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How Boris can survive

Can he survive? Credit: Getty

July 6, 2022 - 9:30am

Don’t get me wrong. I want Boris to go. But if I were advising the greased piglet on how to mount another unlikely escape, this is what I’d recommend.

Boris may like to be the joker, but for a period of time he needs to at least give the impression of seriousness. The relentless media focus on his own fecklessness will not stop unless he gives his government purpose again. 

If there are more high profile resignations today, then there’s nothing he can do to regain control of the agenda. But if the remaining Cabinet stays solid, then he’s got a breathing space. But he has to make the most of it. 

The new Chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, is key to the operation. The first thing on his agenda is to confront the public sector and transportation unions head-on. With advanced economies heading into an inflationary recession, giving pay rises only to those workers in a position to extract them will leave less money to help the rest of the country.

If the government gives in to the public sector strikers, then workers in struggling private sector firms will pay the price. Collectively, the country needs to make a decision — either to devote its resources to recession-fighting measures that will benefit everyone or to bow before the unions. 

For this approach to work Zahawi will need to be ready with those recession-fighting measures. He should forget tax cuts and concentrate on investment programmes — like a crash programme of domestic energy efficiency improvements in time for the winter. To pick a name at random, he could call it “Insulate Britain”. 

Of course, this approach will be undermined every time an executive board awards itself a generous pay rise. So the Chancellor should also be ready to squeeze the rich — and especially the idle rich. For instance, he could dust off the Land Value Tax proposals that Rishi Sunak once considered but then tossed aside. He could also target every public sector panjandrum who’s paid more than the Prime Minister.

Skilfully fashioned, each of these ‘tough-but-fair’ controversies would be a hook for the opposition to wriggle on. 

Looking further ahead, the Prime Minister needs to remember what got him elected in the first place: getting Brexit done. Directed by Dominic Cummings, he went about his mission with ruthless determination. Even if he’s only got until the next election, the rest of his time in office should be about getting other big things done. 

Firstly, he should get government out of Downing Street and establish a modern nerve centre elsewhere in Whitehall. Put a business leader in charge of the big move — and complete it by the end of the summer. 

Secondly, he should build the new homes that this country desperately needs. The way to avoid another backbench rebellion, is to build entire new towns — or even new cities — in a few places, instead of lots of smaller developments everywhere.

Thirdly, launch a war on woke. Promote Kemi Badenoch to the Cabinet to lead it. The progress we’ve seen so far on this front is welcome, but it’s not comprehensive. Extreme Left-wing activism needs to be defunded and driven out of the public sector — and the right of the workers not to be bullied and indoctrinated must be protected everywhere else. 

I doubt that Boris Johnson has got what it takes to pursue this path of confrontation with the necessary discipline. Nevertheless, it’s his only hope.  

Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.


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polidori redux
polidori redux
2 years ago

 “— like a crash programme of domestic energy efficiency improvements in time for the winter. To pick a name at random, he could call it “Insulate Britain”.”
Really? Just cancel Net Zero and stop subsidising green energy production with a tax on electricity bills.
“Secondly, he should build the new homes that this country desperately needs. The way to avoid another backbench rebellion, is to build entire new towns —”
Pointless exercise, unless you stop importing people at the same time.

Sorry old bean, I might have fallen for this guff when I was young and innocent, but that was a long time ago.

James Kirk
James Kirk
2 years ago

Nonsense. Delay Net Zero long enough for it to be forgotten and left in the long grass.
Remove the green element from energy. bills.
Cut VAT if not completely then to 5% on everything except luxury items over £x. EV cars for example.
Drop the NIC rate to encourage business to recruit and pay employees.
Anchor unused ferries in the Channel as processing centres.
Cancel HS2 and any penalty clauses.
Raise the income tax allowance to £17,500.
Identify brownfield sites near cities with nearby infrastructure for building homes. You can buy a house for £50k in England with no jobs near.
Cut overseas aid.
That’s July sorted. Next?

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago
Reply to  James Kirk

Make this man Chancellor

Paul Walsh
Paul Walsh
2 years ago

Not quite sure Peter has thought through the logistics of insulating Britain in 3 or 4 months.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

Three good suggestions for Boris. Unfortunately, Boris apparently has attention deficit disorder, so you’ll need to reduce them to one. Then he’ll need someone else to implement it because Boris’ natural environment is chaos. The sooner he’s gone the better for the country.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago

Expecting discipline & structure from Boris Johnson is like expecting a stone to start bleeding.