A deluge of ministers and officials pressured the PM into resigning, many of whom had been vociferously but hypocritically supporting him only 24 hours before.
London: Boris Johnson becomes the third British Prime Minister in a row to resign. What a state of affairs for democracy—the PM with the largest share of the vote since 1979, is brought down by vipers in his own party. In his “resignation statement”, the PM made a subtle dig about this. He talked about his mandate from voters, his commitment and being herded out; clearly he was reluctant to stand down and said he will continue to serve until a new leader/PM is decided. Johnson has some worthy policy ideas but it is the behaviour within the party and his own U-turns, his cavalier attitude to crises and management, and the ubiquitous Conservative sexual shenanigans, that gave the Tory rebels the wherewithal to stage a campaign against him. The PM, who smashed the Red Wall, delivered Brexit and got the UK out of lockdown, couldn’t control the Dominic Cummings-inspired narrative of Tory rebels, the Boris-hating media, the Brexit hating-left and the Scottish nationalists.
A deluge of ministers and officials pressured the PM into resigning, many of whom had been vociferously but hypocritically supporting him only 24 hours before; many of whom owe their standing to Johnson as they were nobodies before Johnson placed them in government.
Many of the Boris 2019 intake turned turtle. The whole of the past 24 hours (Wednesday through to Thursday) smacks of conspiracy. Why would the new Education Secretary who replaced Nadim Zahawi then resign after only a few hours? Could she have been lured into a plot and seduced with a job offer by the conspirator? Who are the conspirators? According to the Times, Nadim Zahawi has been preparing his leadership bid for several months, with Sir Lynton Crosby, Johnson’s erstwhile campaign guru from City Hall; and Michael Gove has shown a treacherous penchant before in 2016.
It is not beyond the realms of the imagination for the conspirators to have realised that the current toxic situation was tarring them and that they wanted to distance themselves quick; thus a coordinated effort was made to gather all those who had previously voted no confidence in the PM together and to influence others who were undecided. Genuine pro-Boris supporters say he should have called a snap-election following the 1922 no confidence vote, which he would have won. But alas, he was not given that advice; these supporters look back fondly at the City Hall backroom team that advised Johnson as Mayor, Sir Eddie Lister, Mark Fulbrook and Sir Lynton Crosby. No10 does not seem to have had the benefit of such a team, and Lynton Crosby must have lost confidence in Johnson’s set up to have defected to Nadim Zahawi.
The rebels are demanding that the PM “go now” and not wait until after the ballot. Could this be because they are concerned he could reinvent himself by the autumn?
Thankfully, a general election is some way off as it is likely that an SNP and Labour alliance would be the result, which would damage UK prospects long-term. Johnson’s departure could leave the Northern Ireland Protocol in limbo, if it is not negotiable it would be in jeopardy; an SNP-Labour alliance might just decide to re-join the EU customs union, which would be a step towards the European Union. Where would that leave the FTAs with countries outside the EU? It would also reawaken the Brexit Party.
A CROWDED RACE
So who are the runners and riders in the Tory leadership contest? It is quite a crowded race with no clear frontrunner.
* Rishi Sunak was first to declare immediately after suggesting Chancellor might have been his last ministerial post. Sunak is using the slogan “ReadyforRishi” and is campaigning to restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country. The fiscally responsible candidate Rishi so far has the most notable and numerous MPs behind his bid.
* Suella Braverman, former Attorney General known mostly within the Party, is already stepping up her profile; in a boon to her campaign Steve Baker has backed her, instead of standing himself. Baker is relaunching Conservative Way Forward on 11 July.
* Tom Tugendhat has not yet been a minister but is well known for his forensic work on Select Committees—very thorough and all over the detail. If his bid failed he would also love to be Foreign Minister.
* Ben Wallace, Defence Minister, so popular for his handling and support of Ukraine, he leads the polls for the leadership successor, yet it is uncertain if he will declare.
* Penny Mordant, dark horse with big ambition and the bookies’ favourite, social liberal and Royal Navy Reservist, has more support than others may think.
* Liz Truss, chameleon and originally a remainer, models herself on Margaret Thatcher, and coined the Network of Liberty slogan.
* Nadim Zahawi, Iraqi origin, has given himself an advantage, as Chancellor as he can throw red meat at voters to enhance his chances.
* Sajid Javid, resignation ringleader, many ministerial posts, well liked moderate, not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Javid’s 2019 leadership campaign was sentimental about Great Britain and family.
* Jeremy Hunt, former Health and Foreign Secretary, no friend or fan of Boris Johnson.
Priti Patel, Brexiteer Home Secretary formerly known as Johnson’s most loyal supporter.
Kemi Badenoch, Rehman Chishti and John Baron are all preparing to participate in the leadership election.
Curiously, Michael Gove is on nobody’s lips. Previously, Dominic Cummings was Gove’s advisor at the Department of Education.
And there may be some surprise candidates to add to this list when the time comes, a rumour is being whispered that some Conservative Associations are demanding that Boris Johnson be on the ballot, and if he received 1/3rd of the vote he should stay.
Can the Conservative Party overcome their toxic infighting and elect a leader who can reach the parts that Boris Johnson reached?