Boris Johnson's 'revolutionary new deal' is a hollow distraction
Governments between elections are like ships on open water. They cannot be relaunched. The captain can only promise that storms will pass, while the passengers’ patience depends on how long they have been at sea. That is tricky to measure on board HMS Boris Johnson. The Tory leader has not yet completed a year in Downing Street but his party has done a decade in power.
Johnson does not see himself on a continuous line of succession after Theresa May and David Cameron, and last year’s election result supported that view. The blurring of party lines and straining of public patience during the Brexit endgame last autumn opened a unique electoral window for an incumbent to campaign as an insurgent. Then the pandemic swept in, making 2019 feel like a distant epoch.
Johnson wants to reinforce mental barriers between the present and the recent past. On Tuesday he tried to reset political clocks with a faux inaugural address, pledging “not just to defeat coronavirus but to use this crisis finally to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades”.
There will be a “new deal” of investment programmes. Planning law will be relaxed to stimulate reconstruction of a shattered country. It had been briefed that the prime minister was casting himself as the heir to Franklin Roosevelt but explicit mention of the former US president was excised overnight.
The rhetorical pivot away from austerity began last year and the sums involved are not, in any case, tide-turning. The improbable reach ...
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