ITV News analyses Boris Johnson's biggest problems in power (and what he can do about them)

  • How can Boris Johnson deliver Brexit and bring the country together? ITV Social Affairs Editor Penny Marshall spoke to voters in Cheshire.

Brexit may dominate the political agenda but the buck for almost all areas of British life stops with the prime minister.

From new security threats to a social care crisis, pleasing the head of state to meeting the pleas to protect the state of the nation, Boris Johnson inherits a whole host of challenges to guarantee and improve the lot of 66 million people, while finding a way to withdraw from the European Union.

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger

ITV News experts examine how the arrival of the new PM will affect each area, the problems each one presents him and what action he could take to deal with them.

  • The Brexit reinvention problem

Finding the green light for Brexit presents Boris Johnson with his biggest challenge. Credit: PA

"Europe waits to see if this is a fresh start or more of the same," writes Europe Editor James Mates.

“Will Johnson, with a new mandate and a history of spectacular U-turns, have the freshly-minted authority to execute a spectacular volte-face and sell his party a very slightly tarted up version of Theresa May’s deal?

“Or has he boxed himself in so completely that the only options now are ’no-deal’ or a general election?"

What are the biggest challenges he will face in dealing with Europe?

“Brexit is the biggest challenge by a very long way; arguably the greatest faced by any British PM since the war.

“Whether a Johnson premiership is to be long or short, it will be defined by Brexit above all else. Is he leading the country to his ’sunlit uplands’ or into a spectacular economic crisis? Whatever the answer, it is all he will be remembered for.”

What decision could he take which would be most welcomed?

“Without question the only thing Europe wants Johnson to do is to lead the UK out of the EU in an orderly fashion. That means the Withdrawal Agreement or something very similar.

“In all the talk of 'no change to the Withdrawal Agreement,' there is one adjustment that is possible: Brussels would agree to the backstop applying to Northern Ireland only, rather than to the UK as a whole. It would mean customs procedures in the Irish Sea, and thus be very unpopular with the DUP, but it would leave the rest of the UK free to make trade deals with the rest of the world.”

  • Has Boris Johnson called the EU's bluff by pushing forward with a no-deal Brexit? ITV's Europe Editor James Mates has more.

  • The security challenges and the Iranian problem

Boris Johnson's comments as foreign secretary were deemed to have worsened the plight of Richard Ratcliffe's detained wife Nazanin in Iran. Credit: PA

“Boris Johnson enters Downing Street at an important moment for global security and Britain’s national security,” writes Security Editor Rohit Kachroo.

“MI6 was accountable to Boris Johnson when he was foreign secretary. But he never gained the same reputation as Theresa May (who dealt with domestic security service MI5 for years as home secretary) for his handling of intelligence matters.

“Some predictions are difficult during uncertain times, but it seems unlikely that the world will become much safer during the coming years.”

What are the biggest challenges Boris Johnson will face?

"An immediate challenge for Prime Minister Johnson will be his dealings with Iran where he will be frequently reminded of his previous mistakes in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

"Of course, Russia and China are perceived to pose threats to Britain’s national security too, and one priority for Mr Johnson will be the government’s decision on whether or not to allow Chinese tech giant Huawei to be a 5G supplier.

"Domestically, Islamist terrorism is a well-known but evolving challenge and the extreme right wing continues to grow. The growing toxicity of the political debate is only likely to fuel extremism."

What decision could Boris Johnson take which would be most welcomed?

"De-escalating the crisis in Iran while freeing Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and solving the Huawei question in a way which does not threaten Britain’s security or relations with Beijing would be seen as huge victories for the new PM.

"Of course, these would rely on factors beyond his control, though prime ministers have a habit of claiming full credit in such situations."

  • The need to reform social care and find funds for schools

Attempts to deal with social care have had mixed fortunes when put to the voters.

“The new PM will be judged on whether he can break the paralysis that has prevented any real significant policy change for years now,” writes Social Affairs Editor Penny Marshall.

“Mr Johnson has said he will release money for tax breaks but will there be any new money for schools and welfare?”

What are the biggest challenges he will face in this area?

“If he can move beyond Brexit, reform to social care has been forever on hold and is long overdue.

“Problems with social care blights the lives of millions. School funding has been driving head teachers to despair. There are still issues with Universal Credit and the new PIP roll out which directly impact some of our most vulnerable citizens.”

What decision could Boris Johnson take that would be most welcomed?

