Boris Johnson's wait for top job at an end

Boris Johnson will today finally get his hands on the keys to Number 10 – a role he has coveted since he first became an MP nearly two decades ago.

Boris Johnson with West Midlands Mayor Andy Street at the Express & Star's headquarters in Wolverhampton
Boris Johnson with West Midlands Mayor Andy Street at the Express & Star's headquarters in Wolverhampton

Loved by many in his party, and by sections of the public, the man affectionately known as ‘Boris’ has swept to power on back of promises to bring unity, electoral success and Brexit – three things which have eluded the Tories over the last year.

The announcement of his victory over Jeremy Hunt at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London was met with loud cheering and applause, as you’d expect considering he had just secured the support of two thirds of Conservative members.

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But bringing the rest of the country onside remains a huge challenge, as does landing that all-important Brexit deal that Mr Johnson has promised to deliver by October 31.

The cheers had barely died down before an indication of the difficulty of his task was already laid before him.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said Brussels looked forward to working with the new Prime Minister on ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement – the deal which Mr Johnson has already declared dead and Parliament has kicked out three times.

And outgoing PM Theresa May said she was looking forward to working with her successor, before warning him against a ‘no deal’ departure.

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US President Donald Trump kept it simple, claiming Mr Johnson would be a “great” Prime Minister.

The new PM undoubtedly faces a daunting in-tray at Number 10, not only with the tight Brexit deadline of 99 days, but also the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf, where tensions have been heightened following Iran’s seizure of the British-registered Stena Impero tanker.

The challenge is made even more difficult by a wafer-thin Tory-DUP majority of two in the Commons, with the prospect of it being reduced to just one if the Conservatives fail to win the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election on August 1.

And he has been left in no doubt about the opposition he will face from his own benches if he attempts to force through a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Sir Alan Duncan quit as a Foreign Office minister on Monday

Sir Alan Duncan quit as a Foreign Office minister on Monday and Anne Milton as Education Minister on Tuesday, rather than serve Johnson.

Cabinet ministers Philip Hammond, David Gauke and Rory Stewart were expected to stand down today.

They join Stourbridge MP Margot James, who quit as Digital Minister last week in a bid to vote for legislation aimed at blocking 'no deal'.

She said it was now "crucial" that Brexit was handled effectively, but also that the party focused on other key policy issues.

"We also have to be good at delivering the tenets of One Nation Conservatism," she said. "We have proved ourselves consistently throughout history as being good at managing the economy and restoring people's living standards.

"It would be tragic if our party's future was defined solely by what happens with Brexit."

Among Conservative MPs in the West Midlands the response to Mr Johnson's victory has largely been positive.

Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant said he was "delighted" with the result and backed Mr Johnson to show a "new, confident, 'can do' approach to delivering Brexit.

"I believe he will deliver what this country needs with style and panache," he said.

Dudley South MP Mike Wood said he was "optimistic" for the future with Mr Johnson as PM. "He's got to deliver Brexit but he's also got some really good plans for investment in our schools and our police that I am looking forward to seeing come to fruition," he said.

"The West Midlands can really benefit from the opportunities of Brexit, and I believe Mr Johnson will work hard to make sure we achieve them."

North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson, a strong supporter of Mr Johnson, said he was delighted with the "resounding" result.

"It gives him a strong mandate to do the job, and gives him the authority to deliver Brexit," he said.

Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, said he was delighted by the result of the election, having backed Mr Johnson from the start.

He said Mr Johnson was the ideal man to take the fight to MPs who were seeking to derail Britain's exit from the EU.

"Boris is a great campaigner, with the experience and drive to get Brexit across the finishing line on October 31, and to then take on Mr Corbyn in what will be a gargantuan, herculean battle of wills at the next General Election," he said.

Telford MP Lucy Allan, said: “We have had three years of Brexit stalemate and project fear which has dominated the agenda and been harmful to our politics and created uncertainty for our businesses.

“We now have an opportunity to get Brexit done and move forward. Boris Johnson has the potential to be a great Prime Minister. I wish him well and urge colleagues to back him to help him get the job done for the good of our country."

Boris Johnson MP, during a visit at Wombourne Civic Centre, with South Staffordshire MP and former Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson who could be heading for another cabinet role

South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson, who will be hoping for a return to the Cabinet after successfully managing Mr Johnson's campaign in Parliament, also passed on his best wishes, tweeting: "Huge congratulations to Boris Johnson on being elected the new leader of the Conservatives and our new Prime Minister.

Some supporters of Mr Hunt have also now rallied behind Mr Johnson. They include his campaign manager, Ludlow MP Philip Dunne, who said he hoped the Conservative Party would "unite behind" the new PM

Halesowen and Rowley Regis MP James Morris backed him to "deliver Brexit on October 31" and focus on the party's new domestic agenda.

Mr Johnson's election has been backed by the Brexit Party, with West Midlands MP Martin Daubney saying he will be welcomed – providing he delivers Brexit by October 31.

"The big question is: can Boris be trusted to deliver Brexit by Halloween? If he doesn’t, the Brexit Party will haunt him.

"Likewise, if, as some suggest, a general election is called before October 31, the Brexit Party will be ready to fight for every vote.

"he has called Brexit “do or die” for the Tories. Cameron was culled by Brexit and May was mullered.

"Will Boris be the third Tory Prime Minister that Nigel Farage takes down? Boris now has 99 days to get us out of the European Union.”

Tory councillors in the Black Country also welcomed the new PM, with Wolverhampton Council's opposition leader Wendy Thompson claiming Mr Johnson would bring "a positive" view of Britain.

She added that Mr Johnson's experience of living in the Black Country in the 1980s, when he worked for the Express & Star, would mean he would be likely to support the West Midlands.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged Mr Johnson to call a general election, saying the new PM had "not won the support of our country".

Deputy leader and West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson said Mr Johnson's election "should be the rallying cry for people who believe in our great country to speak out louder than ever against those who would sacrifice our economy, partnerships, and global reputation to foster personal ambition and preservation of their political class".

Meanwhile academics have warned that the new PM's Brexit stance could end up triggering a general election or another EU referendum.

Professor Alex de Ruyter, Director of Birmingham City University’s Centre for Brexit Studies, said that with EU leaders "unlikely to budge" over the Irish backstop issue, Mr Johnson may be unable to get the changes to the withdrawal agreement necessary to satisfy Brexiteers.

“So we most likely will be left with Boris huffing and puffing about upholding the 'will of the people' and 'getting on with Brexit' come what may.

"Parliament will not support him in this regard and if he tries to proceed with leaving with no deal then he will most likely face a motion of no-confidence in September and lose; possibly precipitating an election and a change of government.

“Would he really risk this given that the last YouGov poll only had the Conservatives on 24 per cent, just ahead of the Brexit Party at 23 per cent?

“Many Tory MPs clearly think that he can revive their poll fortunes. However, I don't think that is the case and faced with a hostile Parliament it is more likely that he would be forced down the route of another referendum and asking the EU for another extension for this purpose.”

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