Thursday, July 14, 2016

STATEMENT: Theresa May's making Boris Johnson Foreign Secretary is so deliciously Tory (UPDATED)

Statement by Thom Brooks, Professor of Law and Government at Durham University (contact email):

Theresa May's appointment of Boris Johnson as the UK's new Foreign Secretary has caught many political observers by surprise.

After stepping down from the Tory leadership contest, some thought Boris's future rise in the party was over.

But many other critics accused Boris of cowardice. Not throwing his hat in the ring to lead Britain into Brexit was seen - rightly in my view - as an attempt to dodge any responsibility for the significant and hugely complex negotiations that any Brexit will entail.

May's appointing Boris means that he can't dodge figuring out a plan for a British Brexit after all. And should he fail to do this convincingly -- and I strongly suspect he will drop the ball -- all blame can be placed at the feet of one Boris Johnson alone. Theresa May can escape unscathed.

If this sounds like ingenious plotting House of Cards-style, it's because it is all so deliciously Tory.

Michael Gove is rightly disliked for being so obviously ruthless in his own self-interest.

But Theresa May has done one better -- she can even appear statesmanlike and benefit from setting Boris up to fail doing what Boris said he wanted to do.

UPDATE 1: Boris Johnson has entertained with sometimes bemusing - other times outlandish - remarks in colourful interviews and his columns.

His new appointment means this history may come to haunt him, especially when trying to negotiate with the very world leaders and countries he has insulted.

Like me, Boris is also a dual citizen of the United Kingdom -- and the United States. For anyone else, this might be seen as a welcome status to have in building a closer 'special relationship' for a Britain entering Brexit. Only Boris could have neutralised this clear gain by his reckless insults of President Barack Obama. Boris might start many of his first talks by saying 'sorry'.

But I think this past will also make his doing this important role more difficult. Theresa May is taking a gamble. Boris could do real damage, but the likelihood is the Chief Brexiteer will find himself unable to make much of a Brexit deal (that may well scupper triggering Article 50 after all). He alone will get the blame -- and May's main potential future challenger will be out of the running for many years to come. A shrewd move.

UPDATE 2: Boris Johnson has said he intends to end his American citizenship - but there is no evidence that he has done so, as reported by the Washington Post.

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