Voices: Boris Johnson won’t survive as an MP beyond the summer
In a couple of months, we could witness the spectacular end of Boris Johnson’s political career.
It seems incredible, given his profile, his still substantial fanbase in parliament (and among the Conservative membership, for whom he can do no wrong), and the fact, remarkable as it remains, that he secured a majority of more than 80 for the Tories at the last general election. How could he fall so fast, so soon?
Quite easily, really; and the steps to oblivion are almost preordained.
Step One to Johnson’s personal hell will be his appearance before the Commons privileges committee in the week beginning 20 March, to be arraigned for lying to parliament. It’s perfectly clear from the committee’s interim report that things are looking extremely bleak for Johnson.
Never the most impressive or plausible witness, his habitual buffoonery, bluster, banter and boosterism aren’t going to do him much good when he goes up against the likes of Harriet Harman, Bernard Jenkin and Charles Walker (steely-eyed and granite-faced, no doubt). He’s looking at a four-week stretch – a formal suspension from the Commons lasting 20 sitting days.
Unless Rishi Sunak launches some sort of rescue mission for Johnson (as if), the Commons will endorse the committee’s recommendation, and this is when the real slide can begin. The four-week suspension means that there can be a “recall petition” for a by-election in Johnson’s constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
Say the committee reports in late April or early May, and the Commons considers the matter shortly after, then a petition for a by-election would be automatically opened up by June. There’s then a six-week period when people can sign up, and about 7,000 would be needed (10 per cent of the electorate) to trigger the by-election.
That takes us to around mid-July, at which point the Commons would still be sitting. A summer by-election could be held in August or September – and Johnson, on current polling, would lose.
And that would be that for his current parliamentary career. Even if it were a realistic prospect, he couldn’t launch a leadership bid because he’d be ineligible.
Oblivion? Almost. Even if Johnson lost his by-election, he could still stand again in a safe seat, such as... well, there’s always Nadine Dorries’ former constituency of Mid Bedfordshire, where he might just about scrape home.
As they don’t quite say: you can’t keep a bad man down.