Boris Johnson brought forward to 2030 a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars this week, as part of what he dubbed the Government’s “green industrial revolution”. The £12bn plan also includes initiatives to boost hydrogen production, quadruple offshore wind power by 2030, and create thousands of renewable-energy jobs in the UK’s traditional industrial heartlands. The move was seen as an attempt to reset Johnson’s premiership following the dramatic departure last week of his key aide Dominic Cummings, along with Lee Cain, his director of communications. The pair had clashed with Allegra Stratton, No. 10’s new press secretary, who had the backing of Johnson’s fiancée, Carrie Symonds.
Johnson’s effort to regain the initiative received a setback on Sunday when it emerged that he had come into contact with a Tory MP who had tested positive for Covid-19, requiring Johnson to self-isolate for a fortnight. No. 10 was also forced onto the defensive by reports that the PM, while speaking to his Northern MPs, had described Scottish devolution as a “disaster” and “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake”.
“Rows over advisers do not bode well for prime ministers,” said The Sunday Times. They often spell the beginning of the end. But if this crisis brings about a genuine reset of Johnson’s administration, it could yet revive its prospects. It’s not enough for the PM to change his advisers. He must also re-engage with MPs and bring talent into his Cabinet. “The Brexiteer dead wood needs to be cleared out.” Johnson’s team desperately needs to up its game, agreed The Guardian. But even if it succeeds in putting this shambolic period of infighting behind it, it will find that “a reputation for incompetence is hard to shift”.
It’s just as well that Cummings and Cain are out of the picture, said The Daily Telegraph. Although they were gifted campaigners, their skills were not so well-suited to the job of governing. A “reboot” is in order; but the Government must focus its efforts on “realistic and achievable policies”. Some of the green proposals announced this week go too far. The previous target of banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035 looked fanciful enough. Bringing that deadline forward to 2030 “is even more unrealistic, and there seems no obvious point to it other than to burnish Johnson’s eco credentials”.