The Future is Blond
Boris Johnson, the man they wrote off as a clown, has turned into a human dynamo. Unimpressed by the political class he brutally reshuffled Theresa May's cabinet. Watching Boris at work we can’t help thinking of Shakespeare: Prince Hal has transformed himself into Henry V.
Is Britain finally experiencing its Trumpian revolution under Prime Minister Boris Johnson?
The fact that I phrase this as a question rather than a statement speaks volumes about how trepidatious we Brexiteers are, how reluctant to tempt fate, when speaking about the man who could turn out either to be our mightiest disappointment - or Britain's greatest post war leader since Margaret Thatcher.
Partly, this wariness comes from bitter experience: imagine how it feels to have won the biggest democratic vote in British history - the 2016 EU Referendum - only to spend the next three years watching your hopes dashed by a remote, intransigent, devious political class.
And partly it's because Boris himself is so opaque, so unknowable, so unpredictable.
But let me tell you what I think and hope is happening right now. Britain, I believe, is on the verge of the most extraordinary and miraculous renaissance under the most robustly conservative government in decades. Brexit - likely in the hardest 'No Deal' form - will be just the beginning of a populist revolution which will see the dismantling of the Deep State and the re-emergence of Britain as a freebooting, free market, internationally-minded economic powerhouse.
Never mind Boris - he's just the facilitator, the delegator, the jaunty spirit-raiser in the manner of Ronald Reagan. To understand what's really going in this administration you have to look at his choice of lieutenants: a soundly right wing Cabinet which includes Thatcherite Priti Patel in the key position of Home Secretary and Jacob Rees-Mogg as Leader of the House; and, more importantly still, an advisory team led by the eminence grise behind the Brexit referendum victory - the brilliant, relentless and uncompromising Dominic Cummings.
Cummings - played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the docudrama Brexit: The Uncivil War - positively seethes with contempt for the sclerotic, complacent, anti-democratic, globalist, Davos-style political class which has held Europe in its thrall in the decades since the war. It's what galvanised him to lead the successful insurgency campaign against the entrenched EU-phile Establishment in the Brexit referendum campaign of 2016; and it's what's motivating him in his new role as the Johnson administration's chief strategist.
Like Trump, Cummings is on a mission to 'drain the swamp': all those tenured creatures of the Deep State - the Whitehall mandarins, the politically correct Quangocrats, the surrender monkey diplomats - who, though supposed to be impartial, have done so much not only to frustrate Brexit but to advance the expansion of big government generally. This problem dates back to Tony Blair, who politicized the civil service in an irredeemably leftwards direction. It's one of the main reasons why, since Margaret Thatcher, no Conservative government has managed to enact a single recognizably conservative policy.
Delivering Brexit, in other words, is just the beginning of this administration's radical ambitions for Britain. But for the plan to get off the ground, Boris must first keep his promise that the United Kingdom will leave the EU no later than October 31. Otherwise, it will be curtains for the Conservative party and will likely lead to government by Jeremy Corbyn's anti-Semitic, terrorist-supporting Marxists.
This is why, for the next three months, the Boris administration's key priority is to deliver Brexit. Cummings has put all ministerial teams on a war footing, with aides - according to the Mail on Sunday - expected to be ready for their first briefing calls at 6.10 am (after the first headlines on BBC Radio 4's Today program), a core meeting at 8 am (which Boris joins at 8.30am), plus a compulsory staff meeting at 7pm. Cabinet ministers have been warned that none of them is indispensible and that if they're caught leaking anything to the media, they're out.
None of this accords remotely with the Prime Minister's wonted laid-back indolence. As a journalist, he was infamous for meeting deadlines long after the last moment had passed; as an MP, his record has been similarly erratic, rarely testing his considerable oratorical skills in the Commons chamber, hardly ever on top of his brief.
This extravagant flakiness may well be the reason for the decision by Michael Gove to knife him as his running mate to replace David Cameron as Prime Minister in the chaotic aftermath of the 2016 referendum. When Boris should have been making plans for government, Gove was appalled to discover, he was instead playing in a cricket match hosted by his Eton school chum (and brother of the late Princess Diana) Earl Spencer.
Needs must, though, when the devil drives. Like many Oxford graduates, Boris appears to work best under "essay crisis" pressure - completing everything at the last minute in a flurry of caffeinated hyperactivity. Those three 'wasted' years under Theresa May, you could argue, were actually Boris's making. They created the perfect storm of crisis and urgency Boris needed to whet his Churchillian appetite for saving the nation at her darkest hour.
Certainly, it appears to have given him a new seriousness of intent. The bluff, jocular manner is still there - like Trump, Boris is determined to govern in his own style rather than those dictated by the purse-lipped, risk-averse political class - but underneath is a core of ruthlessness and determination. Much to the surprise of those who see Boris as a man who likes being liked, his reshuffle of Theresa May's Cabinet was brutal. Equally indicative of his resolve is his swift rehabilitation of his old enemy and rival Gove.
Gove has been given the job of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a senior cabinet post roughly akin to Deputy Prime Minister, and will oversee the delivery of Brexit. The good news is that, as the most able minister in government, Gove is certainly capable of making things happen. The bad news is that Gove's idea of meaningful Brexit - possibly an amended version of Theresa May's unpopular Withdrawal Agreement, minus the 'backstop' which effectively kept Northern Ireland as a member of the EU - may not accord either with that of Nigel Farage's The Brexit Party nor with that of the hardcore Brexiteers in the Conservatives' European Research Group.
This is where things get complicated and anyone who tells you what is going to happen next is a fool or a liar. What's clear is that there is huge impasse between where the country stands on Brexit (largely pro, and the harder the better) and where parliament stands on Brexit (mostly anti, with No Deal especially viewed as the abomination of desolation). Only a general election can resolve this but - Catch 22 - how can Boris win an election if he hasn't kept his promise to deliver Brexit?
According to Cummings the die is already cast: Labour have missed their chance to deliver in time the No Confidence motion which would force an election before October 31. Britain is legally bound to leave the EU then, so the only question is "how abruptly?" Dr Ruth Lea, formerly a civil servant, now a respected political economist at Arbuthnot banking group, puts the chances of a 'No Deal' Brexit as high as 75 percent.
Boris himself has described the likelihood of No Deal as "vanishingly small." (But then, he once said of the likelihood of his becoming prime minister "I've got more chance of being reincarnated as an olive."). In truth the decision is no longer his to make. It depends on the EU's willingness to come back to the negotiating table, which so far it has refused to do. This may change, though, once the EU realises how committedly - under Cummings and Gove - Britain has been preparing for No Deal. Yes, there will be inconveniences, but it will be more than manageable - plus it will allow Britain to keep the £39 billion May had foolishly promised at the beginning of her 'negotiations' to give to the EU as a gesture of goodwill.
Britain, then, is in a strong position under Boris Johnson. There is lots that could go wrong, such as a fudged, compromise withdrawal which still leaves the UK under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice; and there are plenty of ideological weak spots, such as Boris's economically illiterate, anti-empirical, fatuously virtue-signalling commitment to Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. Nonetheless, these are exciting times to be a Conservative in Britain. Indeed, the future hasn't looked this bright since Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979.
Boris, the man they wrote off as a clown, has turned into a human dynamo; Prince Hal has transformed himself into Henry V. The future's bright; the future's blond.