Boris Johnson chose to deliver his Valentine’s Day speech at The Policy Exchange HQ, just days after their report Global Champion: The Case for Unilateral Free Trade was published. The report argues that Britain should demonstrate moral leadership and unilaterally abolish all remaining tariffs to be a true champion of free trade after Brexit. This reporter was hoping Johnson would have delivered his speech to a larger crowd in the new American Embassy which would have cemented his true spirit of Internationalism.
Apparently after numerous drafts, Johnson’s script was approved by No 10; therefore, it is assumed that everything he said was government policy, but minus a lot of detail; UK is nevertheless on track for a total Brexit. This is backed up by Change Britain’s new report that claims the Prime Minister has made 50 statements unequivocally committing to take back control of laws, borders and trade. There has been much debate about who Johnson’s optimistic speech was addressing. Was he reaching out to reassure the anxious 48% who voted to Remain in the EU? Was he appealing to the Remainers in the Cabinet to give up their fantasies of a soft Brexit? Was he was demonstrating all the vim and vigour of his initial Brexit campaign in 2015 to show Brexiteers that his Leaver credentials have not been undermined? Was it to assert to the EU that Brexit is an economic opportunity for Britain if Britain is not bogged down in habitual “self-deprecation”or was he addressing his own parliamentary party in a subtle pre-positioning for an election bid? His policy vision of selective alignment went done well with Financial Services in the City of London. Johnson said Britain would still be practically and psychologically European, but with a global identity, his parting words to the Tories divided over Brexit were: “Brexit is not just the great liberal project of the age, but a project that over time can unite this country. So let’s do it with confidence.” Whether Johnson has shaped the debate will become obvious in the weeks to come.
Back to the old chestnut of Tory leadership, many young aspirants are being touted; in the end, they will most likely line up behind the heavyweights, all posturing and bids are merely theoretical until their names appear on the ballot paper. The three favourites popular with Eurosceptic Conservative members and MPs each have their drawbacks. Jacob Rees-Mogg is an ultra-Conservative, Michael Gove has behaved immaculately since he snatched the leadership from Johnson after the 2016 referendum, but there is still that undercurrent planted by Gove that Johnson is not serious enough. Two outside chances present in Remainer—Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, who is always serious and then there is Dominic Raab, Minister for Housing and Communities, who is very popular with those looking for a new face with no political baggage (except for being named on the notoriously damaging sex pest list in 2017).
On the Oddschecker website under the “Next Prime Minister Betting Odds”, it shows Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn as the favourite; if anyone is successful in challenging Theresa May, that individual will be probably be the next Conservative Prime Ministerial Candidate; so members and MPs must also understand who the Conservative grassroots favour in order to win the next General Election.