Mr Johnson – currently resting after a bout of COVID-19 which put him in intensive care earlier this month – is having to adapt to the harsh post-coronavirus landscape, and agonising trade-off between what Sir John characterised as “your grandad’s health and your job”. Sir John, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, told Express.co.uk: “This Government’s agenda has just been torn to shreds. “The Government’s given the go-ahead for HS2 but how much we’re going to be able to borrow on top of what’s going to go out for coronavirus? There must be question marks there.
“And of course, the other battle, the thing which have to face at some point, which they will have to make a decision about is about Brexit.
With talks aimed at thrashing out a free trade deal resuming today, Sir John questioned whether enough progress could be made by June to allow the UK to leave as planned at the end of the transition period on December 31, saying: “There could be a very tough call there.”
He added: “Brexit potentially now becomes a source of division because obviously, Johnson’s strength has been basically been that he went for the Leave camp, won an election, took out of his party all the people who were serious doubters about it and was in a very, very strong position.
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“The risk he faces is domestic agenda is, for the time being, at least, ripped up up.
“So to that extent, he either is or is at least potentially weaker.”
Referring to fierce criticism of the Prime Minister in yesterday’s Sunday Times, not least the suggestion he had missed five Cobra meetings, Sir John said: “The Sunday Times piece, I think, in a sense was trying to feed on a criticism that is often made of Johnson, which is that he’s not a man for detail and that he tends to have a sunny disposition he’s always wanting to talk things up.
“These criticisms are quite difficult to manage because Johnson quite early on said ‘we’ve got to defeat this virus and then we can get on with everything else’.
“And actually this is why this exit strategy so difficult. Defeat is pretty probably not a word, at the moment which is likely to be in the lexicon and the absence of a great deal of luck about the sickness dying out in the summer position or medicine taking over.
“And how he manages that can be quite difficult because this will not be about sunny uplands in the wake of us liberating ourselves from the European Union, it will be about difficult trade-offs between your grandad’s health and your job.”
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Nevertheless, despite the criticism, Sir John suggested Mr Johnson would be keen to continue in his role, provided his health permitted him to so.
He said: “This is somebody who clearly in a variety of ways wanted to change Britain.
“This is a government that is having to use the power of the state in a way that has been inconceivable at least since the 1970s.
“I presume in the short run as because he managed to avoid going on a ventilator, that although still take him a while to recover.
“Anybody who’s ever had a serious part of the flu knows how long it could take forever.
“But presumably, the expectation is that within a matter of weeks, he will be back to full health obviously, what the psychological impact on him is, who knows or having had, you know, having had what was a pretty serious brush.
“This is somebody who has been was waiting for the ball to come out of the scrum.
“We came out of the scrum, and he’s kicked it between the goalposts.
“I’m not sure you want to retire for the field that quick.
“I guess he just simply now has to orientate themselves to the fact that he needs to succeed in being the prime minister who manages to negotiate Britain successfully out of this virus.”
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