This week Boris Johnson victoriously returned to parliament with not only a big majority, but also a new generation of loyal Conservative MPs by his side. The prime minister now has the parliamentary arithmetic required to deliver on his promise to 'Get Brexit Done' by 31 January and turbo-charge his domestic agenda.
This week we look at the events of Boris's first week back walking the corridors of power, and what it might tell us about the future of his premiership.
Brexit, bills and beyond
Today parliament voted in favour of the second reading of Boris Johnson's Withdrawal Bill, despite Labour whipping its MPs not to back the motion. With Johnson's blue army of new MP's certain to support the bill at the final stages, the PM will be able to deliver on his deadline of 31 January and we will be entering the transition period with the EU just in time to see off any 'dry-Jan' pledges.
However, the bill is not the same one that the PM tried to pass before the election, as there have been a number of amends and omissions. The new bill waters down commitments to take unaccompanied refugee children from Europe and removes sections of the legislation that protects workers' rights and requires ministers to provide updates to parliament on the future trading relationship.
Unwilling to give up the fight just yet, Johnson's commitment to legislating for Brexit by the end of 2021 has caused waves amongst some remainer MPs. In particular, Layla Moran, tipped by some to be Jo Swinson's replacement as Lib Dem leader, has come out against the plans to enshrine the date into law, suggesting it is a back door to a no-deal Brexit.
A royal round-up
On Thursday, Her Majesty opened parliament with the second Queen's speech of 2019. The ceremony was the first in many years not to be punctuated by the heckling of Black Rod from Dennis Skinner, who lost his Bolsover seat to Tory MP Mark Fletcher during the crumbling of the 'red wall'. The size of the Tory majority and the lack of strong opposition means that a Conservative government is highly likely for the next 10-15 years, a fact Johnson noted by labelling his legislative agenda a "ten year plan for Britain".
The speech included commitments to repeal the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, introduce a points-based immigration system and legislate into law the £34bn funding boost promised to the NHS. The pledges demonstrated that the political centre of gravity has shifted, with the government keen to use its majority to reshape post-Brexit Britain in their image.
In particular, pledges giving hospitals the powers to develop new medicines to tackle serious illnesses and enhancing the sentences given to convicted terrorists formed a key pillar of the government's agenda. They will hope that a commitment to invest in public services, combined with a tough law and order approach will tighten their hold on those "red wall" seats it managed to win off Labour.
A new bill to build one million homes during the lifetime of the parliament was also proposed, with the Conservatives knowing that house ownership is a key issue for many young voters the party have struggled to win over in recent elections. The government is hoping that its new found majority will give it the ability to implement solutions to the housing crisis, and potentially win back some of the elusive youth vote.
Despite the smiles from Tory backbenchers however, not all those listening to Boris' grand plan for Britain were impressed. In fact, it wasn't long after the Queen had left her seat in the Lords before cracks began to show in the PM's shopping list of domestic ambitions. As pointed out by members of the shadow cabinet, the government's plan to increase the national living wage to £10.50 an hour is contingent on the economy continuing to prosper. Alongside this, doubts have also been cast due to the lack of a coherent social care strategy beyond a pledge to undertake 'cross-party talks' on long term reform. The opposition's ability to make hay on this, however, has been limited due to Labour's lame duck leadership.
Out with Corbyn, in with...?
After Labour's worst election defeat since 1935, Jeremy Corbyn will be stepping down in March once the party has elected a new leader. While many Labour MPs want Corbyn to step down immediately, he is refusing, stating that he wants to oversee a "period of reflection" within the party.
With the contest not officially getting underway until the new year, a couple of contenders have stepped forward already. Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry and shadow minister for sustainable economics Clive Lewis have thrown their hats into the ring.
Thornberry, who represents Corbyn's neighbouring seat in Islington, is likely to be perceived as a member of the North London elite who is unable to win back seats in the former northern heartlands. For his part, Lewis' derogatory comments towards women caught on camera at the 2017 Labour conference are likely to harm his chances, although his pledges for even more party membership involvement in policy could gain him some grassroots support.
The upcoming leadership election is already being described as a battle for the soul of the Labour Party. The Corbynista establishment seem to be coalescing behind shadow chief secretary to the treasury, Rebecca Long Bailey, as the best way to continue the Corbyn project. For the more moderate wing of the party, 2015 leadership contender Yvette Cooper is mulling a run. Additionally, MPs from the party's soft left tradition such as Jess Phillips, Lisa Nandy and shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer are all widely expected to enter the race, with the latter all but launching his leadership bid in an interview with the Today programme earlier this week.
At the heart of the election will be the extent to which the hard left continue to dominate the party and its institutions. The moderate wing of the party has launched a "rebuild Labour" campaign to recruit moderates to the party and topple the Corbynista advantage amongst current members. This will be no easy task however, and it seems unlikely than any leadership contender will triumph without embracing many of the polices contained in the 2017 and 2019 manifestos.
Same same but different
If you thought the retirement and defeat of ministers Nicky Morgan and Zac Goldsmith meant that you had seen the last of them in front line politics, you'd have been surprised to see both reappointed to their former roles, having been awarded peerages by the PM. They are expected to serve in their roles at least until a wider reshuffle is undertaken in February. This is a move that demonstrates the power that comes from winning a large majority.
In less surprising news, the Scottish parliament has passed a motion calling for a second Scottish independence referendum, but only if the UK government allows one to proceed. The ongoing battle between Sturgeon and Johnson will be an interesting one, with both claiming an election mandate for their respective positions for and against a further referendum. Expect to see this one rumble on into the new year, as both sides prepare for the Scottish parliament elections in 2021.
This week set the tone for the first full term of the Johnson government. As expected, Brexit and Scotland dominated the agenda, but Labour's infighting and the large Tory majority meant that the PM faced little scrutiny on his legislative agenda. He will no doubt be delighted that Corbyn is staying on until at least March, and will hope that Labour remain distracted as his Brexit plan is implemented at the end of January.