It is now overwhelmingly likely that Boris Johnson will be the next Conservative Party leader and become Prime Minister.
He may well face a no confidence vote in September, and the Brexit extension expires at the end of October in any event.
So he and his new team will have to hit the ground running in August. We continue our series on what he should do during that month and late July before the Commons is due to return on September 3.
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According to our weekly updated list, Boris Johnson has made some 25 policy pledges during the Conservative leadership election. In the probable event of a general election in the autumn, he won’t be able to deliver on many of them. And he will soon have a working majority of only three in any event.
Which surely rules out a Special Budget in September. It would have to contain more provisions for No Deal, and wrapping them up in this way would only encourage MPs to vote them down. He would do better to try any that he needs on the Commons piecemeal.
MPs would also vote down any tax cuts “for the rich” – a category who they would collectively argue includes those who pay the higher rate of income tax, the threshold of which Johnson has promised to raise.
It would be impossible in effect to cut income tax rates in time for a snap election anyway, though the Commons might nod through a rise in the national insurance threshold for lower paid workers, another of his pledges.
But just because Johnson can’t do everything – or even anything much that requires a Bill – doesn’t mean that he can only do nothing.
Governments have greater discretion on spending than tax. So, for example, he could start to deliver on increasing funding per pupil in secondary schools and raising police numbers. That would come in handy with an autumn election looming.
The latter move would go hand in hand with a battle with Chief Constables and others over the best use of new resources. Voters want to see more police on the streets and more use of stop and search. Johnson’s new Home Secretary should pile in.
And while he will have little legislative room for manoeuvre, he will be able to propose some relatively uncontentious Bills for September – settling the status, for example, of EU citizens.
Then there are measures that he could announce the new Government will not proceed with, as well as those that he wants to proceed with. Theresa May is providing a growing list of the former.
Not to put too fine a point on it, he should take an axe to parts of her legacy programme – including, as Henry Hill has argued, the hostage to fortune that is the proposed Office for Tackling Injustices.
He will also want to show a direction of travel on some major policy issues. We do not believe that refusing to commit to a reduction in immigration is sustainable. As a starting-point to establishing control, he could do a lot worse than take up the Onward proposals floated on this site yesterday by Mark Harper.
There is a limited amount that the new Government will be able to do a in single month – not least when the new Prime Minister is bound to be out of London for parts of it, Parliament isn’t sitting, there is a new Brexit policy to get into shape, and the threat of a no confidence vote in September.
What Johnson can do is form a team, shape a Cabinet – of which more later – begin the Brexit negotiation’s new phase, and show what his priorities are: police, schools and infrastructure, with a particular stress when it comes to the latter on the Midlands and the North.