Boris Johnson staked his career on Brexit. He’s proved his critics wrong many times over.
When he first took over as leader of the Conservative Party this summer, the consensus was that a gridlocked Parliament made an election inevitable. Many believed that it would return another hung parliament, and that the only way to break the Brexit deadlock was to hold a second referendum. That, it now seems, won’t be necessary.
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Johnson has defied the odds ever since becoming Prime Minister. He was told he couldn’t get a new Brexit deal. He did. He was told Parliament would block his attempts to hold a general election. It didn’t. And he was told that betting the house on “Getting Brexit Done” would divide the nation further. It hasn’t.
During the campaign he has been accused of lying, hiding from the media and treating both politicians and the public with contempt. He was criticized for running an unambitious, one-note campaign with a near-empty manifesto.
Yet it seems to have worked. One of the Conservative Party’s biggest concerns was winning a slim majority, meaning he would have to navigate mind-bending internal party politics when he came to deal with the future relationship with the European Union.
But these results mean Johnson will be the most powerful Prime Minister since Tony Blair won a landslide for Labour in 1997.
That means a couple of things. First, he will be able to get his Brexit deal through Parliament without any further delay and take Britain out of the European Union – nominally at least – by the end of January 2020.
Second, he will be able to govern in his own image.
No longer will he be forced to pander to the extremes of his party – the hardcore Brexiteers of the European Research Group on the right, and the softcore Remainers towards the center.
Nor will he be in hock to the hardliners of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, who propped up the government of his predecessor Theresa May and then voted against her Brexit deal anyway.
A huge majority will mean Britons will find out what a Boris Johnson premiership really looks like.
Will it be the liberal, immigration-friendly version that Londoners saw when he was mayor of the capital? Will it be the harder-edged, euroskeptic version that ran the Leave campaign in the referendum of 2016?
Johnson has talked a lot about getting Brexit done and uniting a divided nation with his one-nation, liberal Conservative agenda. It seems that the first part of that plan is in the bag. And, against all odds, there is now little standing in his way to do the rest.