He’s only been in power for one day and already I have a chilling presentiment that with Boris Johnson at the helm, the United Kingdom is heading for a new and nastier era – if that is possible. Why, incidentally, do we give him the honour of calling him by his first name?
What makes this so scary is that unlike Trump he is not stupid. He has ruthlessly collected a team of like-minded right-wing hard men – and women (Priti Patel’s position on the death penalty, overseas aid, which she sees as overseas trade, her championing of the tobacco and drink industries, and her dubious activities for the Conservative Friends of Israel, does not make for Priti reading. Sic.). As Nick Bowles said this morning, the Conservative Party has been hijacked by the Brexit Party.
Johnson has Dominic Cummings (what a sinister character) and Michael Gove at hand to mastermind the details of the Big Plan, while he seduces the masses with his beguiling (aka disgusting) brand of optimism and Churchillian (ha!) leadership. All he has to do is to get Sajid Javid to cut taxes and then borrow a fortune to spend on a sudden flurry of public works et voila, he is all set to brazen out the nightmarish no-deal brexit – and call a general election to ensure this crowd can do their worst for another five years.
And facing him: Jeremy Corbyn (I won’t get started), a shadow cabinet fraught with divisions and a party frustrated and impotent. There is little hope that Labour’s problems can be resolved in time to present what should have been a dangerous challenge to the Tories.
My French friends observe Johnson with a mixture of distaste and incredulity. We have to hope that enough Brits see through the charm offensive to give him a nasty surprise if, as seems likely, a general election is his big gamble to get him through a no-deal brexit.
As to my position in France, Johnson was ominously silent about support for the 1.2 million Brits living in mainland Europe. So the uncertainty which has existed for the past three years about my pension and healthcare rights will continue. One thing is for sure: if I manage to continue to living here it will be on a lower budget; I can’t see the exchange rate returning to previous levels.