Even before his audience with the Queen, Mr Johnson was being written off by Jason Aldiss, the respected chair of Pudsey Conservative Association, who quit the party over Brexit, the economy and disloyalty. He said that moderate Tory voters in the North of England had been left “disenfranchised”.
And this matters because the politically-pivotal Leeds seat is traditionally a mirror-image of the national picture. If the new PM wins it at the next election, he is likely to stay in office. If not, Mr Johnson risks the ignominy of becoming one of, if not, the shortest-serving premier in history.
But it is also emblematic of the deep splits within the Conservative ranks. It is currently represented by Stuart Andrew, who backed Brexit and endorsed Mr Johnson’s leadership bid.
However his majority at the 2017 election was cut to 331 votes. Now the fourth most marginal Tory-held seat in the UK, Mr Andrew needs the support of people like Mr Aldiss, a Remain voter who favoured Jeremy Hunt over Mr Johnson, if he is to stay in post and defeat a hard-left Labour candidate whose track record for division is a further barometer of national tensions.
Like the rest of Leeds, which was virtually split 50-50 over Brexit, it will be the new Prime Minister’s ability to reach out to the more sceptical – whether it is people who alternative views on EU matters or voters in the neglected North – that will be crucial.
Whenever a new PM enters Downing Street for the first time, there is normally a sense of anticipation – and considerable goodwill shown towards the country’s new leader. Yet this handover of power was very different as Mrs May spent her final moments in Downing Street accepting the resignations of several senior colleagues who were unwilling to serve under her successor. And while she did leave office with poise and dignity after a tumultuous three years, the outset of Mr Johnson’s premiership has been characterised by anxiety – even trepidation and open hostility – from people in many swathes of Britain.
Unconventional in so many ways, he, nevertheless, used his landmark first address as PM to make a wide-ranging policy speech, pledge to fix the social care crisis and reach out to people in “left behind towns”.
Typically optimistic, he set out a series of high – and worthy – ambitions for a leader who has no Commons majority and finds himself at the mercy of political events. But, as Mr Johnson pledged to take on “the doubters, doomsters and gloomsters”, it will be the manner in which he tries to resolve Brexit, and unite the country, which will determine whether the people of Pudsey – and voters in other key seats – give him the chance to become a transformative premier.