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Boris Johnson’s likely reign as PM is on a knife edge before he even starts | Politics News



The ballots are in and the votes are being counted. Bar a last-minute shock, Boris Johnson will be announced the new Conservative leader and presumptive prime minister just before midday.

His allies hope his victory will be emphatic, with their man securing 65% of the vote or perhaps even more.

It will certainly give him a mandate to step up no-deal Brexit preparations, but they’ll be no honeymoon period for this PM. These are not normal times.

Mr Johnson’s ascent to power has already been punctuated by resignations from his government before he’s even been given the keys to No 10, and there will be more today.

This is an incoming prime minister on the brink of losing a parliamentary majority, and his MPs are on alert for a general election.

As one senior ally told me this week: “This is either going to be the shortest premierships ever or Boris [Johnson] will get though 31 October and we’ll have a spring general election.”

But his inner team aren’t really planning that far ahead – for now. For Mr Johnson, it’s all about surviving the first 100 days.

He inherits from Theresa May a bitterly divided party and a razor-thin majority – that could drop further should the Tories lose the Brecon & Radnorshire by-election on 1 August to the Liberal Democrats.

And the anti no-dealers on the Conservative benches are organising and mobilising.

Boris Johnson is almost certain to become the UK's next prime minister
Boris Johnson is almost certain to become the UK’s next prime minister

They fired their opening salvo on Thursday as 47 Conservative MPs defied a three-line whip to effectively prevent the suspension of parliament this autumn for forcing through a no-deal Brexit.

Culture minister Margot James quit last week, another recruit to the “Gaukeward” squad of former Remainers determined to block no deal.

David Gauke is the ringleader along with the chancellor, Philip Hammond. Rory Stewart, Greg Clark and David Lidington will no doubt join soon.

And if you are in any doubt of the ill-feeling and division on the benches, you only have to look at the actions of Sir Alan Duncan on Monday.

He resigned as a Foreign Office minister in a bid to hold a confidence vote in the presumptive prime minister before he was officially appointed by the Queen.

Sir Alan Duncan quits ahead of possible Boris Johnson premiership

‘We’re on the edge’: Sir Alan Duncan resigns

Sir Alan – whose request was rejected by the speaker – told Sky News that he wanted the debate and vote to test whether Mr Johnson could command a majority in the Commons.

“It was a confidence vote in him, I would have voted for him but I think there is doubt,” he said. “So it was important to get [his government] launched in confidence.”

Instead, he says, Mr Johnson will be living on a “knife edge”. Sir Alan added: “They’ll inherit the same problems and the same arithmetic, or perhaps slightly worse arithmetic with an even more polarised party.

“The difficulties have increased not decreased as a result of having a leadership contest.”

But Mr Johnson’s allies say he can at least restore collective cabinet responsibility, while he comes to No 10 with a mandate from the party membership to deliver Brexit by 31 October and step up preparations for no deal.

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Away from the campaign circuit, his Brexit promises look far more problematic to deliver.

He wants a deal but insists the backstop and Theresa May’s deal are “dead”.

He says he’s prepared to come out with no deal, but in reality such a decision could perhaps collapse his government, split the Tory Party and force him out of power anyway.

It’s as difficult a backdrop to beginning a premiership as you could imagine.

The promises that have paved his way to No 10 could also see him moving out within months if he gets it wrong. His first 100 days really are critical.

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