STEPHEN GLOVER: So many battles. Tog, they could be saving Boris

STEPHEN GLOVER: So many enemies. So many battles. Tog, ironies genoeg, they could still be the saving of Boris

Has any Prime Minister in modern times been so abused as Boris Johnson? Or encircled by so many enemies, not a few of them in his own party?

And has any recent Prime Minister faced such formidable problems on so many fronts? Sorting out one or two of them would test any leader. Coping with a whole series is mind-boggling.

There is the prospect of a summer of public sector strikes, whose partial intention is to topple Boris. Priti Patel’s policy of packing off asylum seekers to Rwanda has been undermined by foreign judges in Strasbourg who didn’t consider any submission from the Government.

Die Europese Unie yesterday announced legal action against Britain over its plans to scrap parts of the post-Brexit deal for Noord-Ierland. There is a distant possibility of a trade war — the last thing either side needs with recession looming.

In Skotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon threatens to call her own illegal referendum on independence, and potentially plunge the United Kingdom into a constitutional crisis.

Intussen, the pound is in free-fall and inflation is at a 40-year high. The economy slightly contracted in April, and may well have done so in May.

On top of all these woes, last night the Prime Minister’s independent ethics adviser, Christopher Geidt, bedank, clearly exasperated by his master’s conduct over Partygate.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been under pressure due to number of issues: His ethics watchdog Lord Geidt resigning, the Rwanda migrant scheme, Northern Ireland and Partygate

The first planned flight to take migrants from the UK to Rwanda was prevent by last minute legal challenges (op die foto: staff boarding the plane)

The first planned flight to take migrants from the UK to Rwanda was prevent by last minute legal challenges (op die foto: staff boarding the plane)

Challenges are everywhere. It’s hardly surprising that Boris Johnson’s enemies are licking their lips. They see a politician with blood gushing from wounds made worse by his lacklustre showing in last week’s vote of confidence.

Seldom have so many mainstream media gunned for a Prime Minister. Every setback is amplified, every achievement (admittedly there haven’t been many recently) disregarded. Did you know that UK exports to the EU in April were the highest for any month since records began? This has barely been reported.

Tory Remainers are busy plotting to bring down Boris, with former Chancellor George Osborne raging at Brexit ‘nonsense’ on LBC radio. He was the misguided leader of Project Fear, among whose many baseless scare stories was the false prediction that house prices would plummet because of Brexit.

As for Labour’s Remainers, they can scarcely contain their glee. Shadow justice minister Anna McMorrin has been caught out telling activists that a Labour government would attempt to rejoin the Single Market and Customs Union as a possible precursor to returning to the Brussels fold.

Poor Boris. Though not his greatest admirer, I feel sorry for our beleaguered PM. His difficulties are not all of his making. The irony is that he is a man who loves to be loved, and dislikes confrontation. And yet he is engulfed by it.

And then there is Partygate, and the irresponsible goings-on in No 10, which Mr Johnson must have known about even if he didn’t witness most of them. They have left a stain on his prime ministership that won’t be rubbed away. Lord Geidt’s resignation undoubtedly makes things worse for the Prime Minister.

Lord Geidt resigned from his role as Boris Johnson's adviser on ministers' interests shortly after telling MPs he felt 'frustration' at Mr Johnson's response to his Partygate fine

Lord Geidt resigned from his role as Boris Johnson’s adviser on ministersinterests shortly after telling MPs he felt ‘frustrationat Mr Johnson’s response to his Partygate fine

Large rail strikes are also set to bring misery to commuters and holidaymakers later this month

Large rail strikes are also set to bring misery to commuters and holidaymakers later this month

Can he save himself, or will his administration collapse in ignominy, possibly as soon as this autumn, when the men in grey suits pay him a visit to tell him the game is up?

The odds are against his survival but no one should rule it out. It has happened before. When Margaret Thatcher was at a similar stage during her first stint in No 10 as Mr Johnson is now, she lagged far behind in the polls as the economy tanked, bolshie trade unions agitated and half of the Cabinet wanted her out.

It’s true that she partly saved herself by her decisive and courageous response to Argentina’s invasion of the Falklands in April 1982. But she also came good because she stuck to her guns, and pursued popular domestic policies supported by many voters.

Boris could too. It’s possible. Something has happened this week that offers cause for hope. I mean the announcement that the Government is prepared to rewrite parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol so that the province is no longer virtually a colony of the EU.

Toegegee, the Prime Minister made a deal with Brussels in which a part of the UK was given a different legal status to England, Scotland or Wales. But I believe he was driven to it by the EU, which made extortionate and intransigent demands. It was the only way he could deliver the democratic mandate of Brexit.

The EU has threatened legal action over legislation to scrap Brexit rules for Northern Ireland

The EU has threatened legal action over legislation to scrap Brexit rules for Northern Ireland

No other EU country would accept an internal trade border, which effectively separates Northern Ireland politically from Great Britain. If there has to be an ugly fight, so sal dit wees. Breaking an international treaty is a smaller price to pay than breaking up the UK.

In this matter, Boris has shown leadership and grit. With so many other problems on his plate, he could have deferred this one. Hy het nie. The plan has been carefully worked out. 'Ek het ongemaklik gevoel en wou net my ma hê', he hopes to rally pro-Brexit forces but I don’t believe, as his enemies claim, that this is a cynical ploy. He knows it’s the right thing to do.

I’m less convinced that much painstaking planning went into sending asylum seekers to Rwanda. When the policy was announced two months ago, I predicted that lawyers would have a field day, and they have. It was entirely foreseeable that the European Court of Human Rights would interfere as it has.

Priti Patel put the cart before the horse. If the Human Rights Act, enshrined in UK law by Labour in 1998, was first repealed, politically-motivated lawyers could not so easily frustrate the Government’s wishes. Soos dit is, we could have a fiasco on our hands even though polls suggest that the policy is popular with a majority of voters.

Then there are the other challenges. Scotland is the only case where the best approach is to do nothing. Ignore Nicola Sturgeon’s machinations, and watch as she ties herself in knots.

The PM will have to summon all his strength of purpose during the ‘summer of discontent’. The pay demands of the rail unions are absurd, and the Government must resist them. As burgemeester van Londen, Boris caved in to over-mighty rail unions.

As for the economy, the Prime Minister is reportedly trying to persuade the inveterate tax-raising Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to rescind his plan to hike Corporation Tax next April, which is set to cost businesses £15 billion.

Why only persuade, wel? If Mr Sunak can’t prove he is the tax-cutting, Thatcherite Chancellor he claims to be, Mr Johnson should find him another department, and move someone with more fiscally enlightened views into No 11.

So many problems! I suggested last week that Boris isn’t a natural multitasker. When he applies his formidable brain to a specific matter, such as supplying weapons to the Ukrainians or expediting the Covid vaccine rollout, he can be impressive.

What we need now, wel, is a Prime Minister able to grapple with a plethora of challenges at the same time, and in short order, before they overwhelm him and the country.

This is the moment to show whether he has the backbone to cope with confrontation and adversity. Let him face his enemies — they will never forgive him for Brexit — and embrace sound Tory policies that have widespread support.

There isn’t much time left. But there is still time — just — to ward off the men in grey suits. Margaret Thatcher saved herself, and so could Boris.




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