Boris Johnson has finally put his head above the parapet and launched his bid to become Britain’s next prime minister.
At a well-orchestrated event on Wednesday, which saw the former foreign secretary joined by a number of Conservative Party heavyweights, Johnson warned that his party faces an existential crisis if it fails to deliver Brexit.
“Delay means defeat, delay means Corbyn,” he warned.
Britain is due to leave the EU on October 31.
Conscious that Brexit skeptics in his party are gathering to block his leadership push, Johnson emphasized that he is “not aiming for a no-deal outcome.” But he also said the United Kingdom “must do better than the current withdrawal agreement,” which was negotiated by outgoing prime minister Theresa May.
This will do little to reasure those in the Conservative Party who take the Europeans at their word when they say there will be no more negotiations.
It is also not lost of many of the party faithful that Johnson has a history of see-sawing on the issue of Brexit. His views tend to favor whichever side serves him best politically.
Failing to take Britain out of the EU is not the only existential threat facing the Tories, according to Johnson. He also took aim at the possibility of a Labour government by saying,
I will do absolutely anything I can, within the bounds of the Constitution and the law, to prevent the government of the UK from passing into the hands of those who, by their total disdain for wealth creation and their contempt for the normal aspirations of millions to improve their lives, would compromise our ability to fund the NHS and so much else besides.
It is unusual for the frontrunner in the Conservative Party’s leadership contest to speak in such hyperbolic terms, but the rise of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party on the right and the erosion of swing voters in the middle has party apparatchiks worried.
More worrying still is the fact that Jeremy Corbyn clearly sees the same dynamics and has been able to avoid blame in the Brexit debacle despite never spelling out an alternative to the ruling party’s strategy.
It all adds up to a suspicion that the next Conservative prime minister may be the last Conservative prime minister for quite some time.