Colin Brazier: Will Boris Johnson lead the Tories into the next general election?

I think he’s a two-term prime minister, who’s only half way through his first.

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Will Boris Johnson lead the Tories into the next general election?

Lots of folk think not, but I’m not one of them.

I think he’s a two-term prime minister, who’s only half way through his first.

Why do I say that. Well, since our prime minister is a keen student of political history, let’s start with a history lesson.

Today is the anniversary - the year was 1979 - of this infamous moment. When the then Labour prime minister James Callaghan, returned to Britain from abroad.

The country he’d left behind was in the grip of strike action and sinking deeper into its Winter Of Discontent.

But as he disembarked from his official plane, sunny Jim - looking tanned and relaxed after a summit in the Caribbean - said Britain wasn’t descending into chaos, even if rubbish was piling up on the streets and bodies weren’t being buried.

‘Crisis, what Crisis?’ He never actually said the words which the Sun used in its headline the next day. But ‘Crisis, what Crisis?’ was one of those acts of journalistic license which summed up the frustration many people felt.

On the surface there are parallels between James and Boris. Callaghan was PM for three years; the length of time Boris will have clocked up if, as some say is likely, he’s forced out this year.

Like Callaghan, Boris is behind in the polls. But the thing they really have in common is inflation. Callaghan was the last British Prime Minister to grapple with a real inflationary spiral.

And some commentators think that rising prices will do for Johnson too. Well, I don’t. The unions have far less power than they did. The dead will get buried. And anyway Boris can reasonably claim that rising wages, far from being an unalloyed evil, are actually a victory for Brexit.

He predicted that pay packets would start to reflect what British workers deserved to be paid, once they were no longer undercut by cheap EU labour. Jim Callaghan may never have said the words attributed to him.

But Johnson really did say ‘F’ business. So if inflation doesn’t get him, what will? Callaghan was removed by the electorate, but Tory prime ministers often don’t get that far.

The party has a richly deserved reputation for regicide. And, it’s true, there are Tory MPs, many of them part of the Red Wall and 2019 intake, who are grumbling

What would it take to get them get back on side?

Listen to the words of Lord Frost, the mandarin who more than anyone, got Brexit done.

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday yesterday, he said Johnson can win the next general election in 2024.

But the prime minister has to adopt this political holy trinity; free markets, free debate and low taxes.

Frost says Johnson must use the freedoms given by Brexit to cut things like VAT on fuel bills. But I wonder if what would really save his bacon is the mother of all U-turns.

Last week I interviewed Conservative backbenchers who want the prime minister to drop the planned National Insurance rise in April.

It will cost the average household £300 a year; a massive tax rise.

Such a U-turn would leave the Exchequer with a £12 billion black hole. Co-incidentally, that is about the amount we hand over to some of the world’s most despotic and kleptocratic regimes in the form of foreign aid.

When this government announced that foreign aid would be cut by 0.2 per cent until 2024, there was uproar.

A revolt on the backbenches led by Theresa May. If Boris learned anything from Brexit, it’s that if a solution is opposed by Theresa May, it’s probably worth pursuing.

Cutting foreign aid is anathema to the political class but a no-brainer for most people outside politics.

If we really are about to take on the biggest tax burden in living memory, should we be sending a blank cheque to countries who, as the Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo reminds us, are better off, not spongeing off us, but trading with us.