Here at Atlas we take our roles as professional contrarians very seriously. We like to discuss and debate and present alternative arguments. Which brings me on to the topic for this blog. The case for Boris.
In the office, despite a range of views on Brexit, we do not have many natural Boris supporters (or if we do they are staying very quiet!). However this is the man that is highly likely to be our next Prime Minister. He is a politician who does have an audience. So Researcher Mike Hough has taken on the job of looking at why Boris is so popular with MPs and the Tory membership and how he can make a positive difference at home and abroad.
On the 20th June 2019 it was confirmed that Tory MPs had selected Boris Johnson as one of their final two candidates for the leadership. A staggering 160 MPs opted for Boris in the final ballot, more than half of the Conservative Parliamentary Party. With support from all wings of a warring party. Quite a result.
This is actually quite a turnaround. Boris has not always been hugely popular with Conservative MPs. So what has changed? Well, rightly or wrongly he is seen as a winner. He won in London. Twice. Securing voters the Tories don’t normally get. He was instrumental in Leave’s victory in the EU referendum. Including convincing voters in Labour Leave heartlands. To many in the party he is the Heineken candidate, reaching parts of the electorate no-one else can. Although a newly published YouGov poll has challenged the idea that Boris would instantly improve the Tories electoral fortunes.
Then there is Brexit. From a Conservative point of view he was on the right side. He believes in Brexit and has buckets of charisma and charm. He comes across as someone who doesn’t simply want to put up with Brexit but actually believes in it. For a party that is haemorrhaging votes to the Brexit Party, this is not inconsequential. The MPs also know that the members love him and, with reselections ongoing, are keen not to annoy their grassroots.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE AT HOME
As many pundits point out, when a new Prime Minister is elected the parliamentary maths will not change. The numbers still won’t be there for the so-called ‘Hard Brexit’ that Boris and his acolytes seemingly desire. But this in some ways does miss the point.
Legally the default option is for Britain to leave the EU on the 31st October. Now, when Theresa May was in charge, no-one really truly believed Britain would leave without a deal. This changes under Boris. Boris certainly does not have the same qualms about No Deal. And Parliament is running out of ways to prevent this option as highlighted by the Institute for Government.
It is looking like the only way Parliament can stop a No Deal outcome is likely through a vote of No Confidence. Will enough Tory rebels back this? And will it end their career if they do? It is not yet clear. The other alternative is backing a deal, whatever this deal may look like. This means the chances of Boris taking Britain out of the EU on the 31st is significant. Being the man who championed Brexit, any Brexit he delivers will be popular with a significant portion of the public.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN BRUSSELS
Of course there are two sides in this negotiation. A fact we all too readily forget. From November we have a new Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen and a new President-elect of the European Council. Despite this, Brussels language about Brexit has stayed the same. That is to be expected. But the truth is very simple; they want this to be over. They believe negotiations have concluded and want to move onto other areas. Yet many feel a Prime Minister insistent on No Deal could scare Brussels into concessions.
This brings us to the most contentious issue. The backstop. This is the only issue stopping a deal getting through Parliament and the next stage of negotiations beginning. Now, the EU rightly will not sacrifice the needs of a current member (Ireland) for the sake of Brexit. But neither do they want No Deal.
So what is the solution? Well it isn’t easy. However with a leader who is serious about No Deal and the clock ticking down, the desire to find a mutually beneficial solution will surely increase. The example of Greece shows the EU can work quickly when needed. So, a sceptic might suggest we are heading to a solution where both sides can save face and claim victory. Something that I believe is now commonly referred to as a “fudge”.
ARE YOU CONVINCED?
Well, truthfully, I am not. But many both in Parliament and the public are. They believe Boris is the man who will take us out of the EU. They believe a renewed focus on No Deal will concentrate minds enough in Brussels to find a solution to the backstop. And if not we will leave on the 31st October 2019. They believe we should be more optimistic about the opportunities that Brexit can provide.
If you are a member of the metropolitan elite or simply a resident of the Westminster village, you may not come across many who think like this. But they do exist. In their millions. And they should be listened to and respected. And who knows, ultimately they could be proved correct. Because in this moment in time you would be foolish to predict anything in politics.