The City View: Boris on his last legs?
On today’s final episode of The City View, Andy Silvester talks to City A.M.’s Opinion and Features Editor Sascha O’Sullivan. They ask whether Boris Johnson is harming the Tory party’s chances of reelection, and if Starmer is the right man for the job as Labour leader.
And in the business news: TUI has cancelled nearly 200 flights due to serve Manchester airport, US activist investor Nelson Peltz has been appointed to the board of Unilever, and GSK has agreed to buy US vaccine firm Affinivax.
Episode transcript (auto-generated)
Andy Silvester 0:08 Good afternoon and welcome to The City View podcast. Indeed, the last City View podcast for some time. We’ve had a wonderful time recording this, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it too. But we’ve had some wonderful guests and a great insight from our reporters. But the time has come to go away as we head into the Jubilee and think about ways we can reshape and improve the city view. To give you more information, news analysis and everything that’s happening in the square mile, it won’t be a long break. We’ll be back soon then you know, and of course, when we do we’ll be the first to let you know. In a few minutes, I’ll be joined by Sasha Sullivan our opinion and features editor who will talk through the latest Westminster Carnage and what it means to Boris Johnson’s future. But first, the corporate headlines with help from our friends at P A, and tui has cancelled nearly 200 flights due to serve Manchester Airport between now and the end of June as the chaos faced by UK holidaymakers worsens. The airline made the announcement after passengers suffered long delays in recent days due to staff shortages bedevilling the industry. It will cancel six daily flights up to June 30, the sort of lottery that you really don’t want to win. Other airlines continuing to ask flights as well passengers being forced to wait in long queues at airports such as Manchester Heathrow, Gatwick and Bristol. Airline passengers have been hit by disruption for several months with a situation worsening this week due to the rise in demand sparked by the half term school holiday, as well as the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend. The aviation industry has been suffering from staff shortages at length 1000s of people go during the Coronavirus pandemic. airlines and airports repeatedly called for more financial support during the crisis. As government travel restrictions suppress demand and now struggling to recruit new workers. And also those new workers they are able to recruit often finding delays in getting their security checks processed labour accused of governments there have been missing in action Tory ministers can’t even get the basics right Louise Hay said quite why the government should be fixing the aviation industry is slightly beyond me, but nonetheless chaos the blame for which must be laid somewhere. Meanwhile, the markets welcome the appointment of us activist investor Nelson Peltz to the board of Unilever on Tuesday, as analysts speculated it could bring a shake up at the consumer giant the maker of Ben and Jerry’s Dove soap and Hellman’s mayonnaise said that Mr. pelts would join the board, after the firm he runs took a stake worth 10s of millions. He was credited with bringing a strong hand to Procter and Gamble last year the US consumer giant where he was chairman report has been swirling since January that he may be building a stake in the firm with shares jumping whenever his name was mentioned in the headlines. confirmation on Tuesday, that tree and the company that he runs has built a nearly 2% stake in a company push shares up again by late morning in London shares and Unilever up by more than six percents now Unilever’s takeover target failed takeover target, I should say GlaxoSmithKline has also agreed to buy us vaccine firm affin of x and a deal worth up to 2.6 billion UK. It comes as a UK pharma businesses seeking to bolster its vaccine operation as part of a shake up of its portfolio, including the spin off of its consumer health business. A friend of x is working on developing vaccines which target pneumococcal disease. That’s not me forgetting what that word is just me struggling to pronounce my notes, including pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infections, and elsewhere discount retailer b&m has announced that finance boss Alex Russo is to become the firm’s new Chief Exec. It reports a dip in sales for the past year. But nonetheless, analysts expect him that the cost of living crisis will potentially benefit the discount retailer. Speaking of things going at a discount, Sasha O’Sullivan, let’s talk about Boris Johnson’s reputation, because it’s fair to say that we thought that, well, you may think differently, I thought that pasty gate had slightly died to death, and that we had got to a point where a series of apologies each more sincere than the last would have probably put it to bed and that people will be starting to move on to new and interesting things. And yet this week, Westminster has been abuzz with rumours about potentially a number of letters going in to Graham Brody, the head of the 22 Committee. It seems that actually, for whatever reason, we’re moving from the shock and awe of party gate investigations and revelations to the fallout in the political party, the Tory party. And it seems that perhaps Boris is in more trouble than maybe I thought.Sascha O’Sullivan 4:30 Yes, absolutely. After surviving what many see is an astonishing amount of time since the original revelations came out about parties which happened during lock downs. Boris Johnson may finally be kind of facing the music. As MPs consider the losses and the local elections and upcoming by elections. Many are looking at the Prime Minister and thinking is he hurting our chances in these elections? And much of the Sue Gray report was published last week finally, and incredibly, there were even more revelations to come out over the last few days of parties which Carrie Johnson might have had, as well as some rather unsavoury stories about the treatment of housekeepers at the residence of checkers Andy Silvester 5:19 Is it, I mean, the basic gamble for the Tory party for the last three years has been that Boris Johnson is the most engaging, popular for better or for worse, or at least was most popular politician in Britain man who could like a Heineken reach parts of the electorate that nobody else could. He never necessarily had a constituency within the Tory party who didn’t have a huge number of MPs, who were Boris cheerleaders, he had people who recognise that without Boris they wouldn’t have their seat. But that didn’t necessarily translate to people that would stick by him the going got tough. It’s been interesting to see the number of Tory MPs who have put letters