Andy Richardson: 'Welcome back from the summer holidays'

Boris Johnson always wanted to be Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

It’s probably safe to assume he didn’t see things panning out like this.

He’ll have relished getting rid of civil servants and spending £900,000 on his go-faster aeroplane and enjoyed the photo-ops with Dilwyn, Carrie and Wilf.

But the other stuff, man, nobody told him there’d be pandemics, fiascos over exams, a public finance crisis and an Autumn of Discontent.

With his lead in the polls gone – which, given that MPs have been on holiday and Labour has been snoozing through summer – is impressive, Boris’s in-tray has more files than Rymans.

There have been infamous Covid U-turns as his Government has transitioned from lax to cautious. Rishi Sunak has eclipsed him in terms of performance, steadying the ship before preparing to face down a worse recession than the crippling one of the 1980s. Now, however, it’s time to get real. Schools are back, universities will soon be, offices have re-opened and the public finances look like the balance sheets of BHS, Thomas Cook, Comet, Poundworld, Blockbuster, Debenhams and JJB combined.

BoJo is the man who fetishes Churchill, though the wartime leader’s grandson says the two men have next to nothing in common. In an interview that made grim reading for Boris, Sir Nicholas Soames told an Italian newspaper that despite his intelligence, Boris may not be the man to move the country forward. He’d appointed a dismal cabinet, the worst in Sir Nicholas’ 36 years as a politician, and the economic damage he’d instigated via Brexit would have a fundamental impact.

There’s only one thing for it: a photo op. Quick, someone get BoJo standing next to kids at a school, nurses in a hospital or workmen with diggers so that we can change the narrative.

Still, it’s not all awful. Some of the challenges we face are merely bad.

During normal winters – remember those? – the NHS habitually faces a crisis as a run of seasonal illnesses overwhelms wards.

Care homes are still receiving from Covid-19 and there is little capacity in the system. Perhaps an Indian summer that lasts until April 2021 will see us through.

A reshuffle may be necessary – what odds on a new Education Secretary or a different face in housing? – while Brexit looms, furlough is ending and the public finances are in freefall. Welcome back from the summer holidays.

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