July 24, 2019 – it seems a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?
That was the date that Boris Johnson was officially unveiled as the new Prime Minister, and it would be fair to say that even BoJo himself could not have foreseen the madness that was to unfold over the next 12 months.
Take a global pandemic the like of which has not been seen in decades, add into the mix the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union and sprinkle on a General Election less than six months after taking power. Johnson also became seriously ill with coronavirus AND found time to become a father for the….well, he became a father again.
As he stood outside of 10 Downing Street exactly one year ago, the new Prime Minister promised to bring the good times back for Blighty. So how has Boris fared in his first year?
For All the Marbles
When the General Election was called in the winter of 2019, Boris knew he was going to win.
Jeremy Corbyn was seen as unelectable by the vast majority of the electorate, while the Lib Dems are almost conspicuous by their absence in major political discourse these days.
But even the PM could scarcely believe how well the Conservatives performed, doubling down on their Brexit support in former Labour supporting regions in the North and the Midlands.
As his reign as Prime Minister gathered momentum, Boris could not have gotten off to a better start.
Brexit Means Brexit
Before Covid-19 was even on the radar, Boris inherited a absolute mess of an EU withdrawal plan.
But he promised that the UK would have left the European Union on October 31, and like many others that deadline passed in the blink of an eye as he failed to pass his exit plan through the House of Commons.
However, he did eventually get his proposals over the line, and it was confirmed that the UK would be leaving the EU some three months later than the previous deadline.
The coronavirus has obviously muddies the waters, but the United Kingdom is now officially in the transition period between being a European Union member and not, and discussions over a trade deal have been temporarily halted until Covid-19 is under control.
Managing the Impossible
Supporters of Boris will defend him until they are blue in the face, while red-faced detractors will do all they can to undermine him whether he has done anything wrong or not.
Which leads us to Covid-19….a situation that absolutely nobody saw coming in the spring of 2020. How can you prepare for something that didn’t even exist weeks before?
There has to be sympathy for the government in how they have handled the coronavirus pandemic, although it quickly became apparent that the UK was not prepared for a disaster situation.
The death toll was, sadly, largely unavoidable – the UK’s figures are not dissimilar to other developed countries, truth be told, although the amount of time it took for Boris and his ministers to provide NHS workers with adequate PPE equipment is, frankly, unforgivable.
Did Boris take the threat of coronavirus seriously enough in the early going? Perhaps not, if reports that he skipped as many as six Cobra meetings on the subject are to be believed, and then there’s the hot potato that he took too long to enforce lockdown – that is a topic of debate, rather than cold, hard fact.
And then there’s his support for Dominic Cummins….a man who simply knows too many secrets to be fired.
One thing the Prime Minister cannot be faulted for, alongside his chancellor Rishi Sunak, is in their approach to ensuring the common man and woman was not out of pocket. Their furlough scheme was a success and helped to prevent many people from losing their jobs and businesses going under.
The damage to the economy from the decimation of Covid-19 was unavoidable, and for all the turmoil Boris has faced prevent the UK from entering a long and deep recession could be his hardest task as PM to date.
Betting Markets and Polls Suggest Support is Wavering
We probably shouldn’t reach too much into opinion polls at this time – Boris was always likely to take a metaphorical kicking in the wake of the pandemic.
According to a YouGov poll, the Prime Minister has become even more of a Marmite figure in the past 12 months, if you could believe such a notion. When asked if Boris was doing a good job as PM, the number of ‘don’t knows’ has decreased from 37% to 6% – everyone has an opinion.
His approval rating has gone up from 32% in July 2019 to 44% today, although for the sake of balance his disapproval rating has also increased from 31% to 50% in the same time period.
Meanwhile, the next General Election is likely to be years away in 2023, but Boris’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic has not ingratiated him to the public according to the betting markets.
According to the Betfair Exchange, there will be no overall majority in the next election – out from 2.25 to 2.42, while the Conservative Majority betting line has gone from 1.88 to 3.15 in less than a year.