Boris Johnson never bargained for this when he won the election a year ago – Ian Swanson

It’s a year since Boris Johnson won his decisive general election victory, capitalising on people’s frustration over the seemingly never-ending saga of Brexit and the unpopularity of Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

Many people think Boris Johnson will quit as Prime Minister before the next UK general election (Picture: Yui Mok/PA)
Many people think Boris Johnson will quit as Prime Minister before the next UK general election (Picture: Yui Mok/PA)

But the last 12 months have not been quite what he had bargained for.

With his 80-strong Commons majority, he did manage to secure the EU withdrawal agreement which had proved such an impossible problem during his previous five months as prime minister and for Theresa May before him.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But coronavirus then quickly took over the agenda, presenting the country with unprecedented challenges, changing everyone’s day-to-day life, causing thousands and thousands of deaths and devastating the economy.

Boris Johnson probably imagined life would be different as UK Prime Minister when he won a landslide election last December (Picture: Getty Images)

Mr Johnson had his own close encounter with Covid-19 and survived to tell the tale.

But his handling of the pandemic has not won him any plaudits. The bullish, can-do, positive-thinking attitude which he has sought to make his trademark seemed uniquely ill-suited to dealing with a menacing virus whose lethal power scientists were only beginning to fathom.

Early mistakes, like going into lockdown too late, not having enough PPE and abandoning testing at a crucial stage, are thought to have cost many lives.

His stubborn refusal to sack his top aide Dominic Cummings after his disregard of the Covid restrictions was a serious misjudgement, undermining whatever confidence there might have been in the government and giving a licence to anyone who wanted to break the rules themselves.

Co-operation and consultation with the devolved administrations have mostly been poor or non-existent and he has got into confrontations with regional leaders like Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and his own successor as London mayor, Sadiq Khan.

But in Mr Johnson’s world, everything had to be “fantastic” and “world-beating”. And now we wait apprehensively to see what effect the five-day easing of restrictions over Christmas will have on infection rates.

During last year’s election, he promised a “moderate and compassionate one-nation Conservative government” – sentiments echoed when he addressed the nation after his victory. But how has Mr Johnson measured up to that pledge?

The panto season may have been cancelled this year due to Covid but in recent weeks the prime minister has seemed determined to cast himself as the caricature of a Tory villain.

There was his initial refusal to ensure hungry children were fed in the school holidays. Then he rubbished devolution as a disaster. And days later he announced the biggest increase on defence spending since the early years of Margaret Thatcher, at the same time as cutting overseas aid.

And to add to the picture, a public sector pay freeze was announced while the row raged over the government paying private consultants £7,000 a day for less-than-impressive work during the crisis and lucrative contracts being handed to cronies.

The US presidential election will see Donald Trump evicted from the White House, but Boris Johnson could remain in Downing Street for another four years. There has been speculation, however, that he may not serve the full term. Indeed, a weekend opinion poll found 27 per cent think he will leave Number Ten next year and only 21 per cent expect him to last until 2024.

A premature end to his premiership would be a huge disappointment for a man who as a child declared his ambition was to be “world king”.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We’re more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven’t already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

The Scotsman

The Scotsman is a Scottish compact newspaper and daily news website headquartered in Edinburgh. First established as a radical political paper in 1817, it began daily publication in 1855 and remained a broadsheet until August 2004. Its parent company, JPIMedia, also publishes the Edinburgh Evening News.

Related Articles

Back to top button