“Having the courage to sort out social care would change the lives of millions but take political guts. And there is risk. After all, it arguably cost Theresa May her majority during the last election.

“But it’s not just about spending more. Showing compassion for the vulnerable on welfare by looking again at the testing methods for the disabled and mentally ill would signal real change. And spending more on schools would be universally welcomed.”

  • The creative industry funding challenge

“Forty years ago the newly elected PM Margaret Thatcher swung the axe and arts funding was dramatically cut. Arts organisations in this austerity era will be fearing a similar start to a new term, as any tax-cutting agenda is likely to hit sectors further down the list of government priorities,” writes Arts Editor Nina Nannar.

“The new PM can expect to be under pressure to change the narrative on what the creative industries mean to the UK - especially at a time when mental health and wellbeing are in the spotlight like never before.”

What are the major challenges he will face in the creative industries?

Pop star Lily Allen had the ear of Boris Johnson during his time as Mayor of London. Credit: PA

“The creative industries are booming, worth billions, and are a true growth sector. Politicians may voice their appreciation of this, but the new PM will be lobbied to put this support into action by stopping libraries closing and make arts teaching not a nice sideline for those who can afford it, but a vital and universally accessed part of the school curriculum.

“Grass roots music teaching in schools is under huge pressure, and the new PM can expect many leading lights in the arts to be bending his ear - will he listen?”

So what decision could he take that would be most welcomed?

“Many arts organisations are fearing Brexit as the international exchange of talent and project funding is at the heart of what they do.

“Orchestras, the booming festival sector and the film industry will all be looking to an immediate announcement on how Brexit, in whatever form it takes, will still protect what they do.”

  • Britain's policing problem

“Boris Johnson pledged during the leadership campaign that he would reverse the cuts to policing almost totally,” writes National Editor Allegra Stratton.

“The force has lost just over 18% of their officers since 2010 - he has pledged an increase of 20,000 officers at a cost of £1bn. He particularly wants to see more officers in rural areas.

“Theresa May was the one who refused the money for police and she was proud of this policy: she thought it reduced inefficiency and made them more agile. Most officers think this might have been true in the very beginning, that it went too far and many senior individuals believe that, in the end, it was cuts to policing and visibility that ultimately allowed the increase in serious violence we see right now.

“If he is true to his word it could mean we all see more police on the beat; an end to the dangerous practice of single crewing (just one officer patrolling alone) and that they can revert to solving burglaries and other crimes that they say right now they are having to make less of a priority.”

What are the biggest challenges he will face?

Boris Johnson poses with a battering ram while on the campaign trail for Tory leader. Credit: PA

“You can’t simply bring this many police back into service. They will need to be trained and it could take a while. He will also need to be vigilant that the new money is actually spent on officers rather than new cars and kit. Some might be needed but officers acknowledge money is sometimes wasted.

“When we go out and observe police forces at work around the country over the last couple of years - Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Essex - the numbers issue really did appear to be a profound challenge rather than just whinging.

“They were always understaffed and low numbers meant that when a chunky crime occurred that shift it was a mixed blessing: they were pleased to have brought some criminals off the street, but knew the paperwork that night would then tie up a series of bodies and cars for a few hours. It then often meant that there were just a handful of officers left patrolling a busy city centre.”

What decision could he take that would be most welcomed?

“If Boris Johnson were to announce a reinvestment of money in youth services and children’s services he would be beefing back up the parts of the state that many think kept down violence in the years just after 2010, when the numbers of young people killed weren’t nearly as high as now.”

  • Protecting a trade future and delivering Plan A

“The short-term prosperity of the UK will be shaped almost entirely by the nature of its departure from the EU and the future trading relationship that is secured,” writes Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills.

“If Boris Johnson pursues a No Deal Brexit on October 31 the UK would undoubtedly be hit by an economic and financial shock, although the scale of the shock is unclear and unknowable.

“This is not “Project Fear” but the considered, expert view of The Bank of England, The Office For Budget Responsibility, The National Institute For Economic And Social Research and many others.”

What are the biggest challenges the new PM will face?

Boris Johnson is banking on his first-choice Brexit plans not going to waste. Credit: PA

“Business investment has slumped and remains subdued. For as long as the uncertainty surrounding Brexit persists, Johnson will find himself under strong pressure from businesses to provide clarity.”

What decision could he take that would be most welcomed?

