He is accused of lying, dividing, being incompetent … No matter, he is the favorite of the conservative activists to become the next British Prime Minister, because in this race to power, Boris Johnson has a trump card: Brexit .
The former mayor of London played a key role in the campaign for a UK exit from the European Union in the June 2016 referendum. And that is what makes it credible today, eyes of the Tories militants, his promise to implement it after the failure of Theresa May.
On the other hand, his rival, the head of diplomacy Jeremy Hunt, suffers from being a convert of Brexit. He initially defended the EU membership during the referendum campaign and then changed his mind at the end of 2017 in the face of Brussels' "arrogant" attitude in the negotiations, he said.
Boris Johnson has "supporters in places far away from London, where people are very upset to have voted for Brexit but it has not happened yet" when it was originally scheduled for March 29, explains to AFP his biographer Andrew Gimson.
The 160,000 members of the Conservative Party will decide before the end of the month the two candidates. They started receiving this week's ballots.
And Brexit animates them: 54% of them said they were ready to sacrifice their party, and 61% have significant economic consequences, according to a YouGov poll last month.
Another published last week shows that 90% think that Boris Johnson will finish his promise to leave the EU without agreement if he can not renegotiate the exit plan signed by Theresa May, against 27% for Jeremy Hunt.
"Boris is seen as the real Brexiter, who will leave the United Kingdom (EU) without agreement," said Anthony Wells, director of political research at the YouGov Institute.
Boris Johnson, 55, ran for governorship even before Theresa May announced her resignation on May 24. Since then, observers have been waiting for the blunder that could stop his rise to power.
But the former head of diplomacy has limited media appearances, suddenly accusing him of fleeing the debate on his strategy for Brexit, deemed too vague by his critics.
He also avoided questions after a domestic scene in June with his partner, reported to police by diligent neighbors. But the scandal was quickly forgiven by his supporters.
"What matters is that this guy is going to implement Brexit," Hasnain Ahmed, a 23-year-old technology analyst, told AFP at a recent Conservative Party meeting in Birmingham (center) .
BoJo enchants his audience with his charisma and humor, and he manages to distract attention and criticism with jokes that are out of place or absurd anecdotes.
"Boris does not answer the questions very well, but Jeremy Hunt is rather boring," said Richard Tasker, head of a local conservative association. "I will vote for Boris, because he is the best to rally our big party again".
"Success of the past"
Fearing early elections if the Brexit blockades persist, conservative activists believe he is able to rally their divided party between supporters and opponents of an uncompromising Brexit.
In 2008, then 2012, Johnson was elected Mayor of London on a socially liberal and pro-immigration program.
Then he gave a very different speech in the 2016 referendum, defending the limitation of immigration or advancing inaccurate figures on the cost of membership of the United Kingdom to the EU.
He also shocked many Brits by comparing veiled Muslim women to "mailboxes", even though his platform actually defended the freedom to practice his religion through his clothes.
By presenting himself as a winner, he "lives on his past successes," says Anthony Wells. However, "that does not detract from his charisma, and even though he is not popular now" outside the party, "many (activists) think he's gotten there before, so he can succeed again ".
09/07/2019 06:46:05 –
London (AFP) –
© 2019 AFP