Here are the big gambles Johnson took to turn what was a nadir in Tory fortunes — plummeting to 22 percent this summer — into a landslide. He realized, unlike his peers, that ordinary people were close to revolt, and backed the cause of those left behind by the global economy, by grasping the Brexit issue. Without Johnson, the referendum would have been won by Remain. If he’d lost that referendum, his political career would have been over. The second big risk was quitting his own government when its Brexit plan seemed too soft, which he did by resigning as foreign secretary in the summer of 2018. And then, as the May deal failed to pass Parliament, he struck again — winning the leadership contest. In office, he rewrote the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement which the E.U. had said was nonnegotiable, and got his deal passed by a 30-vote majority.
Then the real gamble: Instead of sticking to getting Brexit done in Parliament, he called an early election to give himself a clear mandate for it. By fighting on the genius and simple slogan “Get Brexit Done,” he exposed the deep divides on the left, unified the right, and knocked his opponents for six (if you will forgive a cricket metaphor). But just as important, he moved the party sharply left on austerity, spending on public services, tax cuts for the working poor, and a higher minimum wage. He outflanked the far right on Brexit and shamelessly echoed the left on economic policy.
This is Trumpism without Trump. A conservative future without an ineffective and polarizing nutjob at the heart of it.