Boris Johnson prefers puns to details of politics. It will be a problem in the future. No amount of verbosity can mask the complex and often conflicting set of socio-economic needs and interests which must be reconciled in order to craft an effective policy in a deeply divided Britain. The four tasks that will define Mr. Johnsons’ government are to minimize the economic and health fallout from the pandemic; keep the Brexit promises; put the country on the path to zero net greenhouse gas emissions; and mend a Britain shattered since the global financial crisis. No one would oppose the ends, it’s the means that count.
Mr Johnsons’ response has been, primarily, to whitewash his reputation as either green soap scum or the hot waters of upgrading or the scorching fug of new technology. Last year, he claimed that by 2030, Britons would be flying in zero-carbon jets and being carried by hydrogen trains through a land of abundant housing. The most important policy to get out of the pandemic so far is to reward failure. Ministers who did a hash of lockout schedules, the testing and tracing and acquisition of personal protective equipment is aimed at regaining control of the NHS, which has successfully managed the crisis and the vaccine rollout.
In the field of the environment, the Prime Minister has produced policies which are only a shadow of their rhetoric. Last week, it emerged that hundreds of millions of pounds had been taken from the government’s green home subsidy program, undermining its flagship program for a green recovery. There is a valid suspicion that Mr Johnson has caved in to lobbying from corporate donors. Premiers pledge to ban gas boilers from new homes by 2023, which would have imposed costs on developers, was first made, then took of and finally replaced by a later date. His promise last year to Scrap taxpayer support for fossil fuel projects overseas would not have pleased the big tankers. Perhaps this is why we have yet to see the end of UK interest in 17 of these companies, including Brazilian offshore oil system that will contribute to the same emissions as 800,000 cars per year.
The Prime Minister owes his position to Brexit, but it was a campaign, not a way of governing. This was remarkably successful in allowing Mr Johnson to present himself as a taboo breaker he had worked hard to build, as a Thatcherite conservative, without having to spell out in detail the boundaries and therefore his responsibility in a new political regime. . Brexit has its roots in an economic model based on spatial and income inequalities, despite alignment on a conflict of values. Leaving the EU was a signal, its supporters were told, that international economic policy would be subordinated to more equitable national priorities. Yet as Labors Lisa Nandy spotted in last year’s budget documentsMr Johnson plans to level the red wall with a model that has failed communities for the past 40 years.
After decades of failed pro-market reforms, the only way for a Conservative government to create a low-tax, low-regulation state appears to be under the guise of another project, Brexit, and by dropping ideological soul mates to positions of power. That’s why the OECD shouldn’t be led by Australian right-winger Mathias Cormann, whose pro-coal ideological vandalism led to the abolition of the country’s carbon emissions trading system. Britain faces an uneven recovery from the pandemic in the coming months, with the rich and the old exhausted, as unemployment soars and young people struggle with higher debt. When he was just a doctrinal follower, Mr. Johnson could argue that if things went wrong, he or his creed was not entirely responsible. But he pretended to be a leader with a new gospel. The prime minister should not be surprised if the public sooner or later judges eager and abandons his temple for another church.