As the British story goes tougher CNN reports that Theresa May came to 10 Downing Street with the reputation of being a reserved and cautious politician. Within hours she had blown up that image with one of the most comprehensive Cabinet reshuffles in living memory.
Brutally she blazoned the difference between her administration and that of David Cameron by sacking Cameron’s longtime finance minister (Chancellor of the Exchequer) George Osborne. Ruthlessly she signaled her belief in loyalty by dumping her former leadership rival Michael Gove after he had aided both the downfall of Cameron — by backing the “Leave” campaign — and the (temporary) one of his “Leave” ally Boris Johnson, whom he belatedly declined to support for the prime ministership.
That was two “big beasts” dispatched to the backbenches where they could prove a menace if her leadership falters. But the truly spectacular risk May took was in appointing Johnson as her foreign secretary.
On first hearing the news, many parliamentarians declared: “It’s a joke: You can’t be serious.” Foreign dignitaries’ jaws dropped visibly. And the media that had been writing Johnson’s political obituary just days before, as I had done, had to refashion the thoughts into a new résumé.
Having seen her predecessor come unstuck so spectacularly after risking his career on the European Union referendum, why has a politician as constitutionally cautious as May gone for such a big gamble?
That Johnson is a politician who can schmooze like few others, write like an angel and warm up any room with his wit and charm is without doubt. He is a true entertainer in an age when most politicians are condemned as anonymity in a suit. But he comes with huge risks attached. As a journalist he was dropped from one paper for making up quotes. As a politician he has frequently had to apologize for gaffes. And as a foreign secretary he arrives with a sackful of embarrassments he will have to explain away. Continue reading in style