ANALYSIS: If he isn't careful, Boris Johnson will soon be asking 'Dude, Where's My Country?'

Posted On: 
23rd July 2019

It was a typically Boris Johnson acceptance speech.

The Union is under threat like never before.
Credit: 
PA Images

Heavy on rhetoric and light on detail, the UK's new Prime Minister sent the Tory faithful on their way with a spring in their step and hope in their hearts.

"I know some wag has already pointed out that 'deliver, unite and defeat' was not the perfect acronym for an election campaign since unfortunately it spells DUD. But they forgot the final E my friends, E for energise.

Boris Johnson to have his Cabinet top team in place 'by tomorrow night'

READ IN FULL: Boris Johnson's first speech as Tory leader

Boris Johnson wins race to become new Tory leader and set to be sworn in as PM

"I say to all the doubters, dude, we are going to energise the country. We are going to get Brexit done on 31 October, we are going to take advantage of all the opportunities it is going to bring in in a new spirit of can-do, and we are once again going to believe in ourselves and what we can achieve.

"And like some slumbering giant, we are going to rise and ping off the guy ropes of self-doubt and negativity. With better education, better infrastructure, more police, fantastic full-fibre broadband sprouting in every household, we are going to unite this amazing country and we are going to take it forward."

But it did not go unnoticed that there was no specific mention of the Union - which Theresa May never tired of calling "precious" - in his peroration.

It was her concerns over the integrity of the United Kingdom - specifically the prospects of a reunified Ireland and an independent Scotland - which ultimately persuaded Johnson's predecessor that going for a no-deal Brexit was simply not an option.

Johnson, it barely needs saying, is rather different from Theresa May. Although he insists, rather implausibly, that no-deal is a "million to one shot", it is a gamble he is nevertheless willing to take in order to get the UK out of the EU by 31 October.

It only took Nicola Sturgeon an hour to make clear to the Prime Minister-elect that she sees his elevation as more grist to the independence mill.

Scotland's first minister tweeted: "Congratulations to Boris Johnson on his election as leader of the Conservative Party. Despite our many differences, I will do all I can to develop a way of working with him that respects and protects Scotland’s views and interests.

"However, it would be hypocritical not to be frank about the profound concerns I have at the prospect of his premiership. I am certain that the vast majority of people of Scotland would not have chosen to hand the keys of No 10 to someone with his views and track record.

"Most immediately I, and will work with others to do everything we can to block his plan for a no deal Brexit - which would do catastrophic harm to Scotland.

"And I will continue to advance the preparations to give Scotland the right to choose our own future through independence, rather than having a future that we don’t want imposed on us by Boris Johnson and the Tories. That is now more important than ever."

But if Sturgeon is secretly rubbing her hands with glee at the Tories' choice of leader, for the Scottish Conservatives the result is little short of a disaster.

The prospect of going into a general election, as we could be within weeks, with Johnson in Downing Street going full steam ahead for no-deal, could lead to a 1997-style wipeout for the party north of the Border.

Ruth Davidson's rather lukewarm welcome for Johnson, in which she warned him of the "enormous task" he now faces, showed that she believes preventing independence should be further up his agenda than delivering Brexit.

She said: "My priority as Scottish Conservative leader is to ensure that he will deliver for Scotland within the UK, stop Nicola Sturgeon’s efforts to take us back to a second independence referendum, and prevent Jeremy Corbyn from getting to Number 10."

Forget "Dude, we are going to energise the country." If Boris Johnson is not careful with the fate of the "precious" Union, it could very soon be a case of "Dude, Where's My Country?"