Image Credit: Number 10
There comes a time for every young political student when they must eat their words. For myself, that time came when I watched Boris Johnson deliver his victory speech after winning the Conservative Party leadership. I had excepted to walk away from the television feeling exasperated. Instead, my expectations were wrong.
Since waking up to the news that we had voted to leave the European Union over three years ago, I have held an undeniable resentment for Boris Johnson. As I voted to remain, I associated him with the concern I felt in committing to a decision I believed was wrong. Little did I know that it would be a very different Boris Johnson to step up onto the podium to deliver this speech.
For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the power of great oratory. The idea that in hostile times the right combination of words delivered impeccably can shine a light on even the most dire of situations. However, it was an phenomenon I was yet to experience first hand. That is, until Boris took the podium on July 23rd. As I listened, I was reminded of why I held many of my conservative beliefs. As Johnson reached the conclusion of his speech stating that the “campaign is over, and the work begins” I found myself unexpectedly moved. Not because the contents of the address were particularly emotive, but because I finally felt connected to a political party that had been isolating my generation. For years, I had received vast amounts of questions asking why a student would vote conservative? It was as if the two parts of my identity were unable to coexist alongside each other.
The speech was undoubtedly strong. Yet, it was also smart. The Conservatives need a leader who can unite their disconnected party. During his speech Johnson emphasised the one goal that may just achieve this; a pledge to defeat Jeremy Corbyn. While the Conservatives may be clashing over many ideas, one that can unite them is the need to keep Corbyn out of Number 10.
Boris Johnson has been a household name in British politics for many years. If we journey back 5 or 6 years ago he was the bumbling, yet intelligent, London Mayor known for his mass of uncontrollable white blond hair and Boris bikes. This is not to say he didn’t achieve progress for the city as Mayor, but often his successes were masked by his public school old boy image. With hindsight, these were simpler times. Headlines were not overshadowed by Brexit or the turbulent domestic politics in the United States.
Fast forward to contemporary politics and we have a very different picture.
Yet for some it is his past that raises concerns. This being the phenomenon of the two Boris Johnson’s; the bumbling old Etonian who presents as a somewhat comedic figure versus the pragmatic and confident leader. The problem being that on any given day there is no guarantee of which persona will be dominant. No guarantee until now, as it seems at last the latter may have emerged victorious.
During the leadership campaign, in an exclusive interview for the BBC, Laura Kussenberg challenged Boris Johnson on his cavalier approach to politics. She gave him the chance to ease voters concern on his offhand character asking him “if you move into Number 10, will you change?”. However, the evolution of Johnson was already well underway. A transformation that paved his way into becoming Prime Minister.
Ruth Davidson is among those who has voiced her reservations over Johnson moving into Number 10. Not only from concerns over Brexit and the threat of a no deal exit, but also ones over the state of the union. Johnson’s popularity in Scotland is by no means overwhelming. This means that the strength United Kingdom’s union will join his list of priorities, alongside an escalating situation with Iran and many domestic woes.
One thing has appeared consistent however. Wherever reporters venture across the country everyone has an opinion on Boris Johnson. Apathy was one of the nails in the Coffin of Theresa May. When she took office many were unsure as to why she had emerged victorious as she was not a household name. Boris Johnson faces no such problem.
Ultimately, Boris Johnson’s first real test waits for him on October 31st. Time will tell if the firm figure we saw deliver his victory speech is here to stay. While the speech was strong, as the colloquial phrase suggests in this case actions must speak louder than words. For the mean time, he certainly has already got one thing correct; the hard work begins now.