LONDON — Champagne corks could be heard popping from 10 Downing Street as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson celebrated his landslide victory in Friday’s general election.
With 365 MPs in the House of Commons, the ruling Conservatives appear untouchable, with an 80-seat majority, as they prepare next week to gather in the chamber to start putting into place the promises made by Johnson in his election manifesto.
Despite the scale of the win — which could mean Johnson in power for a decade — warnings continued Saturday that Johnson faces many challenges in the weeks, months and years ahead.
“While the prime minister has won a clear majority, he can expect the shortest honeymoon ever,” said Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the British Trades Union Congress (TUC). “After nine years of failed austerity, the pressure is now on the government to boost living standards and inject real investment into our National Health Service (NHS) and public services.”
“There are no more excuses for Boris Johnson on Brexit. In the year to come, he must deliver a deal with the European Union (EU) that protects jobs, rights at work and peace in Northern Ireland,” said O’Grady.
The Labor-supporting newspaper Daily Mirror said the nation will wait anxiously to see what sort of PM Johnson will be, unshackled with his large majority.
“Will he be able to bridge the country’s chronic north-south chasm for those many Labor voters who went blue (by voting Conservative) … or will Labor backers who ‘lent’ their vote come to regret their decision if the PM betrays them,” said the newspaper.
It cited Britain’s underfunded NHS, Brexit and its long-term relationship with the EU, the knife-crime epidemic, the environment and Johnson’s relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump as his key challenges.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Financial Times, a business newspaper, said the Conservatives have to move fast to boost growth or face some difficult financial realities, with business groups warning there are still big barriers to resuming investment.
Big challenges facing Johnson and Chancellor Sajid Javid include the appointment of a successor to Mike Carney as governor of the Bank of England, framing its first spending budget, kick-starting growth against a dismal economic background and looking beyond Brexit after Britain’s departure from the EU on Jan. 31, said the FT.
Businesses are hoping that an orderly Brexit in January will give ministers the bandwidth to address longer-term challenges, from domestic problems such as housing and skills, to the future shape of immigration policy and the extent of regulatory alignment with the EU, added the FT.
Tim Pitt, a former Treasury special adviser, said on Twitter that the electoral fortunes of the Conservatives were now tied to votes in working-class areas that had been opposed to the economics of former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The Times, meanwhile, said the new seats won by Johnson, and the MPs representing those places, will be pressing for higher social spending to deal with urgent social problems.
In his first major speech on Friday after his victory, Johnson thanked the thousands of people who voted Conservative.
“I say thank you for the trust you have placed in us, and in me. We will work round the clock to repay your trust and to deliver on your priorities with a parliament that works for you,” said Johnson.
Every corner of Britain will be watching and waiting to see if he delivers his promises and rises to the challenges.