“On the recent campaign trail, Boris Johnson felt there were points to be scored by talking up the strength of the UK economy and the resilience of its people, and by playing down the costs of No Deal as “vanishingly inexpensive if you prepare”.

“Mr Johnson chose his words to delight a few thousand party members, as prime minister his audience is much bigger and more diverse. His stated “Plan A” is a deal with the EU. Let’s hope he sticks to Plan A.”

  • The early need for an NHS guarantee

“The new prime minister will have to reassure us fairly quickly that he is committed to supporting the health service and our social care system,” writes Health Correspondent Emily Morgan.

“The NHS needs him to meet all the challenges facing it and to give an unequivocal pledge to do so early on his premiership."

What are the biggest challenges facing Boris Johnson?

“Waiting times are at their worst in years, the A&E four hour target was only met by four hospital departments out of 119 and diagnostic waiting times are the worst since 2008. There is new money coming, but will it be enough to save the NHS?”

Staff in the NHS have called for increased funding across the service. Credit: PA

“There are a multitude of challenges facing the PM in the health service. Years of underfunding has led to criticism that it is in crisis. It needs more doctors, more nurses, new equipment and some say root and branch transformation."

What political points could he score?

“Point scoring is tough in the health service. Whatever decisions are made, some will inevitably be at the expense of others. Staff would love to hear they’ll get a pay rise. Or that they’ll be staffed properly. Patients want to know that they will be able to get a GPs appointment or that they won’t have to wait for hours in A&E.

“Boris will get huge points, and indeed a sizeable legacy if he once and for all comes up with a long term plan for the social care system. He could introduce an insurance system, like Japan, to pay for care or he could put up National Insurance. There are many many ways to do it but until someone does something it’s a predictable crisis waiting to happen.

“Oh and then there’s Brexit... a No Deal scenario could impact medical supplies. Will they get through the border? Lots to think about."

  • Fighting the inactivity crisis

“Boris Johnson has a real opportunity to make his mark,” writes Sports Editor Steve Scott.

“A PM with a genuine interest in sport and its many benefits can fast-track policy in an area that most predecessors have not prioritised."

What are the biggest challenges he will face?

“To tackle the inactivity crisis in Britain’s schools. It is something that is having a serious and lasting impact, both physically and mentally, on a generation of schoolchildren.

Boris Johnson is playing a difficult wicket in office. Credit: PA

“The ramifications of doing nothing can, at their extreme, affect everything from unmanageable demand on the NHS to an increase in crime.”

What one measure could he take to make a difference?

“Follow the advice of the UK's own chief medical officer and enforce a policy requiring schoolchildren to be active for 60 minutes of every day.”

  • The Brexit impact on consumers

“The new PM will have a lot on his plate, and more literally than he might think!” writes Consumer Editor Chris Choi.

“Britain's food laws will be at the forefront of a likely new trade deal with the USA - and chlorinated chicken is just the start.”

What are his biggest challenges?

“There is only one group with a more powerful voice than voters - and that is consumers.

British meat eaters are hoping new trade deals maintain food standard levels. Credit: PA

“A botched Brexit could threaten standards, choice, rights and price.”

What decision could he take that would be most welcomed?

“Many consumer rights are derived from EU legislation (everything from flight delays to roaming mobile phone charges).

“The new PM will face widespread anger if customers find these are eroded.”

  • Avoiding a right Royal gaffe

“The respected Victorian constitutional writer Walter Bagehot once wrote that the Sovereign has three rights when it comes to her prime minister: ‘the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn’,” writes Royal Editor Chris Ship.

“In reality, in 2019, not a lot changes with the arrival of the Queen's 14th prime minister. The relationship between the monarch and prime minister is strictly formal and doesn't influence policy.”

The Queen and Boris Johnson will now meet on a weekly basis. Credit: PA

What are the biggest challenges either will face?

“For Boris Johnson, as with his predecessors, maintaining a smooth public and respectful image for the royal family will be the aim.

“The biggest change for The Queen is saying goodbye to only her second female prime minister in her long 67 year reign. She was not known for having a particularly warm relationship with her first one - Margaret Thatcher - though it’s understood The Queen welcomed the arrival of another woman for her weekly audiences.”

What decision could Boris Johnson take that would be most welcomed?

“As mentioned above, the Queen maintains a strict neutrality on political matters. However, the royal family campaign on a wide variety of issues, so government commitments to support the likes of mental health and environmental issues they publicly champion would surely be welcomed.”

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