NOW that Boris Johnson has secured the backing of more than half of all Conservative MPs following the first phase of his party’s leadership contest, he must now prove to the country that he is a serious statesman who deserves to become the 55th Prime Minister of this country.
To win the backing of a majority of party activists, where the former Foreign Secretary commands significant support, won’t be enough on its own – Mr Johnson also needs to prove to the wider electorate that he is the right man to lead Britain now.
And while another month of political uncertainty will frustrate, even exasperate, many, it is right that the former mayor of London faces a rigorous challenge from Jeremy Hunt, his successor at the Foreign Office, for the top job in British politics.
After all, Mr Johnson – a politician steeped in the media – has, thus far, kept an uncharacteristically low-profile in order to avoid awkward, or embarrassing, questions. Such evasiveness does not inspire confidence when so many, publicly and privately, wonder if he is cut out to be PM. And it is why Mr Johnson faces three immediate tests if he is to consolidate his position.
First, Mr Johnson needs to offer a clear plan for Brexit – his utterances continue to be ambiguous – and set out how he intends to unite a deeply divided country. By narrowly beating Michael Gove in the race for second, Mr Hunt will provide the perspective of a Remain supporter.
Second, he must start to outline his first Queen’s Speech – this will reveal if he will be able to command the confidence of the House of Commons when the Tories are bereft of a majority and if he intends to tackle issues like social care.
Finally, Mr Johnson must prove that he intends to be a genuine One Nation leader committed to tackling the regional inequalities highlighted by the Power Up The North campaign. Again, his silence on this has been disconcerting. And now Mr Hunt has emerged – just – as a credible contender, both men can begin to belatedly focus on those challenges which will make or break the next Prime Minister.