Boris Johnson could play a political masterstroke as he enters No 10, says STEPHEN POLLARD

He hasn't yet taken office but he is already being relentlessly attacked as a British version of Donald Trump: a Right-wing populist who will say and do anything to secure power. I'm no particular fan of Mr Johnson. But while there are sensible reasons to worry about his suitability to be PM, the idea that he is some kind of British Trump is simply ridiculous and reveals far more about those making the accusation than it does about Mr Johnson. Both in his record as Mayor of London and throughout the leadership campaign he has behaved as a mainstream liberal Conservative – far more of a "wet" (to use the old Thatcherite terminology) than the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and the Right of the Tory party.

For one thing, you do not win elections as mayor in a liberal and ethnically diverse city like London if you are not seen as being a champion of diversity.

One of Boris Johnson's very first decisions as foreign secretary was to lift the ban on British embassies flying the rainbow flag of gay pride.

He has repeatedly made clear that he is in favour of more, not less, immigration – with one reason for his support for Brexit apparently being his desire to see immigrants from outside the EU get a fair crack of the whip.

As he put it during his time as mayor: "I'm probably about the only politician I know of who is actually willing to stand up and say that he's pro-immigration."

It's often forgotten that when he compared women who wear the burqa to letterboxes, he was actually defending their (and anyone else's) right to wear what they want – although his language may have been misguided.

Whatever else he may be, Mr Johnson is not an idiot.

He knows there are two groups which threaten his time as prime minister, both of which he has somehow to win over.

On the one hand are the hardline Brexiteers in the Commons who see No-deal as some kind of test of ideological purity.

We can argue about the problems of leaving without a deal until the cows come home (or, until October 31) but at a time when the Conservative Party had to be led by a Brexiteer, he was the effective leader of the Leave campaign.

If there is one person capable of persuading those hardline colleagues to agree to some sort of deal, surely it is Boris Johnson.

Whether and for how long he remains as PM will depend on this.

Then, if he delivers Brexit he will also neutralise the Brexit Party, aiding the Tories' electoral prospects.

There is another group he needs to woo if the Conservatives are to return to election-winning support: floating Labour voters.

The sort of voters, that is, who David Cameron was able to prise away from Labour in 2010 and 2015.

He has one huge asset in doing this: Jeremy Corbyn, who is anathema to such centrist voters.

These are the people who voted for him in 2008 and 2012 to be Mayor of London.

But if he governed as a Rightwing populist he would not stand a chance of winning their votes come the next election.

We have already seen how he will run his administration because it's how he ran City Hall as mayor.

He describes it as being a company chairman who decides overall strategy and lets the rest of his team bring it to fruition.

In this vein, he is surely likely to appoint people with particular skills and drum up two or three flagship policy ideas that will define his government beyond Brexit.

Last week, for example, he pledged to end the injustice of families having to sell their homes to pay for dementia care.

What could be a better legacy than being the first prime minister to actually move towards a sustainable settlement of our social care crisis?

But as events in the Strait of Hormuz show, even the best laid plans can be hit by events.

Boris Johnson faces a difficult enough time as PM with a majority of four – which will almost certainly be just three after the Brecon and Radnor by-election on August 1.

Now there are rumours of Tory MPs defecting to the LibDems.

God help us if they open up the possibility of Jeremy Corbyn as PM.

Mr Johnson may be far from perfect.

But if he plays his cards well, he could grab the centre ground and appease the Brexit lobby.

That really would be a political masterstroke.

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