By Denis Bright
The leadership transition to Boris Johnson (b.1964 in New York to cosmopolitan British Parents) offers confusing polling trends. Only the wisdom of Nostradamus could predict the precise outcomes of fractured national morale across the UK and the consequences of tensions between Westminster and independence trends from Scotland and Wales.
Boris is a polarising political figure who is quite adept at political theatre as noted by Stewart Lee in a breezy article in the Guardian (28 July 2019).
Although compared to Donald Trump for his skills in political theatre, Boris is a much more complex figure from an elitist and cosmopolitan family background whose public persona has been tempered by years of university studies, experience as a political columnist, two terms as Mayor of London as an interim between volatile terms in the House of Commons. Boris’ commitment to libertarianism is always combined with support for a pragmatic variant of neoliberalism with strong rapport to London’s globalised financial sector and much of the now conventional centre-right consensus on the far-right drift in US foreign policy.
Expect dramatic U-turns on some specific issues, but do not underestimate Boris’ campaigning skills.
Polling trends are still uncertain about the trendlines in domestic politics across the UK. It is very difficult to encode all the trends from regional variations in Scotland, Ulster, Wales, the Industrial Midlands, London and the remainder of England. There are added variables from optional voting and the absence of preferential voting which ensures that the votes from significant minority parties like the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats will always be under-represented in the House of Commons.
Despite these variations in polling results, the Conservatives with Boris Johnson as leader have been ahead in all recent polls (David Connett in the Guardian 28 July 2019):
Polling error ensures that the variation in the lead on primary votes ranges from 1 per cent in the ComRes Poll in the Sunday Express to 10 per cent in the YouGov Poll in the Sunday Times. All these contradictory trends cannot encode the diversity of political realities.
The latest Deltapoll in The Mail on Sunday offers a 5 per cent lead to the Conservatives from fieldwork completed on a sample of approximately 2,000 people who intended to vote in the next elections.
The Delta Polling picks up the variation in voting patterns across the age divides. The pro-Labour age group is from voters under 25 years of age. Their contribution to the overall result is diluted by the conservatism of voters over 55 years of age.
The variations in regional voting patterns are picked up in the Deltapoll. However, the small sample of voters in London lowers the credibility of this data and completely changes the results evident in other polls.
Apart from the trends from younger voters, there is little endorsement of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership style in the new Boris Johnson era outside of Labour heartland households.
More disadvantaged parts of Metro London will probably warm to the populism of Boris Johnson who represents the fairly safe constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, not too far from both Heathrow and Windsor.
Boris Johnson’s capacity to bring disaffected conservative voters back into the fold from the Brexit Party can change the political geography of Metro London which gave such a welcome mandate to Jeremy Corbyn in 2017.
Boris Johnson has a strident plan to get re-elected rather than a vision for the future. A No-Deal Brexit can challenge the current polling trends and negotiators from the EU can afford to be uncompromising in future negotiations.
Boris’ Nebulous Agenda
In the event of a No-Deal exit from the EU, Boris Johnson offers the nebulous prospects of new free-trading agreements with a New Britannia Network from Trump’s America to Canada, Australia, New Zealand as well as a series on important emerging economies. Both sides of British politics have been keen on new trading and financial ties with countries like India, China and Japan.
US Intelligence services will continue to cheer on Boris Johnson to cement stronger strategic and financial ties with Wall Street and the Pentagon. A British government without the moderating effects of ties with the EU makes US foreign policy easier to manage as the UK is one of the most pro-NATO Western European countries.
Even if President Trump is defeated in 2020, the emergent secondary role of the City of London in global finance will gather momentum as a new bastion of questionable financial practices as noted in a German online business magazine.
Immediate Prospects for the UK Economy
As with the recent Australian election, a populist campaign can generate hopes of immediate relief from presenting economic and social problems through a softer approach to neoliberalism with pragmatic short-term spending on entrenched disadvantage and infrastructure failures under the Conservative administrations since 2013.
The historical trend lines for UK’s GDP Growth shows that neoliberalism under Thatcherism and Beyond did not make the economy recession-proof during the GFC.
Despite minor downturns under John Major’s conservative government in the early 1990s, it was the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) which produced the first really significant recession since the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979. Tony Blair had just resigned as Prime Minister in 2007 to enable Gordon Brown to become leader during the worst years of the GFC period.
Despite the high global financial profile of the City of London, Gross Fixed Capital Formation has plateaued since the Brexit referendum. The Brexit debate has brought a pragmatic distraction from the underlying causes of the problem with attempts to sever Britain from more interventionist and successful economic models in Scandinavia and Germany.
Debate over Brexit has produced uncertainty in financial markets to end rising capital expenditure in the second term of David Cameron’s Government (2015-17):
United Kingdom Gross Fixed Capital Formation Gross Capital Expenditure Levels are Shown in Pounds (Quarter)
Rebuilding the Conservative Consensus
As a distant cousin of Queen Elizabeth, Boris also has considerable rapport with the Royal Households. Too many ties with the EU tarnish the authority of the British Crown.
In a time of public austerity, the BBC offers fair coverage of the cost of maintaining Royal Households, including Frogmore Cottage at Windsor Frogmore Cottage in Windsor.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s home was renovated with £2.4m of taxpayer-funded costs, royal accounts show. Frogmore Cottage in Windsor was turned into a single property for Prince Harry and Meghan, from five separate homes.
The couple, who moved from Kensington Palace in April before the birth of their son Archie, paid for fittings.
The Queen’s Sovereign Grant from the Treasury was £82m in 2018-19, with £33m set aside for maintenance, including major work on Buckingham Palace.
The Sovereign Grant is funded by profits from the Crown Estate.
The estate is the Royal Family’s commercial property arm and owns land and buildings in prime central London locations and across the UK. It is managed by an independent organisation, with any profit paid to the Treasury for the benefit of all UK taxpayers.
Separate accounts show the Crown Estate provided a record £343.5m to the Treasury in 2018-19, up 4.3% on last year.
A second household in Los Angeles is also on the cards so that the family can spend more time with Grandma Doris. The Georgian style of Frogmore Cottage is certainly a reminder of the common heritage of the world’s two major Anglo Societies.
The residents of this royal household are clearly in support of fence-mending between the UK and the USA with encouragement from both President Trump and Boris Johnson. Future British leaders are clearly eager to make up for the mistakes and insanity of King George III (1738-1830).
Meantime life in the Royal Households goes on as usual with members joining with the public to celebrate major events and then retreating into splendid surroundings.
From the splendour of pictorial news coverage of the Royal Households, there is always the prospect of a New Britannia with an even stronger rapport with the Pentagon and the Wall Street Financial system.
The ire of disadvantaged youth and aggrieved opinion in Scotland, Wales and Ireland could be unsettling factors for the theatrics of Boris Johnson. These trends might gain momentum in the event of a No-Deal Brexit.
Denis Bright has a background from post-retirement studies in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is committed to citizens’ journalism to raise issues for critical discussion. Having visited Britain only once in 1977, I welcome comments from readers with Insider Perceptions on the important issues raised in this article.
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