Mary Horner explores the potential ramifications of Johnson’s ministry on the students of Glasgow
For many of us, Boris Johnson’s ascension to the position of Prime Minister brings (yet again) a wave of uncertainty into our current political climate.
Am I surprised that Johnson, the man who got stuck on a zipwire during the London 2012 Olympics, is our new Prime Minister? Sadly, no. The last few years have seen Britain’s plan to leave the EU crumble - and the PM who promised to make Brexit happen resign after three years of limited success. So how can we be shocked that yet another PM not voted in by the public, is regurgitating the promise of leaving the EU (this time by 31 October)?
Students in Glasgow seem to have varied opinions on the effect that Johnson’s policies will have on them specifically, but it’s clear that there is a dislike and even a growing resentment towards the new PM. One view I can certainly get behind is from a third-year student at the university, who said “it’s his aura of incompetence” that will make Johnson unlikely to attract the youth of Glasgow. Another student, when asked if the youth would support Johnson, found that question the easiest to answer, responding with a decisive “No". Commenting on the rise of politically charged students, he cleverly highlighted that Johnson’s "gift of continuously offending people and denying it" means that “no policy of his will ever redeem him in [the students’] eyes”.
Will the new PM’s policies affect international students wanting to study in Glasgow even more so than UK nationals? We’ll have to wait and see. Immigration has (and always will be) a huge topic which PMs are expected to comment on. Johnson has made it clear that he wants "our immigration system [to] attract the very best minds from around the world”. But is this just a ploy to distract us from the bitter truth that Brexit, and a possible no-deal, will uncover? One could argue that Johnson is limiting the amount of diversity within immigration by advertising that he only wants the “best minds”; thus hinting that he’d want only the highest academically performing international students allowed into the UK. With plans to dish out funding to universities, he hopes more international students will be encouraged to seek endorsement from higher education. It’s unclear as to how far he will go to achieve a new level of “greatness” for the UK, but it’s obvious that he is most interested in those who are deemed academically superior.
With Glasgow’s students directly suffering from the failings of the NHS (for example University Barclay Medical Practice being deemed unfit for purpose), it should be a relief that the new PM has promised to plough £250 million into the NHS. But it’s not. He has outlined his interest in the use of artificial intelligence to troubleshoot issues such as long waiting times, despite healthcare professionals making it clear that AI usage has thus far been unable to single-handedly transform the NHS.
However hard I try, I just can’t take a word of what he says seriously. How can we trust a man who wants to deny Scotland the right to another referendum? How can we trust a man who (as part of the "Leave" campaign in 2016) claimed that £350 million a week would be given back to Britain as a result of Brexit? Despite his bold and ambitious claims, I don’t think us students will benefit from the "improved" NHS that Boris has promised to deliver.
But there are a few silver linings to the grey clouds ahead. His idea of strengthening Britain as a union seems to be driving more Scots towards the idea of independence. A recent poll showed that 52% (of the 1019 adults asked) would vote "yes" to an independent Scotland, and would want it by 2022. So perhaps Johnson’s excessive jingoism and firm belief that “together we are safer, stronger and more prosperous” might just be enough to push Scots towards more dramatic approaches in gaining independence. Boris’ domestic policies are certainly going to affect the lives of students in Glasgow, but not in the way that he envisions. Does he really think that Scotland is going to relax it’s fight for independence just because he wants to “renew the ties that bind our United Kingdom”? It goes without saying that the students in Glasgow are more than willing to voice their political views, especially when their chance for an independent nation is becoming more under threat. Even if Johnson’s policies do significantly affect the lives of students here in Glasgow, maybe Scotland won’t be subject to his leadership for much longer.
Whether Johnson miraculously delivers on all his promises or falls behind the mark, I believe his actual policies aren’t going to make momentous changes to students specifically. What I think will hit a nerve with students in Glasgow is the way that Boris has glossed over the voices of a whole country (with regards to an independence referendum). It’s his overconfidence and blind optimism in the “bright future” of the UK after Brexit that I feel will drive Scottish students towards cutting ties with the jingoistic PM. His archaic and slightly colonial view that people will look back on his era as the beginning of a new age is quite frankly setting himself up for backlash amongst students in Glasgow (and the UK) alike.