OPINION - The Standard View: With confidence vote, escape artist Boris Johnson faces his greatest test

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 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

For four days, politics, partygate and the Prime Minister’s future took a backseat as the nation celebrated the monarch and her Platinum Jubilee. But now, these issues have been thrust straight back on the agenda.

The threshold of 54 letters has been met and Boris Johnson this evening faces a vote of confidence in his leadership.

He starts with an advantage. The payroll vote, comprised of MPs who would be expected to resign in order to vote against the Government, sits at between 160 and 170 MPs, and the Prime Minister only needs 180 to win. Of course, this is a secret ballot.

That he faces a contest prior to two by-elections on June 23, the Privileges Committee investigation into whether he misled Parliament over partygate and without an obvious successor is testament to the strong feeling among Tory MPs.

Meanwhile, though the booing the Prime Minister endured over the weekend said nothing that scientific opinion polling did not already, images and sounds often reveal much more than numbers ever can. Moreover, a crowd of Jubilee partygoers, while not necessarily all true blue Tories, should at least be fertile ground for Johnson.

Today’s vote may at least serve as a pressure valve. Ever-present scheming, rumour and distraction are not conducive to good governance. Yet whatever the outcome, Johnson is likely to emerge damaged. Previous Tory leaders who survived leadership ballots, notably Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Theresa May, left office shortly thereafter.

Johnson is of course an escape artist and history shows he cannot be written off. Given the political and economic headwinds, another turnaround would perhaps have to be considered his greatest comeback yet.

Keep London moving

From royalists to republicans, following an extended weekend of festivities, London has a bit of a hangover this morning. Matters have not been helped by another Tube strike.

There is the usual finger-pointing over who is to blame. The RMT union says the industrial action is over proposals for 600 job cuts, working conditions and pensions. TfL counters that proposals tabled would lead to no job losses or changes to pensions and work arrangements.

As ever, it is Londoners who are suffering the consequence. And so close to the Jubilee, it will not leave the many tourists who made the trip with a favourable impression.

More fundamentally, after two years of lockdowns, disruption like this is the last thing our economy needs. Therefore all sides need to get around the negotiating table. Not only the RMT, and the Mayor but the Government, which has precipitated some of the problems with the strings it has attached to TfL bailouts.

Ultimately, there should be one unifying aim — to get London moving again.

What a party

Despite Covid, Brexit and the changeable weather, Britain still knows how to throw a party. And few can have been bigger or more deserved than that for the Queen as she celebrated her Platinum Jubilee.

From Basil Brush to the Phantom of the Opera, there was something for everyone as an Olympics 2012 spirit returned for the weekend.

Here’s a thought — let’s not wait another 70 years before doing it again.

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