A Weakened Boris Johnson probably suits the majority of Westminster MPs. Unfortunately for the Conservative Party, those with the most to gain sit on the benches opposite. Few voters know exactly what Labor and the Liberal Democrats stand for, but both parties believe many other Tory seats will be vulnerable at the next general election if Mr Johnson stays in office. It is a reasonable belief. The government is out of ideas and exhausted. Compounding Tory desperation is the fact that Mr Johnson presides over an openly divided party.
On Monday night, more than four in 10 of his colleagues said Mr Johnson should leave. That rebels can be found in all wings of the party, rather than an organized faction, is an indication of the extent of the spread of the rot. Tory MPs would no doubt keep Mr Johnson if he helped them keep their jobs. The problem is that opinion polls show that Mr Johnson is neither popular neither of confidence – same among conservative voters. The ruling party is right to fear election retaliation, which will likely materialize this month in two by-elections in which scandal-hit Tory MPs quit.
With such backbench resentment, it’s hard to see how Mr Johnson will get all 38 Bills through in his Queen’s Speech to Parliament. The Prime Minister has failed to convince the public that he has the answers to household incomes being squeezed by inflation and public services under strain. breaking point post-pandemic. His rhetoric of ready-made solutions and easy wheezes might have been funny once, but no one laughs in a crisis. Voters will not believe a Prime Minister who has repeatedly failed to tell the truth about the Downing Street pandemic party.
It will take more than a reshuffle to restore confidence in Mr Johnson’s premiership. He won’t fool anyone with a rightward drift that voters will see as a ploy to buy off backbench MPs’ displeasure. A program of tax cuts and privatization must do more than get the hearts of right-wing Conservative MPs racing. The Prime Minister is by instinct a profoundly unserious politician. With the NHS close to collapsing, Mr. Johnson offers nothing but bombast. Comparing the healthcare system to a DVD movie rental service in a “Netflix eramay sound adventurous in a press release. But offering bluster rather than detailed plans to deal with an NHS breakdown is likely to be electorally counterproductive.
Tory MPs may worry about the absence of anyone suitable to succeed Mr Johnson. The firm doesn’t have the courage to tell him to leave. But the Prime Minister is a walking dead man. He survives because no one wants to be responsible for finishing him off. It only delays the inevitable. The bet is that the rules of conservative leadership will be amended to allow the Prime Minister to face another challenge sooner than next June. The trigger could be the deputies of the standards committee deciding in the autumn that Mr Johnson had misled Parliament over the No 10 party during lockdown.
Paul Goodman, the editor of the Conservative Home website, wrote wisely that it would be better for Mr Johnson ‘to now go master of his own destiny, unbeaten at the polls…rather than be kicked out’. Unfortunately, these words will remain a dead letter. The country needs a new leadership, one that can produce policies, not just play the gallery. Mr Johnson is comfortable with lying in politics. Although he agreed on a customs border in the Irish Sea to make Brexit happen, he unlikely claims he did not. Mr Johnson was never fit to be Prime Minister. He has not been able to face the difficult choices that await him. Britain should be run by someone who can.