Former panel show host and Brexit enthusiast Boris Johnson has won the UK Conservative party’s leadership election.
The election of Boris Johnson to the leadership post with the support of 66% of Conservative party members has triggered protest in the more moderate elements of the party due to the expectant prime minister’s history of undiplomatic remarks and dedication to taking the UK out of the EU on 31 October whether or not a deal has been agreed by that date. Sir Alan Duncan resigned from the Foreign Office yesterday as a precursor to attempting to force an emergency vote in the House of Commons to gauge whether Johnson would be capable of commanding a majority of MPs; although the motion Duncan put forward was blocked by the Speaker of the House John Bercow. Education Minister Anne Milton resigned this morning, citing ‘grave concerns about leaving the EU without a deal’; while Justice Secretary David Gauke resigned as Johnson’s victory was announced.
Boris Johnson has been the frontrunner in the race for Conservative leader since the resignation last month of UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Over the course of his campaign, though Johnson has maintained a relatively low profile, he has acted as a factor in the resignation of a senior ambassador; been visited by law enforcement officers in the wake of a domestic dispute; and declared his intention to – potentially – prorogue parliament in order to ensure a no-deal Brexit. In his final column for the Daily Telegraph, which declared its support for Johnson’s candidacy early in the campaign, Johnson averred that the successful landing on the moon of Apollo 11 in 1969 proved that the UK would be capable of solving the ever-present issue of the Northern Irish backstop. Johnson cited the ‘can-do spirit’ of the UK, which has never sent a mission to the moon, as a predominant factor in developing alternative arrangements for the Irish border.
May will officially resign as prime minister tomorrow, to be replaced by Boris Johnson. Chancellor Philip Hammond and Secretary of State for International Development Rory Stewart have each expressed their intention to resign their posts rather than serve in Johnson’s cabinet.
Johnson, who will be responsible for negotiating the terms of Brexit with EU leaders, has limited support from EU representatives. In a blog published in advance of the announcement of Johnson’s victory, the EU’s Lithuanian Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis compared the new Conservative leader and his fellow Brexiteers to Soviet actors ‘in terms of fact distortion, reality falsification and blunt oblivions of reality.’
Andriukaitis referenced ‘empty and broken promises’ made by perestroika politicians, saying: ‘People paid for these empty and broken promises with impoverishment, inequality and much more. The programme also left one infamous quote: “Boris, ti ne prav” (“Boris, you are wrong”)! It is a different Boris, of course, but there was something in the way of doing politics that was similar: many unrealistic promises, ignoring economic rationales and rational decisions…I hope and wish that he does not give anyone a reason to use the quote “Boris, you are wrong” against him.’