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How is Boris Johnson doing so far? I'd give him a B+

PUBLISHED: 18:13 01 August 2019

Prime minister Boris Johnson is doing well so far, says Iain Dale. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Prime minister Boris Johnson is doing well so far, says Iain Dale. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Iain Dale says Prime Minister Boris Johnson has acquitted himself well during his first nine days. Despite enemies in Parliament, the public seems to like him

Iain Duncan Smith once asserted that people make their mind up about a new party leader within 90 days. If he or she hasn't convinced voters by then, they rarely do.

Boris Johnson hasn't got 90 days, and many people already have fairly fixed views on him. He has a number of sworn enemies, not just among the electorate and his opponents, but also within his own party. The radical nature of the way he formed his government has also created a whole host of needless enemies sitting on the backbenches waiting for him to fail. There's almost a government in exile expecting to receive the call to arms at any time.

Boris Johnson has been Prime Minister for nine days. Ordinarily you might say it's ridiculous to come to any sort of judgement on his performance over such a short time, but we live in different times. As I wrote last week, his premiership could be all but over if he doesn't lead us out of the EU on 31 October.

There are several important lessons to draw from the last nine days. The first is that the sense of optimism and positivity the new Prime Minister has displayed is hitting home with voters who have an open mind about Boris Johnson. They contrast this with the negativity and doommongery of the Theresa May years and they like what they see and hear. I've always said that optimistic politicians who can articulate a vision of the sunny uplands ahead win elections. Those who can't generally don't. Contrast Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, for example. Ronald Reagan was a great exponent of this phenomenon. He wasn't a details man, but he had his finger on the pulse of the American people. Time will tell if Mr Johnson does, but listening to radio phone-ins and watching TV vox pops he has reason to be satisfied so far.

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The next lesson is the one which EU leaders will draw from the first nine days. They know they are dealing with someone radically different in tone and approach from his predecessor. He appears to say what he means and means what he says. There's none of the placatory language that Theresa May would deploy. The fact that Johnson hasn't hotfooted it around European capitals is not something which will have gone unnoticed by EU leaders. He doesn't see the point if the EU sticks to its guns and refuses to negotiate around the existing Withdrawal Agreement or Irish backstop. But who will blink first, because if neither side does we will be leaving on 31 October and from where I am sitting there is absolutely nothing Parliament can do about it, apart from bring the government down in a vote of confidence.

There are some who believe that some of Boris Johnson's advisers would like nothing better than to fight a general election on Parliament v the People. If this is true, they are delusional, or just addicted to taking high risks. Single issue elections do not have a happy record of resolving anything. Labour would move heaven and earth to ensure that many other issues came into play, and rightly so. And if the issue really is about Brexit, there will a large number of Conservatives who would back Nigel Farage's Brexit Party. The only way they will go back to their Conservative roots is when and if Boris Johnson has delivered Brexit.

The media is in full flight about the "risks" of a no-deal Brexit. They rarely if ever balance this "crashing out" style of reporting with the opportunities that Brexit presents. Of course, it is the job of the media to report downsides, but it really does seem to be the case that with regard to Brexit, bad news is news and good news is advertising. Any good economic news is "despite Brexit" and every business failure is due to "Brexit uncertainties", which is most cases is utter codswallop.

After nine days, the new PM has done better than most of his critics had expected. I'd give him a B+, which from me is praise indeed

iain@iaindale.com i@iaindale

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