Theresa May & Boris Johnson

The appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary was a shrewd political move from Prime Minister Theresa May.

Norway and Finland have included populist politicians in their governments. The results have been encouraging. Once in government both the True Finns and the Norwegian Progress Party have proved to be more pragmatic and serious than most observers would have considered possible before they entered the government.

Could the same formula work in the UK?

Giving Nigel Farage a seat in the government would never have worked. His party has no power base in the parliament.

Boris Johnson is an entirely different matter. His is the leading party in the UK. He was one of the leaders of the populist revolt against the status quo. And, having been a mayor of London, he actually has leadership experience to draw on.

Co-operating with a populist politician is always risky. In the Netherlands, the populists reneged on a deal they had made with the government. Instead of supporting spending cuts as they had promised they forced the country into an early election.

Boris Johnson may end up being a new Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch populists who reneged on his promise. Or he may end up being a new Timo Soini, the leader of the True Finns who has thus far been a loyal member of the Finnish government. Or he may become a great foreign minister of a great European power. We do not know.

But we do know that giving him a chance to prove himself is a win-win decision for the new British Prime Minister. If he succeeds, Prime Minister May will be congratulated. If he fails, a new person will fill the post.

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