OPINION - If you’re the Queen, Boris Johnson is just another PM on the brink

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 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

It confirms my worst suspicions of how the rest of the world sees us. The chair of the 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, may already be in receipt of the 54 letters necessary to trigger a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister. But he’s holding off from making any announcement until after the country has thrown a huge party for the Queen.

Her Majesty, of course, has seen it all before. Boris Johnson is her 14th prime minister, and that is only of the UK. She has had more than 170 people serve as heads of government from across the Commonwealth.

But Johnson endured a particularly bad day yesterday. In addition to further calls for him to go in the wake of the publication of the Sue Gray report, his independent ethics advisor, Lord Geidt, published a pretty damning report of his own.

Geidt’s writing does not make for an easy read. If the Gray report was written in Civil Service-ese, then Geidt has composed his out of heavy grade tar and treacle. But one section stands out:

“I have attempted to avoid the Independent Adviser offering advice to a Prime Minister about a Prime Minister’s obligations under his own Ministerial Code. If a Prime Minister’s judgement is that there is nothing to investigate or no case to answer, he would be bound to reject any such advice, thus forcing the resignation of the Independent Adviser.”

As far as I can tell, Geidt is explicitly acknowledging that he could have advised Johnson to follow the Ministerial Code but, knowing this would be ignored or rejected, and that he [Geidt] would himself have to resign in such circumstances, he has avoided doing so.

He concludes: “Such a circular process could only risk placing the Ministerial Code in a place of ridicule.” As if it wasn’t already.

All this being said, it remains actually quite hard for Tory leaders to lose a confidence vote. Johnson *should* enjoy the support of the payroll vote – MPs in paid roles (though, confusingly, it includes some in unpaid positions) who would normally be expected to resign from their positions to vote against the government. The Institute for Government places that figure at between 160-170, and helpfully shows its workings here.

Instability at the top of government is nothing new – Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, was herself forced out by her party, while David Cameron resigned and Gordon Brown faced weekly coup attempts. But it makes for a timely juxtaposition with the Queen’s longevity.

Sure, it helps that she doesn’t have to seek election. But there’s something to be said for stability, particularly in a time of great upheaval. And the monarchy stands as one of the few institutions (Bank of England, Supreme Court, Parliament) that the Government hasn’t sought to undermine.

For fans of Italian football, the Queen has been the Massimo Moratti to our prime ministers’ hapless head coaches. (Inter Milan went through 20 managers during Moratti’s 19 years as chairman).

As for what these events – the street parties, the bunting and parades while Tory MPs hand in clandestine letters – say about us as a country? Perhaps simply that we’re the kind that parties for its monarch while its Prime Minister fights for his political life.

In the comment pages, broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby says that the Queen has perfected the art of changing to keep everything the same. While from ‘Platty Joobs’ to Kardashian royalty and Queen NFTs, Emma Loffhagen thinks this jubilee couldn’t be *more* 2022.

And finally, your flight can’t get cancelled if you never booked it. Grab your swimming costume, we’re all going on a (British) summer holiday with our guide to the best under-the-radar beaches to visit without leaving the country.

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