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The Queen and the "King of the World"

Mal Fletcher
Posted 24 July 2019
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 "You may not be Moses, young man, but go tell Pharoah to let my people go." 

I wonder if that is the unreported caption for the photograph of Boris Johnson bowing to her Majesty the Queen, as she appointed him her fourteenth Prime Minister today.

As a boy, Boris Johnson told his sister that he would like, one day, to be "king of the world".  

He hasn't quite achieved that lofty position, but being the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is no small consolation prize.

I voted Remain in 2016, but with huge reservations about what I thought the rather large elephant in the room: Brussel's cultural commitment to "ever closer [political] union." 

Those reservations have, I think, been proven well-founded in the days since the vote, as leaders such as France's President Macron are pushing for a European army and more. 

It seems now that Mssr. Macron will have support in his federalist ambitions from the incoming President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. 

When the majority of British referendum voters opted for Leave, they gave their Parliament an instruction, not an opinion. 

They did not do this because, as some have implied, the majority of them were callow and ill-informed about the issues at stake. They do not now need former high office holders to badger and lecture them about the error of their ways.

Their choice must be respected or our democracy is a farce. If we can't get this right, we will surrender all right to lecture the world on liberal democratic principles, or to brag about Westminster being the mother of all parliaments.

Under Prime Minister Johnson, the government and MPs in general must go on and deliver the best and most realistically possible Brexit for the U.K. 

Compromise will be necessary, but so will courage and confidence, which have arguably been in short supply the Brexit negotiations to this point. 

In his first speech as Prime Minister, Mr Johnson sounded passionate and relatively statesmanlike. He declared that those people who have bet against the UK will be proven wrong.

He offered a positive outlook on a potential new relationship with the EU. He also admitted that Brussels might not want to respond in kind, thus setting off a no-deal scenario. 

Whether the new Prime Minister has the political talent to weave together a cabinet capable of delivering Brexit, remains to be seen. Especially given the Conservatives' wafer-thin majority and a largely pro-Remain Parliament.

In his speech of thanks to Conservative members yesterday, Mr. Johnson spoke like the newspaper columnist he is. There were plenty of attention-grabbing headlines, much passionate arm-waving and a little bluster.

If that speech was anything to go by, his intention is to energise the country "in a spirit of can-do". But, say some of his many doubters, does he have the intellectual rigour and seriousness of purpose to add substance to his bluster? 

It's true: optimism on its own will not be enough. Boris Johnson will be well aware of this fact. He may sometimes cross into the clownish to promote his grand schemes, but he is nobody's fool. Behind his often obscure references to classical literature lies a keen mind.

Nevertheless, many of his opponents have delighted in reminding him - and us - that optimism is not a strategy. That is true, but then neither is despair.

Optimism, at least, has a better chance of sparking or inspiring a strategy. Given a choice between an optimistic - but not naive - attempt to re-engage the EU and a defeatist, fatalistic throwing of our hands in the air,  we need to opt for the former.

The Queen would never, of course, express her personal opinion on Brexit in public - and possibly not even to her first minister.

However, I can't help feeling that, at the very least, she might approve of Mr. Johnson's confident tone regarding Britain's future prospects.

First published at

What’s your view?

Will Boris Johnson make a good British Prime Minister ?



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