Known as a charismatic and energetic campaigner who is happy to mingle, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was thought to be the Conservative Party’s greatest asset. With the simple slogan of “Get Brexit done,” many analysts have predicted he will be staying at No. 10 Downing Street into 2020.But it has not turned out to be plain sailing for Johnson ahead of the national election on Dec. 12.A recent trip to crisis-hit communities in the north of England, where severe flooding submerged houses and cut off vast swathes of towns and roads, gave Johnson a large dose of reality as locals were caught excoriating him.In Doncaster, South Yorkshire — long a bastion of the opposition Labour Party — Johnson approached one woman busy clearing up flood damage to ask how she was doing.”I’m alright, thank you, but I’m not very happy about talking to you,” she said Nov. 13, holding a wheelbarrow as the broadcast cameras rolled. “You’ve not helped us … I don’t know what you’re for today.” The unnamed woman’s withering response was filmed by broadcast news cameras and widely shared on social media.
The government has been widely criticized in flood-hit communities for a slow response. Some families claim they received no assistance or even any communication for 48 hours as their homes and businesses were ruined. The U.K. Environment Agency estimates that more than 800 properties have been flooded but media reports suggest the real figure could be double this.Even more awkwardly that day, the prime minister was shunned at a local community center nearby where flooded families were sheltering.After refusing to shake his hand, one woman said: “Why has it taken you so long, five days Boris, to come and see us?””The people who were walking in here, Boris, you didn’t see them — little girls from Fishlake with no shoes on their feet, a 78-year-old lady, Boris,” the woman, who didn’t give her name to the rolling TV cameras, said as she summed up the local mood.The Conservative Party has now been in power either governing alone or as part of a coalition for almost 10 years. The early part of their reign focused on reducing the United Kingdom’s public debt through punishing public service cuts and measures to boost the economy and the housing market.Now, Johnson has made getting Brexit done his number-one priority, amid various populist public spending promises on health care that reverse the party’s previous spendthrift approach.