Voices: The Tories could’ve had Boris Johnson out before the jubilee – but they bottled it

·4-min read
Tory prime ministers have a tendency of surviving this kind of thing, but not for very long (AP)
Tory prime ministers have a tendency of surviving this kind of thing, but not for very long (AP)

The main thing in Boris Johnson’s diary on Monday 6 June 2022, in these perma-crisis times, was meant to be a meeting with the Estonian prime minister.

The timing has turned out to be doubly unfortunate, what with both of them facing the prospect of their governments collapsing before the end of the week. But the symmetries very much do end there.

Ms Kallas is in trouble because she had the courage to boot the Russian apologists out of her ruling coalition. Johnson is in trouble because he lacked the courage to boot some pissed special advisers out of his back garden.

And, well, maybe it’s that that’s finally compelled his colleagues to act, not that it’s going to make much difference.

Respect, of course, to Sir Graham Brady, the man whose job it is to count how many letters he’s received, and who seems to have been at it on loop for as long as anyone can now remember.

He strolled out in front of the cameras at eight o clock this morning to make it abundantly clear that he’s been sitting on quite a stack of them for ages but that nobody wanted to spoil the Queen’s Jubilee.

I mean, lads, come on. You’ve been stinking the place out for a very long time now. Imagine the scenes if you’d just pulled the plug on Wednesday. Then the whole country really would have had something to celebrate.

At time of typing, the fevered speculation is that Johnson can’t possibly lose. There is excitable counting up going on, over whether Johnson is going to make it to the magic 180 mark. It is this that has prompted such historic scenes as Andrea Jenkyns feeling the need to scream into her iphone about how great Boris Johnson is while standing outside the toilet of an express train to London. The wheels of history are turning, and also, don’t forget there are a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, hot and cold sandwiches and snacks available from the on-board cafe in Coach C.

We’re already nearing triple figures in public oaths of allegiance, but a few warrant special mention. Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, really does reckon, in his own words, “In the fight against crime there can be no better leader than Boris Johnson.”

Kit Malthouse has worked with Johnson since he was London mayor so we have to stand and applaud the courage required to come out with this quite breathtaking pisstake. Mate, in the fight against crime, Boris Johnson, failed to prevent at least 126 crimes happening in his own house, at least one of which was by him, (the other the police decided not to look into.)

There’s also the fact that what has prompted many of his colleagues to act is an opinion poll that puts them 20 points behind in a by-election in Wakefield, which has been called because their own MP has been convicted of the sexual assault of a child. Oh, and one chap taking part in the vote of no confidence will almost certainly be the one who’s been arrested on suspicion of rape, but who hasn’t had the whip removed.

(These things do have a charming symmetry don’t they. When Theresa May went through all this four years ago, the “Party of Law and Order” actually restored the whip to the MP who’d been charged with sexual assault. For the avoidance of doubt, that was a different MP. There’s always one, and usually several.)

Will he win? Probably. The problem, apparently, is that there’s no obvious successor, not least as Rishi Sunak’s been fined for breaking the law as well. One does wonder whether that isn’t a sign of a rather deep malaise.

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Boris Johnson met his now wife when she was head of the Conservative Party press office, her job being to ensure favourable news coverage for the Conservatives. That she has now gone on to organise an illegal surprise birthday party for the prime minister, which appears to have totalled the two most senior members of the government, does suggest that maybe the problems go way back.

And forward, as well. Tory prime ministers have a tendency of surviving this kind of thing, but not for very long. The Conservatives appear to have worked out that their leader is a liability. One wonders what they’ll gain by publicly affirming their support for him. Here’s a radical theory. Maybe, just maybe, none of them have got a clue what they’re doing.