William Hague: Boris Johnson ‘trying to drive along the M1 with flat tyres’

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Former Conservative leader William Hague says Boris Johnson has experienced a ‘greater level of rejection’ than any of his predecessors and should quit the premiership (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)
Former Conservative leader William Hague says Boris Johnson has experienced a ‘greater level of rejection’ than any of his predecessors and should quit the premiership (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson faces the political equivalent of “trying to drive along the M1 with two flat tyres,” former Tory leader Lord Hague said on Tuesday.

The senior Conservative predicted that the Prime Minister would not “get to the end of the motorway” after the confidence vote which he won with 211 MPs backing him but 148 rebelling.

Lord Hague told Times Radio: “What is going to happen now, I imagine that Boris Johnson will say ‘it’s business as usual’ and the Cabinet will rally around and everybody will take stock while two by-elections take place.

“But there is a big problem here.

“This isn’t viable actually when more than 40 per cent of your party vote against you, particularly when nobody really organised that, that’s the extraordinary thing..there was no plot or conspiracy or group of people whipping people to vote against Boris Johnson.”

He added: “More than 40 per cent decided really on their own to vote against him. That is very difficult then to proceed as party leader in the long (term).

“This is like trying to drive along the M1 with two flat tyres.

“You can say you are at the steering wheel but is it really viable, you are not going to get to the end of the motorway.

“I think that is the reality.

“How does it end, it’s impossible to foresee, accept that it won’t end well.”

He also said he understood that some Cabinet ministers were unhappy about the situation, though so far they have all remained loyal.

But the Prime Minister told reporters in Downing Street: “I think it’s an extremely good, positive, conclusive, decisive result which enables us to move on, to unite and to focus on delivery and that is exactly what we are going to do.”

He rejected the assertion that he was now a lame duck prime minister who needed to call a snap election to secure a new mandate from the public, insisting he was focused on the public’s priorities.

Watch: Boris Johnson still faces major challenges despite confidence vote victory

Lord Hague noted he did not face a confidence vote while leader of the opposition from 1997 to 2001, but added he “would have regarded my position as completely untenable if more than a third of my MPs had ever voted against me”.

“The nature of this particular revolt makes it qualitatively as well as quantitatively devastating,” he wrote in a piece for the Times.

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

“A fairly narrow victory for Boris Johnson is not the defeat of a rival faction, or the squashing of an alternative candidate, but rather the fending-off of a gathering feeling of hopelessness.

“It is less likely to prove a turning point than a way marker on an exhausting road to further crises of confidence.

“That is the worst possible result from the Conservative Party’s point of view. Logically, they should either reconcile themselves to Johnson and get behind him, or decisively eject him and move on to a new leader. It does not seem they have done either.”

The ballot was triggered after at least 54 MPs – 15% of the party’s representatives in the Commons – formally indicated they had no confidence in the Prime Minister.

Mr Johnson could suffer further blows in two key by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton on June 23.

“No individual in politics matters more than the health of our democracy,” Lord Hague wrote.

“That health depends on voters having faith in the integrity of leaders even if they disagree with them, respect for how government is conducted, and a competitive choice at a future election.

“The votes just cast show that a very large part of the Conservative Party cannot see Johnson providing that.”

The view was shared by North West Leicestershire Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who shared the article saying: “Lord Hague is right. The residual concerns from across the party will continue to remain.”

“Last night’s vote is worse in percentage terms than that suffered by Mrs May and on a par with Heseltine’s challenge against Mrs Thatcher,” he added in another tweet.

“The Prime Minister should now leave with honour and residual affection for what he has achieved.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting