With the wounding resignations of Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and other key tory ministers, the ship is rapidly taking on water for Boris Johnson. We look at the current landscape for the Prime Minister and what the likelihood of his term continuing.
Late yesterday afternoon the political scene broke with news that two of the Prime Minister’s chief aides and previously loyal supporters were resigning from cabinet. The Chancellor and Health Secretary both handed in their letters of resignations within ten minutes of each other, with Mr. Sunak citing “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”. The shockwaves sent through Westminster were immense as newspapers and news stations begged the question – when, not if, would he resign?
Further to these two wounding resignations, a flood of letters have followed throughout today from junior ministers, key party players and calls for a second vote of no confidence from backbench Conservative MPs. Bim Afolami, Victoria Atkins and John Glen and many others have passed their resignations on today surrounding the Pincher scandal among the long list of damaging accusations.
The picture as it stands
In practical terms, the biggest threat for the Prime Minister comes in the form of the 1922 Committee, the organisation of backbench MPs who hold the reigns on confidence votes within the party. Under current rules, Mr. Johnson would be safe from a vote until next year – after the previous vote of June this year in which 41% of Tory MPs voted against him.
However, given the political hurricane against the Prime Minister is closing in by the minute it seems likely the party will make amendments to this rule – given the committee is due to meet this afternoon at 5 pm. It then seems certain the ‘men in suits’ will visit 10 Downing Street to give Mr. Johnson an ultimatum between leaving by his own will or being dragged out by the party.
An interesting development to watch out for will be a potential trump card of a snap general election. It is entirely possible that the Prime Minister could ransom his own party, using the damaged reputation of the Conservative party against them as recent by elections and polls indicate. Threatening to hold an election may not save him from his fate, yet he has showed a will to stay in the job at all costs.
In today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr. Johnson showed no sign of going quietly despite jeers and requests to resign from benches opposite and behind. Labour Leader, Sir Keir Starmer opened proceedings stating the resignations spelled the end for the Prime Minister. He said:
“Anyone quitting now, after defending all that, hasn’t got a shred of integrity.
“Mr Speaker, isn’t this the first recorded case of the sinking ships fleeing the rat?”
The Prime Minister, who many were surprised to see in the chamber, seemed to shrug off clear attacks from all around. He stated recurring sentiments about delivering his mandate and soldiering on, explaining “we have a plan and they do not…. we are going to get on with our jobs.”
From all indications the curtain has fallen for the Prime Minister, and his fate as a soon to be a former leader is sealed. The wounded Mr. Johnson is hemorrhaging support from his party and within his cabinet, seemingly unable to ‘smash on’ as he remarks – indeed recalling his majority and stating his resilience will not save him. Unfortunately for Boris Johnson, the jury is out and even the most beloved Conservative leaders of history have been forced out the door when facing this level of public dislike.
A political term of chaotic international events during the pandemic and Ukraine, however it seems the last year littered with continuous scandal will surely define his time at number 10 Downing Street.