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Although the Fixed Term Parliament Act of 2011 has become redundant in recent years, following a slew of snap elections, the next scheduled election will be in 2024. For Boris Johnson, the worry is that he will have been ousted from office by his fellow Conservative MPs before that time due to being unelectable.
Since his election in 2019, Boris Johnson’s public image has been damaged due to perceived failings in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. There has been speculation over the impact having coronavirus has had on Boris Johnson’s personal views and priorities going forward. His sudden interest in combatting obesity on Britain is thought to be a direct consequence of his time in hospital- who knows which other causes Johnson will now be more sympathetic towards? As a boy Johnson wanted to be world king and has climbed to power by cultivating an affable and optimistic image which has succeeded in getting him into Number 10. Johnson’s popularity rose while he was in hospital but that was only a temporary bounce which has since evaporated. Whether his time in hospital has changed his psyche or not is unclear, what is clear is that Johnson’s popularity has significantly dropped since his election. The crucial question is what will Johnson face in 2021 that may change this?
The most obvious issue which will effect Johnson’s popularity in January is the way in which Britain exits the European Union (EU) and the success of that withdrawal. A no deal Brexit may cause disruption in daily life for the whole country, which would pose a mortal threat to Johnson’s political career. However, if Johnson manages to pull a deal out of the bag at the last moment or handles a no deal Brexit in the right way his popularity could receive a major boost. The country has already suffered a major economic slump due to the pandemic and a good deal with the EU is vital to steadying the economy. Johnson himself has said that a no deal Brexit would be a ‘failure of statecraft’ in an interview in 2019. The outcome of these negotiations will have a large impact on Johnson’s own prospects.
Another issue which will undoubtedly influence how long Johnson remains in office, is how successfully the Coronavirus vaccine is rolled out. If the UK can get the virus under control in 2021 and manage to return to normality, then Johnson’s popularity will soar. If the difficulties with getting it under control continue there is the possibility that Johnson’s personal popularity will decrease to the point that his fellow ministers will think he is unelectable. While this sounds unlikely considering the size of Johnson’s majority in the last election, Margaret Thatcher was forced to resign in 1980 during a term in which she had gained the party a large majority too.
The two key issues for a long-lasting Johnson premiership are the ongoing handling of the pandemic and negotiating a deal for exiting the EU. Either of these issues going badly wrong may be enough to worry the Conservative party enough to oust him. Johnson’s fate is still in his own hands though. The question remains can he make a success of both issues and if not when will the Conservative party lose faith in him?