

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