Freedom News

The spectacular demise of Boris Johnson and what comes next

Boris Johnson’s demise as prime minister was destined to be spectacular. At the start of the year, I wrote that it was likely that he had already done something that would court controversy and so it proved. Ultimately it was his style of denying everything in the first instance and then backtracking, if necessary, that caught him out. Finally, after years of it, his ministers decided that he wasn’t worth backing up. It was them that had to do so, often as part of the morning media round. Sometimes, no sooner had they defended him than evidence emerged that the defence was a lie.

I’ve spent a lot of time since I started this column in 2016 writing about Johnson. His unsuitability for high office was evident way before he became prime minister. It was evident before the Brexit referendum. It was evident before he became Mayor of London. He was and is a journalist. Nothing wrong with that but it was very clear that he didn’t have the detailed skills needed for policy. He had the skills for writing his opinions, much like me right now. There are journalists who perhaps do possess those skills but those who perhaps don’t might do better to steer clear of certain jobs. His ambition was all he thought he needed and it was really all ever he had. He wanted the job all his life, not because he had anything he desperately wanted to achieve, but because it was there.

His legacy is a disastrous Brexit, tens of thousands unnecessary deaths through Covid (for which he should really be locked up), attacks on human rights, the UK’s international reputation in tatters and most of us finding it hard to get by. He has been terrible. There must be no talk of him getting the big decisions. He didn’t. He consistently had a hash of everything he worked on (with a let-off for the vaccine programme but it doesn’t bring our loved ones back).

The last few days have been very entertaining as he gripped onto power. I was slightly disappointed to see him not try even harder. It was great to see the state in such turmoil. People kept banging on about a constitutional crisis and what to do if he didn’t resign. It was like Trump, trying to stay in the White House but instead of hundreds of fanatics storming Parliament, Johnson could only muster Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg uttering inanities. The latter even claimed that Johnson would be in power for a minimum of 21 years a couple of days ago. I wanted it to rip the Tories apart because we know full well what happens next: someone is coming who has the opportunity to unite that party and get through the hideous legislation they plan.

Once again, the UK is in the grip of a drama the like of which suggests we have a one-party state. Ever since Johnson started to face criticism for his competence the same reality about his position has been clear: it isn’t our role to get rid of him, it is the role of the Conservative Party. As the party of power for 12 years now, their internal divisions and battles obsess our political class. The backbench 1922 committee is a household term and its chair, Graham Brady regularly gets referenced in news reports. The Tory Party has the UK public gripped and we now face a summer of intrigue as that party seeks a new leader.

That new leader will inherit Johnson’s majority in the Commons and the mandate that the Tories received at the general election in 2019. The focus has to be on fighting their plans for rights, immigration, protests and policing with as much energy as possible. It is great that Johnson has gone but we should be wary of what comes next. The idea that it will be in any way better is wrongheaded.

The Tory leadership contest will be fought over how right-wing the candidates can be. We are oddly at a time when the public is generally to the left of the Labour Party. The public back the RMT strikes, they really do want levelling up and greater control over affairs. But the Tory membership is to the right of the Tory Party in Parliament. The leadership hopefuls will be pitching to that base. They will choose a Thatcherite. Whoever wins will likely enjoy a honeymoon period and if they sense they can win a general election they will head to the polls.

So while it’s great that we might not have to put up with Johnson for much longer, we will potentially have to put up with a competent Tory prime minister who breathes life into a failing party. I hope it goes in another direction such as the party divisions not healing but we can’t bank on that.

Jon Bigger

Image by Number 10.

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