in because you’ve got this strange mixture of, you know, the former ag under Theresa May, you’ve got Andrea Leadsom, who is hardly a Remainer May is type. And then you’ve also got some of the new MPs who won seats in 2019. On the back of that Boris Johnson swell of support also saying actually not sure that this is playing that well amongst the constituency. So you’ve got this combination of sort of the old guard, but also these new Tory MPs trying to protect their marginal seats may be panicking a bit because they’ve never really been through tough times before. But it seems like there’s a swell of grumpiness from right across the breadth of the Tory party. Sascha O’Sullivan 6:41 Yeah, absolutely. It is a it is widespread discontent. And I think that’s really the problem for Boris Johnson right now, you know, if we look back to 2018, when Theresa May faced her no confidence vote, there really was a kind of surge of Brexiteers, who were coming out against her, and a lot of her plans for Brexit. Whereas this is much more widespread, which really shows that the gamble that the Conservative Party took in 2019, that Boris Johnson, but they’ve been success, and they and he did has worn off. And Boris Johnson has a skill in politics in that he has been able to straddle that divide between the right of the party and Brexit and some really liberal economic policies. But the cost of that has meant that he doesn’t have a huge amount of loyalty on the principles that he stands for which we haven’t really managed to figure out a couple of years now into his tenure at Downing Street. I do think that there are murmurs that the threshold for lesses could be reached, and yet he could still somehow defy the odds and come out. So he would need to get 180 MPs voting for him in a vote of no confidence, and it’s a secret ballot, and some are saying you know what, it might be a good thing and he might be able to rebound this leadership, if he does when that although Therese may again managed to win quite incredibly, a vote of no confidence, then resigned six months later, because she was just unable to function as the head of the government and Boris Johnson even if he wins that which is still you know, this is a couple steps ahead. So I really think that we are looking at perhaps finally the end of the road. Andy Silvester 8:27 Oh my goodness Sascha O’Sullivan 8:28 Boris Johnson Andy Silvester 8:29 Oh, my goodness. It was a great line by Tim Shipman over at Sunday Times for you might even put about a year 18 months ago that nobody has ever lost money betting on a Boris Johnson compacts lately, he does have a unique ability, Teflon-like, to shake these things off. To do so though, he does need to set out an agenda for the rest of his term, right because he’s been buffeted by COVID-19 buffeted by a recession that be difficult to do much about as politician. But he seems to be so easily knocked off his his bike, because he’s always moving so slowly, there’s no obvious direction as to where this worry party wants to be, by the time the next election, which may be the end of 2023 If rumours are to be believed. Is there a frustration within the Tory party, you will know better than I that all of this party gate stuff and all of the Defence they’re having to do with Boris Johnson would be worth it. If they could see something that Boris was gonna deliver in 12 or 18 months, low tax Singapore on terms, whatever it might be, but actually they’re defending it, and they’re not really sure why they’re defending it because what are you defending slightly higher taxes? Sascha O’Sullivan 9:48 Absolutely. And I think this is really part of the problem with Boris is that he hasn’t been able to establish during his time as Prime Minister, what he stands for, you know, he had all of these grand plans of levelling up and, you know, transport networks and things like that which have all kind of come to nothing. You know, when we had the levelling up white paper for Michael Gove, a lot of people kind of thinking, finally we’re going to hear about all of these things that we were promised. And again, it kind of vanished into thin air into quite a lot of words, but thin air nonetheless. And I do think that that lack of Guiding Light Boris Johnson has meant that he doesn’t have a back as much of a backup in the Tory party at the moment. Andy Silvester 10:30 He just can’t say it’s worth it. Don’t worry, we’ll get through this. More had to have bonuses because at the moment, you know, you’re heading into election with the economy going backwards, real wages, and people not overly thrilled about government. So yeah, you can see why there’s frustration in the Tory party. Labour to their credit, so far, it seems living up to the general rule that you should not interrupt your opponent when they’re arguing with themselves. But the question I guess will be in the Labour Party as is the way with these cycles of political journalism. If in a month’s time labour haven’t cut through if Kier, Starmer, isn’t on the airwaves looking like a future PM, they will then have their own existential crisis about whether care is the right leader to be Boris Absolutely. And I do think that Labour will have to face that question sooner rather than later. I think that you know, they chose Kier Starmer as leader in the wake of the Corbin years and they wanted someone to study the ship. Whether or not stammer is actually someone who can win an election is a very different thing. I think Labour took the gamble that they probably weren’t going to win for a little bit when they elected Kier, Starmer, and they didn’t really anticipate just how badly Johnson could do. Well, quite labour with an 11 point lead according to the most recent polling, but still, if you look at the constituency makeup, that doesn’t necessarily translate to a majority. And if it was, if there was an election tomorrow, and the polling reflected itself in how people actually voted, you’d end up with a sort of labour plus with potentially even the SMP which leads to a whole world of awkwardness for the Union more broadly. And Sasha, let’s leave it there because I think we could probably pontificate for some time. But I think we can probably conclude that Boris is in a fair bit of trouble. But he can’t rule him out. Sascha O’Sullivan 12:17 Never can. Andy Silvester 12:19 That was Sascha O’Sullivan our Opinion and Features Editor at City A.M., of course, plenty of thought provoking opinion in the pages of City A.M. everyday as well as online, and all the news analysis you probably got used to on this podcast will be replicated I can assure both in the paper and online on cityam.com. From me, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much. Huge thanks producing our podcast over the past six months and going on to greater things but from all of us at The City View, thanks very much.