Is Boris Back?
David and Helen talk to Nick Timothy, former chief of staff in Downing Street under Theresa May, about the future for Boris Johnson's government. Is he now safe from leadership challenges? Can he hold together the coalition that won the 2019 election? Is Keir Starmer the one under pressure? Plus we discuss where the next big destabilising threat to this government might come from: Scotland, Northern Ireland, the EU, China?
Is Johnson’s political position more secure now?
- If the government can end on a high note with the vaccine rollout, that might be what people remember.
Boris probably doesn’t want to be an austerity prime minister.
- Sunak wants to get the economy moving and send some signals to the market that there’s fiscal responsibility.
- Sunak may also want to create a fiscal dividing line with Labour.
- But without financial market pressure, it’s hard to see how Sunak is going to win this argument about fiscal probity.
- Political reality, and new voters, may push the Tories toward more spending against the instincts of many MPs.
Starmer still faces serious structural problems: Labour is in trouble in Scotland and the increasing importance of cultural issues create problems for Labour in the Red Wall.
- Although the government has made mistakes with the pandemic, public opinion has been fairly understanding.
- Starmer hasn’t really been able to talk about anything other than the pandemic.
Who is in the biggest trouble in Scotland?
- Johnson faces big issues around the union, but in terms of electoral outcomes, it’s probably Starmer.
- What would happen if a government without an English majority has to act as an English government again due to a crisis?
- Johnson is particularly unpopular in Scotland.
The Tories are worried about the union, but there aren’t obvious solutions.
- Northern Ireland is at the center of these problems.
Mentioned in this Episode:
- Tom McTague in the Atlantic, ‘Britain’s pandemic story can still be rewritten’
- Nick Timothy in The Telegraph
- Are MPs out of sync with their voters?
- What is the Union?
- On Johnson’s unpopularity in Scotland
- More on the Northern Irish Protocol
And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking
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