In many ways, Boris Johnson’s new economic strategy – “boosterism” – is the embodiment of our new Prime Minister. Like the man himself, at first glance, it’s compelling and cartoonish. It’s only when you delve deeper, that it becomes clear that it’s reckless, impulsive, and bursting at the seams with contradictions.
According to sources within Number 10, Johnson wants to put “rocket boosters” under the economy in the form of heavy infrastructure investment. He has already outlined a few initial ways he would like to do this: spending billions on new high–speed rail lines, and rolling out super–fast broadband across the country.
Yet, here in London, we are still recovering from the impact of Boris Johnson’s boosterism over the course of his eight years as Mayor.
Londoners learned the hard way how detached Johnson is from reality – watching him pour funds into hare–brained schemes like “Boris Airport” and the “Garden Bridge” that cost millions without a single brick being laid.
His array of costly vanity projects left taxpayers footing a bill of nearly £1bn, and this figure is continuing to rise three years on. What do we have to show for it? A handful of shiny monuments on the skyline that do nothing to tackle the underlying problems faced by those living in our city – growing inequality, child poverty, and a chronic lack of social housing.
This money could have been invested in schools, hospitals, housing, libraries and youth centres – reviving the lifeblood of our communities, rather than tearing them apart.
Of course, Johnson is right about one thing: that the UK is desperately in need of greater infrastructure funding after years of crippling Tory austerity. However, his fanatical approach to Brexit completely undermines this goal.
With one hand he’s offering “billions” to help stabilise our poorest regions. Yet, with the other he’s threatening to pull the rug out from beneath them with a no deal Brexit that would plunge our country into the grips of recession. We all know who would be hit hardest. It’s not our new Prime Minister or his pals.
Even if Johnson strikes a deal in Brussels, the UK will soon be cut off from critical EU funding streams that are designed to reduce inequalities. Parts of the country that have been “left behind” will face a multi–billion–pound gap in funding for housing, transport and infrastructure projects, and countless other EU schemes designed to support the most vulnerable will evaporate. This will all take place at crunch time, as UK Government ministers scrabble to set up and oversee a number of new national systems and procedures to replace the EU mechanisms that their predecessors helped to build.
Should Johnson succeed in dragging us out of the EU without a deal, the economic shock will be severe. In the short–term, we can realistically expect to experience long traffic jams at the border, disruption at airports, food and medicine shortages, a mass cull of farm animals, thousands of job losses, and research funding flooding out of the country.
Anyone who thinks that speedy broadband connections and some new trains will fix this problem is either naive or incompetent – I fear our new Prime Minister may be both.
Scott Ainslie is a Green MEP for London.