The British Prime Minister celebrates two years of ups and downs as head of the Government
This weekend has been two years since the election of Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservative Party, catapulted to the head of the Government after the collapse of ‘Brexit’ in the mandate of Theresa May. His sole task was to consummate the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union and he did so by avoiding a compromised professional and personal situation, such as those that abound in his biography.
The opposition, led by Labor Jeremy Corbyn, was unable to present an alternative in the blocked Parliament. Johnson called elections in December 2019 and his victory allowed him to immediately negotiate his ‘Brexit’ and fulfill another wish, to go on vacation for three weeks with his then-girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, to a Caribbean island.
When he returned, the spread of the coronavirus already worried scientists, but Johnson ignored it and locked himself in the Checkers country residence to negotiate his divorce. The broad electoral victory, thanks to the support of voters in previously industrial northern towns, gave him a motto for his mandate: ‘leveling up’, equalizing the country’s economy.
The Boris Johnson who swam in the Cornish sea at six o’clock in the morning during the G7 summit in the middle of June is the stamp of his prime so far. She had gotten rid of her guru, Dominic Cummings, married Symonds, who now plays a central role in Downing Street, and had a route out of confinements and restrictions.
The dizzying fall in popularity in 2020 due to the management of the epidemic had returned, thanks to a vaccination program among the best in the world. When he fired his colleagues from the Group of Seven, he had an agenda until the holidays: give content to the economic equalization, agree on a plan for the care of the elderly and announce, in ten days, the advent of freedom.
A substantial section of the parliamentary group and the conservative press has criticized the restrictions imposed to contain the epidemic. His description of June 21 as ‘Freedom Day’ became popular. They accepted its postponement until July 19, because the number of cases was growing and the Government wanted more people vaccinated before the grand opening.
Challenge in Ulster
Cummings, in an interview broadcast by the BBC in the week of the second anniversary, said that Johnson “does not have a plan and does not know how to serve as prime minister.” He described as “ridiculous” that he is at the head of the Government, because he is “useless.” And he coined a portrait of the successful British leader’s management: “it’s like a shopping cart.”
The description of Johnson as an opportunistic politician, doing what suits his popularity, seems to be true in a generic way, but Cummings himself denounces the prime minister as always against lockdowns. The drastic reduction of restrictions, last Monday, is consistent with what he has defended before and an experiment of interest to the rest of the world.
It has been dubbed the search for “hybrid immunity.” One component is the protection offered by vaccines to avoid severe covid and the other is the spread of the virus and the promotion of antigens among the youngest. But the ‘release’, last Monday, coincided with the highest numbers of cases in recent months. Nobody knows what the direction of the epidemic will be.
The British leader has made another risky bet. It published on Wednesday an offer to reform the Irish Protocol contained in the ‘Brexit’ agreement, knowing that the EU cannot accept it. Northern Irish unionism in favor of eliminating border controls between Great Britain and Northern Ireland has hailed it as a positive first step.
London proposes a new system of controls, in which the British authorities will protect the integrity of the single market. The elimination of the role of the EU Court is proposed when the Democratic Unionist Party, which co-governs Northern Ireland, says it will “prevent” the operation of the Protocol. It may be the beginning of something more serious than a violation of a treaty.
Covid and ‘Brexit’ have been Johnson’s two big themes and promise new adventures. As for economic equalization, a White Paper is expected in the fall, after a speech by the leader ten days ago received as mere verbiage. The financing plan for elderly care is also being postponed. The idea would be for young people to pay it, with a 1% increase in Social Security contributions.