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Election landslide empowers Boris Johnson to tackle bumps ahead

china.org.cn | Updated: 2019-12-20 09:26

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returns to 10 Downing Street after he met the Queen in London, Britain, Dec. 13, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

What a day it was for Britain's Conservative Party (the Tories) and their new leader Boris Johnson! Their biggest win in 30 years would not have come at a better time, when the country needed a strong leadership to deliver Brexit and set the nation on a new path.

Last Thursday general election was in fact a second referendum on leaving the EU at the earliest possible moment and ending the uncertainty engulfing the country for the last couple of years. The popular vote provided Johnson with all firepower and wherewithal to make good and short work of it.

Pre-poll predictions suggested cut-throat competition between the Conservative and Labor parties. Jeremy Corbyn had "ably" led the party in parliamentary debates and looked like a grand-fatherly figure to keep the country together amidst chaos and clamor.

However, he made a fatal mistake of not taking a decisive position on Brexit in the election campaign. Johnson, in contrast, provided the clarity when everyone – from common people to business executives – were eagerly seeking a clear-cut direction to escape out of the prolonged darkness.

The result is that the Conservatives showed their best outing since 1987, while Labor suffered the worst defeat since the 1930s. With this dismal performance, Corbyn and his "Corbynism" brand is now consigned to history.

After the spectacular reversal of the fortunes, Corbyn announced he would stand down early next year as soon as a successor can be found, blaming the defeat on "Brexit" that he said obscured every other issue. Critics are not convinced and hold his leadership responsible for the debacle.

As the dust settles, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will have to take up a host of challenges. He needs to move fast to fulfill the ambitions expressed by the voters, including delivering Brexit and steering them out of the nation's current economic difficulties.

He already has announced plans to reintroduce the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the new parliament before Christmas. The objective is to ensure the UK can leave the EU in an orderly manner before the end of January.

The end of the "marriage" will lead to a new scramble to settle issues related to the post-Brexit relationship with Brussels. It involves complex agreements to regulate trade, tax and travel as well as issues about security.

Brexit is not the only headache, though still the major one for Johnson, as the prime minister needs to turn his focus to internal security challenges. The threat of militancy looms large, its recent manifestation being a knife attack in the London Bridge area.

The UK also needs immediate investment and economic revival. When the election was held, growth had almost stagnated and business confidence was low. National GDP was projected to grow a paltry 1.1% in 2020.

With this in mind, Johnson needs to ink new trade and investment deals. One such has been offered by US President Donald Trump who has been an ardent supporter of the British ditching the EU. Fast tracking the negotiations to have agreement would be key to bringing in fresh investment, boosting confidence and speeding up economic recovery.

A formidable domestic challenge is coming up in the form of the growing demand for a second independence referendum in Scotland. The Scottish National Party swept polls, winning 48 out of 59 seats and asserting its right to seek the public opinion whether to remain in the union or seek independence.

Johnson spoke with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon on Friday soon after victory and showed his opposition to the move, vowing not to be the one remembered as overseeing the disintegration of the country, even if peacefully.

Tough times lie ahead for the prime minister and his cabinet, as he leads the country on a new road, independent of any strings attached by the EU. So far, he has shown an extraordinary commitment to his cause and also got the results.

His bastion of power is the parliament, where he has solid majority. He can put in place all necessary legal infrastructure needed to tackle various problems. He has won the first round when his political maneuver to go for elections paid rich dividends.

The following rounds may be tough for Johnsons but not impossible to surmount, if he continues to make right moves.

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