Boris Johnson moves boldly to consolidate power

<pre><pre>Boris Johnson moves boldly to consolidate power

LONDON – When Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Great Britain convened his new cabinet on Friday, it seemed less like a conclave of powerful government officials than a well-educated classroom the day the director came to visit.

"How many hospitals are we going to build?" Mr. Johnson asked.


"Forty," they responded in unison.

"How many more cops are we recruiting?" he demanded.

"Twenty thousand," they sang.

Such a show of blocking passage discipline is a surprising change in a country that got used to the clamorous politics under Johnson's predecessors, David Cameron and Theresa May, who fought to hold coalitions together and rule without a parliamentary majority.

In the two months that have elapsed since Johnson won an overwhelming electoral victory and won a majority of 80 seats, he has moved quickly to take control of the levers of power. And to a degree unmatched by any British leader since Tony Blair, the government is now almost completely subordinate to him.

But what Mr. Johnson intends to do with all this power is still not entirely clear, although the decisions he has made in recent weeks suggest that he would prefer to govern as a more centrist and less radical figure than the politician who waged a populist campaign with the promise that "he would make Brexit."

By accumulating his power, Johnson has demonstrated what is, to some extent, a surprising degree of cruelty. Even Mr. Blair didn't dare to act against his chief financial officer like Mr. Johnson did this week, when he triggered the departure of Sajid Javid, the chancellor of the Treasury.

Mr. Javid, an ally of Mr. Johnson, resigned instead of having many of his powers stripped and handed over to Mr. Johnson's assistants at 10 Downing Street.

The chancellor is considered the second most powerful official in Britain after the prime minister; Several have emerged as rivals of the leader. By appointing Rishi Sunak, a 39-year-old former investment banker who won his seat in Parliament only in 2015, Johnson tries to make sure the Treasury does not stop his free spending agenda.

"Many prime ministers would worry about losing their Chancellor of the Treasury, but he realized that he and Javid did not agree with economic policy," said Andrew Gimson, who wrote a biography of Mr. Johnson.

Johnson is also busy appealing to his pro-Brexit base with populist tactics. how to attack the BBC, Britain's public broadcaster. She accused the BBC of partial reports and threatened her with legal changes that could deplete her funding sources.

The prime minister's clash with Mr. Javid was a victory for his influential advisor, Dominic Cummings, who has made a crusade to reform the government and centralize power in the prime minister's office.

But Mr. Javid's departure may be more important because of what he says about Mr. Johnson's fiscal policies. The Treasury, under Mr. Sunak, is expected to loosen government spending limits, which would allow Mr. Johnson to follow a liberal economic agenda similar to that of a social democrat in continental Europe.

In that sense, he is very different from President Trump, another populist politician with whom he is regularly compared, and who is also known for leading extremely compliant cabinet meetings.

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump spoke privately about his intention to govern as a pragmatist and defender of the working class. However, after being elected, he promulgated some of the most radical parts of his agenda, such as ending the ban on travel to Muslim-majority countries, and crushed a tax reduction in favor of corporations and the rich.

Johnson, say some commentators, looks less like Trump than Michael R. Bloomberg, the former Republican who was mayor of New York and is now running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Like Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Johnson was mayor of a large city in London. And like Mr. Bloomberg, he likes to apply the lessons of running a municipality to the national scene.

In a public presentation, Johnson said David Ross, a British billionaire who co-founded the Carphone Warehouse, paid the vacation cost of £ 15,000, almost $ 20,000. But Mr. Ross said he only "facilitated,quot; the rental of a villa for Mr. Johnson and his 31-year-old partner, Carrie Symons, leaving the question of who actually paid a mystery.

Labor lawmakers have requested an investigation into the matter.

The timing could be problematic for Mr. Johnson. Powell, Blair's former chief of staff, said that in 1997, Blair's new government was paralyzed by a fundraising scandal involving Formula One mogul Bernie Ecclestone.

For those who have followed Mr. Johnson's amazing career, it was a reminder that scandals always seem to keep track of him.

"The public, in this era of populist leaders, tolerates dishonesty," Menon said. "The only thing the public doesn't like is a sense of corruption."


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