Be careful what you wish for, university experts warn contenders to replace Boris Johnson

A Midlands-based politics professor believes anyone aiming to take over from Boris Johnson should be careful what they wish for.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Birmingham City University political commentator Professor Alex de Ruyter said divisions within the Conservatives mean any future leader would simply inherit Mr Johnson's problems.

He believes the leadership may be a "poisoned chalice" as the Tories suffer from similar divisions that Labour has endured in recent years.

Keir Starmer has attempted to distance himself from the left wing of Labour Party and the Momentum movement that remains critical of is centrist stance.

The Conservatives continue to have an influential group of MPs to the right of the political spectrum who rein against some of Mr Johnson's policies and have consistently called an opening of up the economy despite Covid fears.

Professor de Ruyter said there is now a ‘distinct decline in confidence’ in Boris Johnson among the Conservative Party – but that the likes of potential replacements Jeremy Hunt and Rishi Sunak should think before they step forward. He said the party had a massive task ahead to fulfil promises of levelling up the economy to benefit areas of the West Midlands and the north.

“Tensions between members of Johnson’s unstable Tory coalition now appear to be breaking in to the open," he said.

"Regardless of their public statements ‘Red Wall’ MPs will be disappointed at the lack of genuine ‘levelling up’ to date.

“They would be deluded to expect any from the Johnson Government as that would require redistribution of wealth on a scale that the bulk of the Conservative Party, wedded to Thatcherite nostrums, simply would not allow.

“It increasingly appears that only a sustained spell in opposition will seriously address the systemic issues in the Conservative Party and purge it of the hardliners who have captured the Parliamentary party. People like Jeremy Hunt would do well to avoid entering a leadership challenge for which, if he was successful, would only see him become ‘captain of the Titanic’ – taking on something of a ‘poisoned chalice’.”

The university's Associate Professor, Steven McCabe said, “How much longer will Johnson be forced to endure the weekly drubbing at PMQs? It is surely just a matter of weeks.

“Indeed, given the defection to Labour by MP for Bury, Christian Wakeford, immediately prior to PMQs will have made the encounter even more difficult than would have been envisaged with all the talk about MPs, party members and, most damagingly of all, opinion polls showing a distinct decline in confidence in Boris Johnson.

“Worse, to be told during PMQs by one-time aspirant Tory leader, David Davis, that he should go 'In the name of God', which was what Leo Amery said to Neville Chamberlain before he resigned in May 1940, to be replaced by Johnson’s hero Winston Churchill will surely have been wounding for the Prime Minister.

“Whilst Johnson fights for his political survival, we should not forget that the pandemic is far from over and still poses a threat. In addition, the cost-of-living crisis grows ever greater by the day and though due to events outside of the control of government, the current paralysis doesn’t help those families facing the impact of rapidly rising inflation.”

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