But the Prime Minister faces a host of potential pitfalls along the way as tax rises and a cost of living crisis risk plunging his administration into deeper trouble.
Levelling up white paper
The Levelling Up policy paper is due to put much-needed meat on the bones of the PM’s flagship policy. Due to be published before Christmas, it was delayed until the New Year only to be pushed back again to the end of the month due to the Omicron wave. The plans are expected to be a mix of broader, long-term public policy plans to boost infrastructure and homeownership, along with shorter term proposals to devolve more decision-making powers, and focusing on tangible measures to clean up towns and boost civic pride.
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Mr Johnson will also hope that two pieces of legislation currently making their way through Parliament will give him some substantial red meat to throw to his voters. The first is the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which No10 hopes will enable the Government to show it is getting tough on crime – an area the Conservatives fear it is losing ground to Labour. The new laws will clamp down on people’s right to protest, and bring in tougher sentences for people who attach themselves to another person or object, such as those behind the Insulate Britain protests. It also beefs up stop and search powers and introduces longer sentences for certain crimes as part of the Government’s attempt to show it is taking crime more seriously.
Nationality and Borders Bill
The second crucial piece of legislation is the Nationality and Borders Bill, which is now in the House of Lords. The issue of small boat crossings has become a significant thorn in the Prime Minister’s side, with Tory MPs regularly stating it was becoming a major issue on the doorstep. The Government hopes the bill will “fix” the asylum system, removing the “pull” factors that draw visa-less migrants to the UK, while giving more powers to the authorities to remove people who are deemed to have no right to be in the country. While popular among the Tory right, it is controversial among human rights groups.
Online Safety Bill
MPs will finally begin debating the Online Safety Bill after years of delays and following Mr Johnson’s broken promise to table the legislation before Christmas. The bill will seek to introduce a raft of voter-friendly policies, including bringing in independent regulation over the social media giants, including imposing a “duty of care” on firms to remove harmful content and toughen up laws around online abuse. The bill is expected to be hit by a host of amendments, and is unlikely to become law until next year.
Among the major clouds on the horizon for Mr Johnson is the rising cost of energy bills for both businesses and households. The PM has effectively ruled out cutting the 5 per cent VAT on energy bills, branding it a “blunt instrument”. But with a review of the energy cap due in April likely to bring far higher energy costs for consumers, he will need to come up with some solutions or risk presiding over a hit to the public’s pockets.
Cost of living crisis
Rising energy costs are a symptom of a wider cost of living crisis that is looming for the electorate, and one that the Prime Minister will need to seriously grapple with. Inflation caused by the challenges in global supply chains, Brexit and the pandemic will begin to bite this year, while the new Health and Social Care levy will come in this April, further reducing people’s spending power.