There is no denying that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had a torrid end to 2021. He was dogged by sleaze scandals and endless rule breaking over No10 parties, topped by record low ratings in the polls. But for a man described as ‘political teflon’, how long can this last and what stands in his way?
With a new team in place, the one thing Johnson needs to grip is policymaking. With the Government in a strange form of stasis, it’s not lost on us that of the 30 Bills announced in last year’s Queen’s Speech, 24 are still progressing through Parliament. We can expect Johnson to carry over some into the next Parliamentary session, but he will need to make progress on his legislative agenda before this session ends. Votes on legislation will ramp up, particularly in the three months from February before the session is due to end in May. Several Bills still making their way through are chunky and not without controversy, including the Health and Care Bill and the Nationality and Borders Bill. With his backbenchers and the public keen to see the country move forward, Johnson will need to start delivering now.
But what else is on the priority list for 2022?
COVID-19: Tackling the pandemic whilst addressing shortages in the NHS and other public services are causing concern and Johnson may be forced to act if he wants to avoid headlines about rubbish left on streets, schools in disarray or more NHS trusts declaring critical incidents. If he introduces any new restrictions, they will require a Parliamentary vote. However, the Prime Minister’s authority will be tested by his own backbenchers as nearly 100 voted against the implementation of Plan B measures, led by the unpredictable Mark Harper and Steve Baker aka the COVID Recovery Group.
Cost of living: This year, domestic issues are on a collision course with international issues as the cost of living rises. Soaring energy bills, rising inflation and empty shelves dominate headlines as businesses deal with increased customs checks post-Brexit. Whether exacerbated by COVID or by inclement weather while no one can agree on a single cause, they can agree on who should find the solution and that is the Government. This is the issue of 2022 and could be the driving factor behind poor local election results for the Conservative Party and the breaking point for many MPs looking to get rid of Johnson.
Leadership challenge: If the above were not enough to deal with, the biggest challenge for
Johnson’s future comes from his own party. If electoral success doesn’t translate at the local elections (May 5), Conservative supporters as well as Conservative MPs will be gunning for Johnson’s head, and we may see this as the trigger point for letters being submitted to the 1922 Committee. But there are risks before then, implementing Michael Gove’s Levelling Up White Paper, could set him down the path of leadership. Same for Liz Truss if she manages to succeed in Brexit negotiations and Rishi Sunak in getting the nations’ finances on track. Conversely, Johnson’s success relies on his Cabinet delivering for him, but that success could be his own undoing. He may seek to front what he can but with dwindling staff, there is a big question on just how many plates he can juggle before it all falls apart.
If you are interested in hearing more from Cicero/amo on what the year has in store for UK politics and legislation, please contact us.
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